Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Free Weekend

Things you can do when the family is out of town and you have the house to yourself for the weekend:

1.  Watch Netflix.  The stuff you really want to watch, for a change.  Binge-watch "Breaking Bad."  Movies about Truman Capote- twice.  All the good non-family-friendly stuff.

2.  Dig through closets and through stuff out.  As much stuff as possible. Until you run out of trash bags.

3.  Spend the afternoon in a Barnes and Noble. Yes, the whole afternoon.  And if Garrison Keillor shows up in the cafe, ignore him, he'll go away eventually.

4.  Go to the five o'clock vigil Mass on Saturday.  Just because

Monday, December 30, 2013

St Thomas Becket

According to the calendar the 29th of December is the feast day of St Thomas of Canterbury, perhaps better known as Thomas Becket.  But since yesterday-- the 29th-- was the Sunday in the Octave of Christmas we instead observed the Feast of the Holy Family.

Fair enough.

But it's never too late for a little Becket.  Or a little Richard Burton.  Not to mention some Peter O'Toole, who in my humble opinion is the one who makes this segment interesting.

New Childcare Rules

In the waning days of 2013 I like to look back and think about all the special gifts and graces received in the past year.

And the one that comes to mind at the moment is the very special Christmas Advent gift the powers that be at Our Lady of Peace Through Strength gave us parents after the school's Christmas Advent concert last week.

When we filed into the rented "worship space" at a local Protestant church concert hall we were read the following message:

We have a new rule this year. After the concert the children will return to the rehearsal room.  Parents must personally come down tot he rehearsal room and claim their children.  No child will be allowed to leave the room unescorted.

I think you also had to show proof that your kid was in fact your kid, but I'm not sure.  (Note to self:  bring passports next time.)

So the concert ends, the kids file out, and some of us start milling around the coffee urns.

"I guess the new rule is for the kids' safety,"  one mom opines.  "You know, with all the lawsuits and all.  I guess they're just being extra safe."

"So, I guess I should go get my kids,"  another remarked.

"Oh, I think they're safe where they are,"  a third said.  "Coffee?"

"Why not?"

So we all had a lovely, care-free, kid-free coffee break, thanks to the new rules.  Hey, if the powers hat be are offering free and guaranteed safe childcare, who are we to turn it down? 

I'm looking forward to more new rules.  This could get interesting.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Long Vac

The school Christmas break is two full weeks this year.

Two weeks.

That's a long time in Momtime.

It's long enough to lose all the painstakingly acquired "good habits" of motherhood.  You know the ones I mean.  The sign-the-permissionslip-by-the-deadline skills.  The standing firm on the daily  "Yes you do so have a clean uniform" debate.  The ability to make and pack a lunch in less than five seconds. 

To say nothing of the instant 6am wakeup habit.  And the razor-sharp carpool expertise?  Do I even have to go there?

It'll all be gone.  In January 2014 I'll be back to square one.  I'll have to start all over again, practicing non-resentment of the alarm clock.

I know what you're thinking:  Well just make good use of your two weeks, Desperate!  Go to the gym, finish that novel, learn conversational Spanish!  Make this self-improvement time!

Not to worry, reader.  I already have a plan.  Today the temps are expected to soar above freezing.  Come high noon you'll find me out in the backyard.  Two weeks of sub-zero temps make for a lot of doggie poop to clean up.

Best of all, Ill get to do it while wearing sunblock.  And a tee shirt.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Post-Advent Season!

Oh dear.  Did I say "Advent" again?  I meant "Christmas."  Merry Christmas!

Sorry about the headline.  I'm still trying to shake off the Advent season.  We gave it our all this year.

If you've been reading this humble blog for a while, you know that Desperate Irish Housewife is a member of a kick-ass parish community.  We at Our Lady of Peace Through Strength yield to no one when it comes to observing proper rites and ritual.

Which is a great thing.  Always.  Well.  99% of the time.

This year, though, we gave it the final 1%:  we did not, repeat did NOT celebrate so much as a whiff of Christmas until Christmas Eve.

You're wondering what this looks like, right?

Well, we did have evergreen wreaths on the church doors for a few weeks.  But the ribbons were purple,  Purple, get it?  Advent is purple, so we had Advent wreaths.  Red and green are for Christmas.  The florist was probably a little confused, but that's ok.

The schoolchildren did not give a Christmas concert this year.  No no  no.  They gave an Advent concert.  "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord" from Godspell and such.  The eighth grade girls wore no Christmas corsages as in years past.  Ever see an Advent corsage?  They're not much to look at, to be honest.  Roses weren't meant to be a slightly greyish purple.  They look kinda sickly that way.

And post-concert refreshments?  Were there Christmas cookies?  No, there were not.  There were sugar cookies decorated with purple and pink sugar. Get it?  Advent cookies.  Yummy.

In a penitential sort of way.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Why We Love New Yorkers

I love the way most of the people in this film barelay pasue to answer the question, but they answer it in no uncertain terms.  I love New York Christianity:  "Don't be a douche, Jesus is Lord, now  get outta my way I got someplace I gotta be."

God bless New York!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I Suppose We Have To Talk About This

Pajama Boy.

You've seen him by now, of course.  20-something young Allen Ginsberg lookalike,  red plaid zip-up jumpsuit pajamas, almost certainly with footies.  I dont want to speculate about a drop bottom, but I wouldn't be surprised. 

Pajama Boy is the brainchild of the creative geniuses behind barackobama.com.  I can imagine the brainstorming sessions  that went into his creation. 

"PJs.  I see PJs.  Plaid, you know?  One piece, zips up the front.  Like the kind my little sister used to wear." 

"You mean your little brother, right?"

 "Oh- uh, yeah.  Yeah, that's what  I meant."

"Hey here's an idea.  What about hot chocolate?  We can say he's drinking hot chocolate." 

"Dude, I've seen that model, he just screams 'lactose intolerant.'  I say no to hot chocolate."

"Well we can't very well give him a hot toddy, can we?  That's like something out of Dickens."

"Dickens...hmm.  We could work with that. 'If Tiny Tim had had Obamacare..."

"Dude, we're aiming at recent college graduates here.  They don't know who the hell Dickens is."

"Oh-- right."

"Wait- wait!  I've got it!  Pajama Boy is reading a big book.  'T'was the night before Christmas, when on CNN's feed, Not a creature was talking except Harry Reid--"

"No no no, you can't say 'Christmas!'"

"Damn, you're right."

Here's MSNBC on the subject.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

And This

Pajama Boy!  Pajama Boy!  Quick, somebody send Jon Stewart a onesie!


You Know It's Going to Be A Long Day When...

...you wake up to this.


Monday, December 16, 2013

And Now For Some Gregorian Zaniness

I stole this from the esteemed John Dejak of the Bellarmine Forum.  He's a
lawyer, so I better be up front about that.  And by "steal" I mean "reproduced with grateful respect."

Ladies and gentlemen, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" in Gregorian chant.

Hey Mikey, What Gives?

Dude, were you asleep at the switch or what?

Incidentally the word "Jesu" means exactly what you think it means.

Here's the United States Air Force Band in its first-ever flashmob appearance, at the Air and Space Museum two weeks ago.  Check out that grand finale.

You Can't See This Too Many Times

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Peter O'Toole

Peter O'Toole has died at age 81.  Lawrence of Arabia will probably stand as his nmost famous role.  But I always liked him in "My Favorite Year."

Rest in peace, Peter.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

More News of the Season

It's amazing how Christmas brings out the crazy in so many people. And this time I'm not tslking about Mikey Weinstein.

You are, of course, following the Possum Drop controversy?

Here are the basics:

New York drops its crystal ball in Times Square on at midnight on New Year's Eve.  Half the country watches on TV.  With me so far?

Not to be outdone, the small (that's small- pop. 240) Appalachian community of Brasstown, NC, has its own New Year's tradition:  At the first stroke of the New Year it lowers a possum in a clear plastic box to the ground.  I assume the whole town watches.

Happy New Year!

Oh wait- here comes PETA.

Lawyers for the lobby People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals decided this act represented cruelty to possums.  And what kind of monster would do such a thing?

PETA sued.  The judge's ruling is expected any day now.

The full story is here.  http://www.salon.com/2013/12.

Meanwhile all over the Christian world, donkeys, sheep and oxen are getting organized.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mikey Doesn't LIke It!

Doesn anybody know where Shaw Air Force Base is?  Neither do I, but apparently until this week it was the ground zero for the continuing assault on- wait, let me check the official website here--

"the obliterated wall separating church and state in the most technologically lethal organization ever created by humankind: the United States armed forces."

Yeah, you heard me.  That wall?  Obliterated.  Probably by a nuke.  Or something technologicaly lethal, anyway.  Wall?  Gone.

How do we know this?  Oh, you know the answer to that one.

That's right:  THE NATIVITY SCENE!

The Nativity Scene.  Those frequently oversized figures of the Blessed Mother, St Joseph and Baby Jesus.  Sometimes a couple of animals.

Yes, the Nativity Scene is back to do its evil work.  It's showing up again on front lawns and porches, in little parks and big ones.  It's on postcards, in store windows, and in those little temporary shacks they set up outside of churches this time of year.

And last week, it showed up next to a pretty little pond on Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina.
Clearly, our Republic was in danger.

Well thank God-- er, goodness someone still cares about our freedom.  When Mikey Weinstein (the "Mikey" is his choice, not mine), the head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, got wind of it he got on the telephone.  He made some of those high-level type calls only the powerful in our nation's capital can make. 

And within hours, a crane was dispatched to take that mother down.
Also the manger, the baby, St Joseph and a handful of wise men.  No figurine left standing.  Mikey takes no prisoners.

I mean, was that a close call or what?  Some airmen in South Carolina might had seen that thing, for God's- er, Pete's sake!  Who know what it might have done to their minds?  Would they ever be fit to defend us again?

But thanks to the quick wits and obviously oversized clout of Mikey Weinstein and his Foundation, we can rest easy.  Our country is safe from plastic figurines and reminders of why we have Christmas in the first place.

Now all the Mikeys of the world have to do is keep working on that mind-control machine. The one that will erase any thoughts of Christmas and its origins from the minds of all Americans.

I hear they've got a prototype running in China.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Welcome Bishop Cozzens

We here in the frozen tundra Twin Cities have a new bishop.  On Monday Father Andrew Cozzens,  age 45, Assistant Professor of Sacramental Theology at the University of St Thomas, was ordained a bishop in the Cathedral of St. Paul.

So, first things first: WAY TO GO, FATHER COZZENS!!!

Everyone at Our Lady of Peace Through Strength is particularly tickled because His Excellency's family are fellow parishioners.  His parents, his sister and brother-in-law and their seven kids.  Basically as of Monday you can't swing a cat at OLPTS without smacking it into a bishop's relative.  How cool is that?

The whole parish has been abuzz with the news for weeks.  The kids were even given a half day off on Monday so anyone who wanted to could hop on a bus and go to the Cathedral for the ceremony.

Over the weekend the spouse and I attended a party for the new bishop.  As it was still a few days before his actual ordination, I asked him, "What do we call you?"

"'Bishop' is fine," he replied.  "Or 'Your Excellency.'"  He added with a shrug, "Or 'Your Adequacy.'"

I went with "Bishop."

Then I went to seek out his sister.  I knew she was feeling a little stressed from all the preparations and events.  I wanted to tell her I did her a favor:  I had her "anxiety nightmare" for her.

You know the kind of dream I'm talking about.  The one where you have to be someplace -- a final exam, your wedding-- but you can't get there because the road gets swallowed up, or endless escalators keep getting in your way,  or you suddenly realize you left the house naked.  In my dream I couldn't get to the Cathedral because the way was blocked by waterfalls and constructions sites. No matter what I did or how hard I tried I could not reach the Cathedral in time.

As it turned out, my dream was prophetic.  The night before the ordination we returned home to find a pipe had burst and flooded through the walls.  The following day was spent doing the Dance of the Insurance Companies.  So, none of us got to the ordination.

We've been exiled to a hotel for the past few days.  I hope we can go home tomorrow.  I'm thinking of asking Bishop Cozzens to come and bless the new pipes some time.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cast Off

Four and a half weeks ago my daughter was in an accident.  She busted her ankle and ended up with an over-the-knee cast and crutches.  Not fun.

Yesterday, the cast came off.

I'd never been to a cast removal before. In case your wondering, they use a little electric saw.  Then they take pliers and crack it open like an oyster.  I worked very hard at acting interested rather than freaked out. )My daughter, for her part, was genuinely interested.)

So now the good news is she's in a boot. The bad news is she's still on crutches for another couple of weeks.

But the really good news is we get a "handicapped" parking permit!

If you're like me, you've always resented those "Handicapped only" parking spaces.  All right, I can understand why somebody in a wheelchair or a cane would need special parking at the supermarket or even the mall. But Home Depot?  Who are they kidding?  How many handicapped people you figure install their own plumbing?  Give me a break.  Somebody's scamming someone.

When we first got the permit I was dazzled by the possibilities.  Think of it:  no more cutthroat competition in the parking lot.  We could just sail into one of those blue-lined spaces and stroll (or im my kid's case, limp) a few yards to the store.  And just in time for Christmas shopping, too. 

"It's true," I cried, "every cloud does have a silver lining!"

"My ankle hurts Mom."

"Offer it up."  Which, as we all know, is Catholic Momspeak for "shut up already."

But after a few days of my proud new sticker ownership I realized something weird was going on. Never before had I had such fantastic parking luck. I mean, in regular spaces. I've been finding regular spaces that are more convenient than the handicapped ones.

Which led me to a dilemma:  Do I take the primo regular space, or go for the handicapped one?

I finally reasoned that taking the primo regular space would be wrong.  I mean, if I with my handicapped sticker privileges take a primo regular space, then some poor guy without my privileges has to go farther afield for his space. If I take a handicapped space I'm leaving the primo spot for someone less fortunate.

Or more fortunate.  His kid's legs must be in one piece.

It's all in how you look at it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Attic Work

I probably should have waited for the start of Advent or even Lent to do it.  It's a job for a penitentail season.

But a couple of days ago I decided to tackle the attic.

I've always said that should I ever decide to take my career in a Martha Stewart direction I would write a book about housekeeping.  I'd call it "The Joy of Throwing Things Out."

I hate to organize stuff, but I love throwing things out.  The feeling of freedom, of liberation, of "done with this" that comes from tossing out things you've been saving for years is the best.  You want a new lease on life, you gotta makes some room for it.  You gotta clear some space.

I've been at the job for about four days now.  So far I've taken one carload of donations to the Arc Center and put out about fifty bags of trash. I've also left one item of furniture on that strip of grass between the street and the sidewalk.  I didn't even have to put a "Free!" sign on it, it was gone the next time I looked.

I've gotten rid of all kinds of things. Yesterday I packed up a couple of cartons of Halloween decorations.  I've decided to go minimalist next year.  A couple of stuffed ravens, a styrofoam skull, I'm good.  Out with the cute smiling pumpkin tablerunners and the matching placemats.  Who needs cute for Halloween when you can have eerie?  What was I thining when I bought that stuff?  I have no idea.

No, wait, I do have an idea.  I was trying to be nice.  I was trying to be cheerful.  Jeez, what a waste of time.

And books.  I've gotten rid of cartons of books.  This is tough- I may not be some fancy schmancy bibliophile but I sure as heck am a book hoarder.  How many copies of "The Alexandria quartet" have I acquired over the years?  I can't even count them. But as of this moment my total is:  zero.

Yeah.  Feels good. I'm on a roll.

T'aint the Season

I am sitting in my local coffee shop, knocking back the caffeine, and suddenly I decide to pay attention to the Muzak being piped in from somewhere.

It's November 12, and I'm listening to Christmas music.

I have to give them credit. At least they had the decency to wait until after Halloween.  I'm pretty sure I can't say the same of the supermarkets, discount stores and wholesaler warehouses I usually frequent.

My reaction to early Christmas decorations, music, etc in the marketplace has changed over the years.  Once upon at time it made me feel indignant.  What!  "Deck the Halls" in October?  How dare they profane the sacred season!  Etc., etc.  That was back in my"Pompous Catholic" phase, from which I hope I have fully recovered.

Nowadays I mostly wish they'd hold off on the carols until December because I don't want to be sick of them by Christmas Eve.

But I just realized I now have a whole new reaction to jumping the Yuletide gun like this:  Panic.

Panic, when I think of all the stuff I am supposed to get done before mid-December.  Like finally facing the fact that my pre-lit Christmas tree- -that 8-foot, 100-pound monster in the attic-- is probably not up to another season.  Half the lights are dead and the other half are unreliable.

Which means, of course, that I'll have to haul it down from the attic, drag it out to the trash, and being negotiations with the Spouse for a new tree.

Which, in turn, brings up the eternal debate of "Real Or Artificial?"

Which always seems to turn personal.  Soul-searching.  My favorite thing to do, next to root canal.

I am definitely not ready for the holiday season.  Not yet.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veterans' Day

Today is Veteran's Day.  Every year the kids at my daughter's school throw a huge breakfast party for any veterans who would like to come.  Last night a bunch of us spend a couple of hours turning the school lunchroom into a red white and blue wonderland with flags, stars, party favors, the works.

Although it's my personal belief the vets come for the bacon.

What's a breakfast party without bacon?  For that matter what is anything withou bacon?  What is life, without bacon?

Anyone?  Anyone?

Yes, I expected that deafening silence.

Speaking of bacon I need a new app for my iPhone.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

A Better Class of Junk

A few weeks ago Desperate went to a dinner party in New York.  Desperate does not like to brag but the fact is she counts a few very successful people among her friends.  I mean the kind who can afford to give dinner parties in New York.

Besides yours truly my successful friends invited a lot of their successful friends.  It turned out there was some kind of "Successful People convention in town and they were all getting together tp talk about their success.

Well.  The weather was gorgeous.  The restaurant was wonderful and the food was fabulous.  Right down to the little tins of homemade candies we got to take home with us.

You  might think that after a trip through the looking glass like that Desperate would find her old, ordinary life a tad dull.  But not a chance. That dinner changed my life.

How, you ask?

I'll tell you:  you should see the junk mail I've been getting since then.

For example, this brochure came last week:

"Around the World by First-Class Private Jet:  A Cultural Tapestries Journey."

Did you know about this?  That for a mere $99,950 (double occupancy) you can zip off on "a single journey to eight stunning destinations around the world"?    Catch you private jet in Seattle and proceed to Tokyo, China, Istanbul and Paris?  With a couple of other stops in between?  Oh, and you end up in Boston, which I can't help thinking would be something of a downer after Paris. Then again, Boston is not full of French people, so maybe you break even.

Or how about some "Educational Travel?"  For eight grand you can paddle around Alaska while some professor tells you all about climate change.  "Navigate the whale-rich waters of Icy Strait" sounds a little risky to me, but if that's your idea of a good time, go for it.  You can also "search for bears,, moose, eagles and sea lions."  I ask you, can you think of a better way to blow eight thousand bucks?

Thanks to that dinner party someone somewhere has decided I deserve a better class of junk mail.  It's like a dream come true.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Orson Welles

Today is the 75th anniversary of Orson Welles' "The War of the Worlds" broadcast.  So to celebrate, a one of Desperate's favorite moments from Welles' career.

You Know You're Irish When...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lives of the Saints

This week the students at Our Lady of Peace Through Strength grammar school will observe the Feast of All Saints in traditional Catholic school fashion.  Every kid will come to school costumed as a saint.

Just as in every other year, I'm sure it will be quite a sight.  There will be the children of the online-oriented, showing up in their Amazon.com grade costumes -- the Mother Teresas with the full habits and so on.  There will be the children of the skilled craftsmoms in homemade costumes that acutally look better than the store-bought ones.  Many of the boys will choose to be St Francis of Assisi, if only for the opportunity to sport a false beard for a day.  Then there will be the kids after Desperate's own heart, who come to school every year in a dyed bedsheet and are still trying to decide  which saint they're representing as they arrive at school.

DIH likes to think she is creative but she makes no claim to being crafty.  She can barely thread a needle.  So her creativity takes other forms.

My parents travelled to Spain once a few years ago and brought back a really cool little girl's flamenco dress.  My daughter wore it for All Saints' Day and went as  "Teresa of Avila, The Early Years."  I think she wore it for a couple of years, actually.

This year we have decided to by her the airgun she's been begging for, the one that launches foam balls like a bazooka.  All Saints' Day interpretation:  St. Barbara, patron Saint of Artillery.

My daughter starts high school next fall.  I wonder if I'll miss All Saints' Day costumes. 

Probably not. But I'm glad my kid had the experience all these years.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I Was Wondering How They'd Handle "Billie Jean!"

Seriously, this is too awesome to ignore.

Somewhere St Therese Is Laughing

Just read my horoscope for today.

"ARIES.  Have you ever considered a treadmill desk or a ball chair?  All it takes is one slight adjustment to your working style to make a considerable difference to your health, well-being and productivity."

The Little Flower and Me

Every so often I ask myself how I ever got into this writing game.

(Note that I say "writing game."  I'd love to call it a business but I htink you have to turn a profit to call something that.  That part is still in my future.)

The answer is, not unlike being a duchess or an undertaker, I was born into it.  Or born in it.  Born that way, maybe that's the term I'm looking for.

There you are, eight years old, you've got this "hold the pencil and form the letters" thing nailed, and you just start.  You write.  You write stories and plays and rhymes.  You fill a blue exam book you found int he basement and you say "Now I have written a book."  It goes on from there. Before you know it you're writing every day.  And before you know it, you find it you don't write every day, you start to feel weird.

Not the other way around, mind you.  Not "people who don't write are normal."  You think you're normal. You can't understand why everyone else isn't doing it.

Then you grow up and you realzie that all those years you had it backwards. Those people who didn't write every day?  THEY WERE THE NORMAL ONES.    They were off playing sports and going to parties and graduating from law school.  They had lives, careers, real estate.  That, you realize finally, is what's considered normal American life.

But you can't stop.  You can't stop writing.  It's still true:  writing is the only thing that makes you feel  like yourself.  Well, that and one or two other things, but we won't go into them now.

Now about the Little Flower.

I hate to admit  it but she was never one of my favorite saints.  Until about a week ago.

I knew, of course, that St Therese of Lisieux wrote her "Story of a Soul" because her superior in her Carmelite convent- who I believe was her biological sister at the time- told her she had to. Being the Little Flower she meekly took up her pen and got to work. 

And guess what?  She found it was hard work, too.  She hated to be interrupted because it took her so long to get into the writing zone that the slightest interruption threw her mojo off.

Hello, all you writers out there!  Can you relate?

The story I read was this:  she was sitting outdoors during the haying season, working on the diary. By then she was very ill and had to rest whenever possible.  But she kept writing.  She was taking the sun and working on her book, when all of a sudden a bunch of flowers landed right on her lap.

She gritted her teeth.  The flowers, she knew, were a little gift from one of the other nuns, who thought she'd brighten Therese's day. 

Therese forced a smile, thanked the sister, said something like how lovely, etc.

But inside she was seething.  Don't these people realize how hard this is, she thought.  Don't they know the last thing I need when I'm writing this blasted book is distraction?  Why don't they get it?  Why can't they leave me alone when I'm working?  Now how am I going to get started again?

I cannot relate to the sugary sweet Little Flower you read about in all the books.

But I can definitely relate to a pissed-off writer.

Therese?  You're my girl, from now on.

Monday, October 21, 2013


There's a lot to be said for the experience of breaking a few bones.  All of it negative, so far.

A week ago my daughter broke her ankle, big time.  She is now in an above-the-knee cast and will be in one for at least the next five weeks.  Imagine the fun.

I must say she's handling it very well. Of the two of us she was definitely the clear-headed one at the hospital.  Well, I was able to fill out the forms and so on.  But that was about all I was good for.

This is my first experience with a fiberglass cast. My advice?  Avoid the need for one.  They're heavy, they smell awful if you get too close and the sentimental value aside, all those kids' signatures all over them look pretty ugly.

It also means she will take a pass on basketball season this year.  She loves basketball and this will be tough on all of us.  I always look forward to those games that last until 7.  It's fun to say "It's too late to cook, let's order a pizza" two or three times a week.

Weird fact:  the morning of the break we were driving to church, and my daughter asked me "What's a gurney?"

Well, she knows now.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Shutdown Week

Having a blog you neglect for as long as I have is like having an overdue library book.  You see it there on the table;  you know you should take it back. But you feel like such a dope for letting it get so overdue.  You can't face the gltares of the librarians, the reproachful looks from some kid who was no doubt waiting for the book al those weeks. The shame of it.  It's too much.

This is where being  a Catholic comes into play.

I mean, think about it.  St Peter f-ed up big time. Did he let it bring him down?  Well, yeah, but he kept working.

Humiliation?  Hey, it's good for you?  You screwed up!  And now you have to ADMIT IT and MOVE ON.  Man up!  Soldier on!  Pull up your socks!

Whew.  There.  I feel a little better now.

So-- if I have any readers left-- I'm back.

The big news this week of course is the shutdown of the United States government.  800,000 non-essential employees have been furloughed.

I'm sorry, I just reread what I typed.  800,000 non-essential employees?  We couldn't stop at 400,000, or even half a million?  Do we really need 800,00 employess who by definition we dont' really need?  Who the hell is running this place anyway--

Oh.  Right.

I have been on the lookout for signs of the anarchy the Prez promised us if the gov shut down. So far I've seen one notice online, on an CDC site:  something like "because of the lack of appropriations we cannot guarantee the accuracy of this information."

Well, welcome to the Internet, CDCers.  I never would have doubted your word for a second otherwise.

Besides all this talk of panic misses the point.  If the government is shut don, then that make this a week for some fun and exciting new activities.

Play a rented video at home-- and charge your kids a quarter.

Tear all those pesky tags off your pillows. Yeah, you read that right, all of 'em.  Go wild.

Choose your least favorite "protected wildlife" species and go taunt a few.

The possibilities are endless.  I say we get all the fun out of this shutdown that we possibly can. They don't come nearly often enough.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Twelve years ago.  My city.  Heck, it was even my damn subway stop.

And my high school. How many alums did we lose?  The parking lot of the train station down the street, filled with the cars of commuters who would never return for them.

I still can't look at pictures of the old WTC.  It's still too much.

Monday, September 09, 2013


Are you by any chance a Dame of Malta?  Or maybe a Knight of Malta?

I ask because if you are, you know that yesterday was your big party day.  The feast of St. John, the official feast day of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.  Or the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, the group's fuller moniker.

Quick history (from the Knights of Malta website):

"The order was originally established as a community of monks responsible for looking after the sick at the Hospital of St John in Jerusalem.  They later became a military order, defending crusader territory in the Holy Lands and safeguarding the perilous routes taken by medieval pilgrims.  The Knights were drawn exclusively from noble families and the Order acquired vast wealth from those it recruited."

Today, of course, the Knights stick to doing good works.  They build hospitals and help the poor all over the world.  And they dedicate themselves to living lives of Christian virtue.  Great guys and gals.

But as far as I know that bit about being drawn from the ranks of the  loaded still holds.  Hey, it's expensive building hospitals.

Which was why I and my fellow parishioners at Our Lady of Peace Through Strength were so surprised  to see them at the 11:00 mass yesterday.

Don't get me wrong.   OLoPTS is a great parish.  Salt of the earth, OLoPTSers.  But the word "nobility" doesn't exactly spring to mind.  Neither does the phrase "vast wealth."  Heck, we switched to cheapo donuts a few weeks ago.  Hardly the after-mass treats you could offer to the nobility.

At first we assumed there  had been some kind of mistake.  Maybe the Maltese got the address wrong.  Maybe somebody took a wrong turn on the highway and the rest just followed.

But at the end of mass the pastor officially welcomed the Knights of Malta to our little church.  So however it happened, it was done on purpose.

Living life as a Catholic you get pretty used to dealing with mystery.  The KoMs showing up at OLoPTS?  Another mystery.  Why no one was willing to consider joining Desperate in hitting them up for a few bucks before they took off?  Another mystery.

Why Desperate herself will never be a Dame of Malta?

No mystery there whatsoever.

Friday, September 06, 2013

And We're Off!

I always say the school year doesn't officially get rolling until the first morning your kid wakes up with a fever.  This is always a day when you have about forty-five appointments.  All of which will have to be cancelled, or rescheduled. or better-luck-next-year-lady'd.

Of course these are the appointments you put off all summer.  "Oh, I'll do that after school starts.  I'll have more time then."

Ha ha.  Like flu season's going to wait for you to get your act together.

At least we're on the cutting edge this year.  So far I haven't heard a single report of any of the kids at school being sick.  Maybe we're starting a trend. For which I'm sure all the other moms will thank me.

But now it's time for a celebratory breaking open of the "colds and flu" box I keep in the  linen closet.  Find a digital thermometer that actually works:  check.  Supply of the kind of cold medicine you have to have a background check for before Wallgreens will let you walk out with a bottle:  one bottle left from last year.  (Note to self:  begin staggered purchases of Nyquil - the Real One- next week.)  Zyrtec:


Gotta make a drug store run.  Let's get this party started!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

What's For Dinner?

A Great Week in the History of Entertainment

This week marks the 27th anniversary of the debut of....


September 5, 1986.  What an evening.  When my family found out the Muppets were getting a whole show to themselves we couldn't believe our luck.  We'd been fans of the Muppets since way back in the Ed Sullivan Show days.  Sure, they'd had their own TV special.  But a whole series?  Muppets every week?  Surely the gods of puppetry were smiling on us.

Here's that first opening of that first show.  Can you wonder that our hearts leaped for joy?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

OK, OK, Let's Talk About Miley

Well.  Miley's performance the other night certainly has tongues wagging, doesn't it?

 I mean, could you bear it?  

Talk about a kick in the pants, or lack thereof!  

Sorry.  Best I could do, under the circs.

As the whole world must know by now, Miley Cyrus performed at the VMAs the other night.  (Don't ask me what VMA stands for.  I don't know.  It's a music awards thing of some kind.)  Her production number featured giant teddy bears and what looked like simulated anal sex.  Also a lot of crotch-clutching, butt-wiggling and sticking out her tongue.

(Which, by the way, was a startling white.  Miley are you getting dehydrated again dear?  Maybe you should knock back a little Gatorade.  That should take care of it.)

The act has already been analyzed six ways from Sunday.  My favorite interpretation is the on that goes something like, "Miley is showing the world that she is no longer a child star but a grown-up artist to be taken seriously."

Right.  Because nothing says "take me seriously" like rubber pants and crotch-clutching.  Hey, when a toddler does that?  I get the message.  And I take him seriously, don't you?

Here's what I keep thinking.  Miley's act did not spring into life on Sunday night.  It took weeks, maybe months of preparation.

So , it's not like they didn't have time to think about it.

And in all those weeks and months of rehearsals and fittings and sound checks, did it not occur to anyone, even once, that maybe this wasn't such a good idea?   "I don't know, Miley, maybe you should just ...sing, or something."

Yesterday I was driving two thirteen-year-old girls around.  They were watching Miley's act on my iPhone.

You know what they talked about for the rest of the ride?

How much they admired Adele.

Damn, I must be good at this Catholic parenting thing!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lucky 13

My daughter turned 13 the other day.  A big day for her:  she's a teenager!  And a big day for me:  I am now officially the mother of a teenager!

That last exclamation point was placed reluctantly.

I wonder, if I were a younger mom, if this would be a time of reflection/whining about how old I'm getting.  But hey, Sophia is adopted.  I was old when I got her.  Old is not an issue for us- it's always been the status quo.  "Mom, wanna play basketball?"  "Bug off, kid, I'm old."  And it's worked out well for us.  So far I have had no sports-related injuries.  Sophia's had a few. of course, but hey, she's the one who wants to play basketball, not me.

Another very nice thing about being an older mom:  most of my friends are ten to fifteen years younger than me.  This has also worked out well.  In questions of things like marriage, I'm something of a grande dame among my buddies.  "You're afraid his company is going under?  Been there, done that.  Come on, kid, let me buy you a cappuccino."

While in questions of mom- hood, I'm the clueless one, and my far more experienced albeit annoyingly younger friends are there to guide me.  "OMG I THINK SHE HAS BUGS UNDER HER SKIN!!!!...What?  'Chiggers?'  From the lake?..... Clear nail polish and they'll suffocate.  Gotcha.  Okay, I'm all right now."

If God had told me on my wedding day that:

I wouldn't have a child for another 20 years, and that I would end up  raising her in the frozen Upper Midwest--

well, let's just say you would not have heard "What a great plan!  God , You're a genius!"

But of all the ridiculous, outlandish, bizarro plans in the world, this is the one that works for me.

I hat to admit it, God, but You're a genius.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

It Pays to Volunteer

We wrapped up our annual Parish Festival last weekend with a big dinner at a local country club.  You know the drill:  cocktails and silent auction, preview of stuff for the live auction, chicken dinner,, etc.

This year I volunteered- actually I was volunteered (thanks, Stacy-- I'll remember) -- for a special job at the auction preview. One of the items up for auction was a collection of rare coins.  I was asked to help "guard" it during the cocktail hour. (You  know those Catholics once they get a few Mai Tais into them.)

My job was to dress all in black, don a pair of mirror shades and stick a fake earpiece in my ear, and then stand on one side of the display for an hour.  The other side was guarded by a very muscular young man, also all in black.  But I like to think I looked scarier.

Well.  Let me tell you I never felt more comfortable at a cocktail party in my life.  All I had to do was stand there!  No small talk, no chitchat, no wandering around pretending to be bidding on stuff!  It was great!  Really I think I've found my calling.

Anybody know their Flannery O'Connor?  Remember when she wrote to a friend, "Whoever invented the cocktail party should be drawn and quartered"?  When I first read that line I knew I'd found a kindred spirit.

Don't get me wrong, I like a Sea Breeze as much as the next writer.  It's the standing around making idle chitchat with people you barely know-- or might not know at all- that wears me out.  Really, it's exhausting.  I read somewhere that's part of being an introvert.  People make you tired.  Or maybe that was "misanthrope." I get the two mixed up sometimes.

My friends, of course, all know this.  They let me stand around them at cocktail parties, pretending I'm part of the group, while they graciously ignore me.

 I tell you there's nothing like true friendship.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Red-Headed League

I've been reading a lot about redheads lately.  Well, okay,, not a lot, just a few posts on Twitter.  But I'm learning stuff.

I learned that 46% of the Irish population carry the gene for red-headed-ness.  I think that means the Irish population in Ireland.  I don't know about the Irish  Americans.

I have also learned that only 10% of Irish people in Ireland are redheads. (Other thing I learned:  we're supposed to call then "gingers" now.  I don't know if "redhead has officially been declared incorrect.)

My Irish-born grandmother was a redhead.  My father is a redhead.  Of the six children in our family three are redheads.  So if they every check out the Irish Americans my family will probably be responsible for bringing the percentages up.

The grandchildren - there are ten- are a different story.  Only one is a possible redhead at this point.  We'll know more when she grows a little more hair.  But 4.6 of those ten would be carriers. 

(I know I shouldn't count my adopted Cambodian kid in that calculation, but ten is a nice round number and I can figure out percents with it. Nine, I have no idea.  I'd have to get my daughter to do the numbers, she's the only one in this house who's any good at math.)

But think about it.  If 46% of the Irish are carriers for the ginger gene, do you realize what that means for the sunblock industry?  Why aren't we all out there investing right now?

Seriously.  Call your broker.  Cash in  on this.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Head for Heights

I've been having a lot of trouble with my roof lately. 

At first I was very upset about this.  I mean, come on, it's a new roof.  Just had it done last year.  And all of a sudden I got leaks in my kitchen again?  Hey, roofer-- what gives?

Finally after a series of increasingly desperate phone calls the roofing company sent the foreman who did the roof last year and his two assistants out to my home.  The two young guys got out the ladders while I chatted on the ground with the boss.

The good news is, the new roof is fine.  The bad news is, there's a section of flat roof up there that has been causing the problems.  So now I get to talk to insurance companies and all that fun stuff.  I swear my next home will be a cave.

But the interesting news. to  me anyway, was that Jose, the foreman, had worked on this house before.  He knew the previous owner and his family.

"You know, I always say a flat roof is trouble,"  said Jose.  (I concur.  I had one in Queens.  Rained in the bedroom once.)  "Lucky for you the flat part is really small.  But it was big enough for the owners' kids- they used to lie  up there and smoke dope.  I always wondered how they got there."

My theory:  It was probably the kids who insisted on putting those skylights in the attic. Just a theory.

But the more I think about it, the nuttier this plan of indulging in illegal substances seems.  I mean, come on-- what kind of an idiot decides the best place to get stoned is a roof?  Two and a half stories above the ground?  The risk is obvious, right?

But maybe not.  Maybe they wanted to enjoy the view- the stars at night, the leaves in the fall, the squirrels racing among the trees.  Certainly they could not have dreamed of getting a tan. This is Minnesota, after all.

Unless that was reeeeeaaal good stuff.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fiesta Time

Our annual parish festival kicked off Saturday.  During the daylight hour the grounds of our parish grammar school-  I like to call it Our Lady of Peace Through Strength, or OLOPTS-- were a maze of inflatable slides, obstacle courses, and of course the video deer-hunting games courtesy of the DNR.  (OLOPTS kids excel at these.)

Luckily for Desperate there was also a fully functioning beer tent.  So she and like-minded adults could sit in the shade and enjoy adult beverages while little kids with cotton candy sticking to their teeth ran around screaming in the sun.  Ah, restfulness.

And shade.  Shade is important.  Last year the school began a long-planned expansion project that involved tearing down a couple of neighboring properties and leveling a new playing field.  This is great for the kids, but bad for the carpool moms as it eliminated any shade we had while waiting for our children.  This might not sound like much to any of you Mediterranean types out there, but to persons of the Irish persuasion this means trouble.  It means carrying sunblock in the car, just in case you get parked too far down the line.  It means skulking in the shadows, wherever you can find them.  You start to feel real sympathy for vampires.

One of the perks of attending the parish festival is that eventually four o'clock rolls around and you find yourself sitting across the street from the church.  Naturally you say to yourself, Hey, it's four o'clock,  I'm here, why not  hit the confessional?  I mean, it's not like I'm going to go down the inflatable slide again.  Why not take advantage of the situation?

These are the thoughts that crossed my mind as I lingered in the Beer Tent.

Now, there were two ways of looking at this situation.  One, I was there;  two, it was four o'clock;  and three, a Miller or two goes a long way towards breaking down the inhibitions of vanity and the pre-confession jitters one may be subject to.

So far that's a vote for "Go to confession."

The other way of looking at it, of course, is hearing oneself saying, "Bless me Father for I have sinned, I don't know how long it's been since my last confession but I just had a couple of beers and I'm feeling, oh I don't know, expansive..."

And that's a vote for "stay where you are."

I don't think I'll say which way I voted.   I'll just say I enjoyed the Festival and my buddies in the beer tent, and it was nice and cool inside the church, too.

And such lovely shade.

Monday, May 06, 2013

FLYing Again

Anybody else follow FLY Lady?

Fly Lady is a website that, basically, helps anyone who runs a home get her act together.  Running a home, as we all know, is one of those things you think you know how to do, until you actually have to do it.  In pretty short order you find out there are, um, let's just say -- gaps in your knowledge base.  Some of us might even refer to those gaps as lacunae.  Good for you, you know a little Latin. You still don't have a clue how to the laundry pile turned into Mount Everest, it's 7 pm and you have no dinner plan, and, oh yeah, your houseplants are all dead.  (How did that happen?)

This is where FLY Lady comes to your rescue.

There is something incredibly soothing about FLY Lady.  She helps you see that you are not the only domestic screw-up out there.  Actually she doesn't put it that way.  She just reminds you that running a house is a real job, requiring real skills and real time.  Then she takes you through the whole job, baby step by baby step.  Does your home suffer from CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome)?  Take FLY Lady's hand.  She will lead you out of it.

I hadn't looked at FLY Lady in a long time.  But a friend mentioned the website to me a few weeks ago, and one day while browsing the internet I looked her up again.

 Well, okay, I was browsing with intent.  I wasn't on the lookout for housekeeping tips.  I was looking for writing tips. No, scratch that- I was looking for lifesaving writing tips.   I even did a Google search for any website called anything like "how to write your bestseller even though you are staring into the abyss of writer's block."

In case you're wondering, the search came up empty.

But I remembered my friend's enthusiasm for FLY Lady, and I found her website.

FLY Lady has tons of good advice, but she has a handful of trademarks that are worth memorizing.  The one I'm thinking of in particular is "Shine your sink."

I know, I know, it sounds-- how?  Obvious?  Silly?  A waste of time?

But it turns out shining your sink can be the first step out of the black hole of CHAOS and into the kind of domestic serenity that lets you accomplish the things you really want to do in life- by which I mean the things that have nothing to do with housekeeping.

Try it:  just before you shut down the kitchen for the night, grab your trusty Bar Tender's Friend of Comet or whatever, pull on some rubber gloves and scrub out the sink. Rinse and pat dry ( I know, that sounded insane to  me too, but bear with me here).

In the morning when you walk into the kitchen you will find what for me at least was a rare surprise:  a spotless sink. And when stainless steel or porcelain is spotless, did you know it actually shines?  In the right light it even sparkles.  And it might sound ridiculous, but the sight of that sparkle actually cheers me up.  It makes me feel like the day is full of possibilities.   I can start the day without reproaching  myself for leaving the kitchen a mess.  A little sparkle goes a long way with me.

Anyway.  I'm reading the FLY Lady website.  I remember her "shine your sink" advice.

Then I remember the Sink of Horror.  The one in  my powder room.

The previous owners of this house put a tiny brass sink in the powder room.  At least we assumed it was brass.  You couldn't tell from looking at it. From looking at it the sink appeared to be made of dried mud and charcoal.  It had scared off many a houseguest.

I had tried many, many times to make that sink presentable.  Finally I just installed a low-watt bulb in the powder room.  I figured this way maybe nobody would notice.

But then FLY Lady inspired me.  And since the writing was going particularly badly that day, I decided it was time to conquer the sink.

I started with brass polish.  "Apply with a soft cloth.  Rub gently to remove tarnish."

Ha.  That got me nowhere.  I tried three different brands of brass polish.  No dice.  The sink remained the same ugly, slightly disturbing grey.

Finally I got out the scouring powder and the heavy duty sponge.  And I scrubbed.  I scrubbed, and scrubbed, and scrubbed.

It took me two days.   It's a wonder the sink didn't fall out of the wall, I roughed it up so bad.  My shoulder ached for a week.

But as of now, the brass just glows.  It's like a whole new bathroom in there.  For me, at least.  So far no one else has even noticed.  But I notice, and I pat myself on the back for a job well done.

So, FLY Lady, all this might not have been exactly what you had in mind when you said "shine your sink."  What can I say, I took you advice to extremes.  But it paid off.  Thanks to you, my powder room is no longer the most embarrassing one on the block.  And I can finally put a 60-watt bulb in there now, too.

When you're having a bad writing day you have to take your encouragement where you can find it.  Every once in a while these days I get up and look at my sink,  And I think, 'Bravo, Desperate.  You can beat this thing.'

Not a bad payoff.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

That's What You Get For Being A Timberwolves Fan

"POLICE BLOTTER.  Noise complaint:  A noise complaint and possible verbal domestic case was reported at a home on Water Street.  Officers found there was just a man yelling at his television."
(Star Tribune, March 27, 2013)

You'd Think A Minnesotan Would Have Figured This One Out On His Own, But....

"POLICE BLOTTER:  Animal Complaint.  A person called to report that a raccoon was stuck in a garbage can on Howards Point Road.  Officers told the person to tip the garbage can over and call back if the raccoon did not exit.  The person did not call back."
(Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 27, 2012)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Return to the Boot

We got back yesterday at around 7pm our time, and drove directly to the orthopedic hospital.  Good thing, too, since it closes at 8 on Saturdays.

It turned out, as predicted, that my daughter had messed up a growth plate in her heel.  So now she's in a boot for God knows how long.  At least I don't have to feel too bad about forgetting to sign her up for softball. I'm pretty sure sliding in to home with a heavy and potentially damage-inflicting plastic boot on one foot is against the rules.

Her injury, obviously, meant cutting back on the last of our Rome sightseeing.  She missed the catacombs and St Mary Major, one or two other sights.  But she was determined to see Assisi.

If you haven't been there yet, Assisi is all hills.  Some of them quite steep.  Luckily one of the chaperones hit on a brilliant plan:  Would some of the boys of the Chesterton Academy kindly carry the injured 12-year-old on their backs?  And amazingly, several of them did.  So my kid is the first person I know to see Assisi from piggy-back.  She enjoyed it immensely.

Oh, and for anyone who is planning a trip to Italy in the near future:  bring your own ibuprophen.  Lots of it, I mean one of those huge Costco-sized bottles.  You are probably going to need it and you won't believe how much the stuff costs over there.  No kidding, like 14 bucks for ten tablets.  You might even pick up a few euros selling it as a sideline.  And with the dollar where it is, well, let's just say a few of the mega-ibu bottles would have come in real handy.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Thrills, The Chills: Travelling by Bus Italian Style

Yesterday our group took a bus to Assisi.  Our driver was Italian.  It took us nearly four hours to get to Assisi.  Understandable, what with driving through maountain ranges and all.  Plus it was a big bus, hard to maneuver on those tight curves.

Why then, we all wondered, did it take only two hours to return to Rome that night?

Because our driver drove like a frickin' lunatic, that's why.  Either he had a hot  date  or there was a soccer game on he couldn't miss.  Whater the reason there were a few times I thought the end might be near.

That always happens in this country. It├ás no wonder there have been so many great Italian racecar drivers.  They must all start training for the job before they get their learners' permits.  On the A-1 people rountinely drive at 90 mph.  Worse, they routinely tailgate at 90 mph. And I'm not talking slick young men here.  I'm talking moms with babies in car seats.

It's one of the first things I learned in Italy:  stay to the right.  The far, far right.  For God's sake stay out of the left lane unless you have a serious death wish.

On the plus side, now that the media have mostly flown the coop there's a lot more room to maneuver here.  And they've taken down the media tents that were cluttering up our view of St Peter's.  Last night we were actually able to stand ont eh upper balcony and admire Michaelangelo's gorgeous dome. Also on the plus side, it has stopped raining, the sun is shining, it's even warmed up a bit.  At last I have the right clothes.

My daughter is still laid up with whatever is wrong with her foot.  I see a trip to the orthopedist in her near future.  LIke, as soon as we get back.

Which is tomorrow, alas.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

New Pope, Old Fracture

So we have a new pope.  Yesterday DIH watched the installation of Pope Francis from a balcony high above St Peter's Square, and believe me she was glad to be above that crowd.   I am as loyal to the Papacy as the next girl but no way was I getting up at 4 and taking my chances in a crush of a quarter of a million people.

Not to resort to cliches but it really was an amazing experience, being here for the installation of a new Vicar of Christ.  I thought the Holy Father's message was beautiful.  Dont't be afraid of tenderness.  Unless you are a very tasty young calf, in which case the Italians do such wonderful things with veal that--

Oops.  Scratch that.

The only really maddening thing was getting out of Vatican City after the ceremony was over.  Because of all the visiting dignitaries the roads leading out of VC were closed.  We were trapped here until the last statesman was safely across the bridge.  Our group had to cancel its plans to see the catacombs.  Screwed by the likes of Joe Biden again.

In other news my daughter's old heel fracture is apparently acting up.  I have to give her credit for hobbling all the way over tot he Trevi Fountain on crutches yesterday.  She was determined to see it and claimed it would build her upper body strength.  Now of course whe's exhausted and sore, so we are skipping today's touring so she can lie in bed with her foot elevated and complain to her mom.  I may need a new job before the day is over. 

Anybody got any spare Advil?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hobble on the Cobbles

Today is Day 4 of our Rome pilgrimage, and already my daughter needs crutches.  Seriously.  Her foot started hurting on Friday and by now all our home remedies have proven ineffective.  Anybody know where I can find a pair of crutches in Rome?

(I am typing this on an ancient Vatican computer.  Any typos, blame Dan Brown.)

Yesterday was an epic day.  We heard Pope Francis make his first Sunday Angelus address.  One thing the press reports have not really made clear:  the guy is funny.  Really, he has a good sense of humor.  Can't wait to hear more from him tomorrow at his installation.  Which I hope to watch from a safe distance as the crowds in St Peters Square are way too vast for me.

(Note to Vatican wordmeisters: maybe you should come up with a better term than "installation."  Makes it sound like the man is a refrigerator.)

Today we are supposed to be going to St Paul Outside the Walls and St Mary Major.  If we can find a pair of crutches.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ciao from Roma

Years from now people will ask Desperate, ""Desperate, where were you when the white smoke went up?  When the first Argentine pope stepped out on the balcony?""

I would love to be able to say I was in Rome.  But the truth is I was in the airport in Atlanta, waiting for  my connecting flight to Rome.  Saw the whole thing on TV, though.  Comforted myself with the thought that at least I wasn't standing in the pouring rain in  St Peter's Square.

Anywa we're here now, at a residence right next to the Vatican that looks down on SAt Peter's Square.  Relevance of this location:  the whole place is packed with TV trucks.  We keep tripping over cables.  Saw a guy sound asleep in a car that had a placard, "CBS News."  Oh, and I think the Vatican choirs are rehearsing for the pope's installation already.  We keep hearing choral singing, plus a lot of bells bonging.  Hope they knock off before ten.

Rome is as beautiful and intriguing as ever.  Spent the afternoon in Trastevere and-- and I want Lenten credit for this--DID NOT BUY A SINGLE GELATO.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Airport Talk

At MSP airport a gruff lady demanded my boarding pass.  She looked it over, shoved it back at me and said,"No pope yet ."

Really it's wonderful to be so on top of things .  I mean what else is there to talk about these days?  The sequester?  Please.  The Kardashians are more interesting.  Also more of a genuine phenomenon.

I love how every time I turn on the news some jerk at the White House is telling
Me the world is about to end.  Like what America needs most right now is tours of the White House and we'll never have them again until the GOP plays nice.  Have you ever been dragged through a White House tour?  I have.  And I'm sure I speak for American schoolchildren everywhere when I say  I'd rather be at Denny's.

As to who is the current favorite in the College of Cardinals, that's a more interesting topin but sadly we have even less reliable information to work with.  But at least we're willing to admit it.

Hey has there been another vote yet

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Off to Rome

I may not be quite on the cusp of important international events, but tomorrow morning -- hideously early-- the daughter and I are off to Roma. We do now know if we will see the Holy Father.  We do not know if anyone else will, either.

But we plan on having a good time. We are tagging along with the American Chesterton Society's annual pilgrimage, so DIH is happily anticipating a lot of wordplay.  Along with a lot of pasta.  BTE did you know that Italian pasta, I  mean pasta cooked and served in Italy, has no carbohydrates?  It's true.

We also plan on a run up to Castelgandolfo.  We will leave the Pontiff Emeritus in peace, but instead make a beeline for the Ristorante Bucci.  Mamma mia, that lady's cooking.  I wonder if Benedict knows about the place. He should.  It's just a stone's throw from the papal palace.

I wrote quite a bit about the Bucci in "Breakfast with the Pope."  How they served a sauteed trout that I tried a hundred times to imitate back at home, but never could.  How during peach season you could have peaches and biscotti and local wine and swear if you died at that moment you'd die happy.

The last time we were in Castelgandolfo the Bucci had changed a bit.  The kitchen had been remodeled, it was three times the size of the old one, which was about the size of a powder room.  But the same lady was in charge, and she was as wonderful as ever.  She even let my daughter help her out in the kitchen as she gave her a short but unforgettable cooking lesson.  "Cook with your nose," she said.  We have never forgotten.

Yes I know, theres a ton of other things to love about Rome.  And I love them, I really do.

But the Bucci?  Beyond love.  Absolute devotion.

p.s. will probably have limited internet access in Rome (staying at a really cheap pension).  Will blog  whenever possible.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Update For You Papacy Fans

According to the Twitter feed, the cardinals will vote today on when to commence conclaving. The announcement is supposed to be made at 7pm Rome time, 12 noon Minneapolis time.

I'm assuming all the action will get rolling on Monday morning, March 11.  Who knows?  By the time yours truly gets to Rome on Thursday all the excitement could be over.

Which is a good thing, I've decided.  I'd hate to spend my latest Roman adventure standing in a square squinting at smoke, which is supposed to be black for "no decision" and white for "we got pope"  but everyone says is actually mostly grey every time.

So I may be in Rome for the election, or I may not.  But one thing is certain:  I will definitely be in Rome for St Joseph's Day, March 19.

And that is definitely something to look forward to.

Anybody else out there got a sweet tooth?  Is St Joseph's Day your favorite holy day, or what?

I'm talking PASTRIES, baby!  Cannolis!  Napoleons!  Cheesecake cheesecake CHEESECAKE!!!

According to my pastor the Romans make pastries on St Josephs' Day that they never make the rest of the year.  "There'll be powdered sugar everywhere,"  he predicted.  And he ought to know, he lived in Rome for years.  Still thin though.  Not sure how he pulled that off, must ask.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Morning After

It was a tough loss.  A close one that only got close very late in the game.  Holy Family Academy's Crusaders played their hearts out but the victory went to St Joseph's of West St Paul.  Congratulations, St. Joe's, Twin Cities Champions of 2013.  You played a great game.

I think I may just not be cut out to be a sports mom.  The excitement really gets to me.  I'm not saying I was the one who yelled "HEY REF, YOU'RE MISSING A GREAT GAME!"  in the MCYO playoffs.  I'm not saying that at all.  Nor would I dream of bellowing the admitted not-very-classy anti-ref chants I learned in college.  But hey, that was hockey.  Classy didn't feature in the deal at all.

No, I'm much more likely to be the person firing off the Hail Marys under her breath. Which I did for half the game yesterday.  I did it without moving my lips. of course, or at least I think I did.  I'd hate to look like someone's old Irish granny in the stands.  Although I probably already do.

  I never knew any former college before I moved to Minnesota.  But here it's hard to swing a cat without smacking it into somebody who played basketball or volleyball or, obviously, hockey.

I have to say I've learned a lot from them.  It's amazing how dispassionate they can be about any game going on in front of them. They observe, they analyze, they adjust.  They root for their team of course, but they don't seem to get their guts in a know like I do.  It's an enviable quality.

I had a revelation a few months ago about my own chosen work:  I decided that from now on I would only write bestsellers.  (You have to start somewhere, I started with that.)  When I told am athletic friend about my decision, she responded, "You know, coming from a  sports background, that seems like the obvious thing to do."

It had never bee made so clear to me before:  St Paul was right (see 1Cor 9:24).  If you're going to play, then play to win.  It's the only thing that makes any sense.

And if that means occasionally pointing out that the ref may need new eyewear, well, somebody's got to tell him, right?

So Long, Papa

UD students as Pope Emeritus Benedict flew over their Castelgandolfo campus.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Snow Day! Basketball! Sheer Terror!

As the Twin Cities disappear under yet another foot of snow,  Desperate reflects on the blessing of the all-wheel drive 2005 Subaru in her garage.  For it is this noble steed that will carry us to the championship  game tonight.

I speak, of course, of the Twin Cities 7th and 8th graders girls' basketball championship.  Holy Family Academy clinched the Monsignor Coates Youth Organization championship last week.  Now the Crusaders will play the champs of another Catholic school league for the Twin Cities title.

I'm telling you, the excitement is ferocious.  I myself am a bundle of nerves, but that's because I am petrified of driving over to the other side of town in a blizzard.  My varsity player, on the other hand, is quite relaxed.   I take this as a good sign.

The game is at 7:15.  Given the road conditions we will probably have to leave home at 5 to get there in time.  Oh dear god I hate to drive in the snow.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Where's Emily Post When You Need Her?

Well, this is it, people:  as of 8pm Rome time tonight we shall be officially popeless.  We know next to  nothing- well, nothing really- about where the Church will go from here.  All we know for sure is that Josef Ratzinger will take the title "pope emeritus,"  and he will continue to wear the white cassock that only the  Pope wears.

So, we all see the difficultly with this, right?  From now on there will be two guys running around in white cassocks.    Call me simple, but I'm telling that to all the world that's going to look like two popes.

Of course it isn't that simple.  We can only have one pope at a time.  But mark my words, this two-guys-in-white thing is going to cause problems.

For example:  what if they both show up at the same dinner party?  Dressed exactly alike?  Honestly, wouldn't you just die?  And forget about any of that "just pretend you don't notice" nonsense.  People will notice.  Trust me.

And if you imagine no one will make comparisons, dream on.  Ratzinger with those blue eyes and thick white hair?  He looked fabulous in white.  Didn't make him look fat, either.  You think the next guy will have the same luck?  I certainly would not put any money on that.  I've seen how some Italians look in white.  Not thin, for one thing.

Well, we can only hope for the best.  Pray for the cardinal electors and for Benedict in his retirement, and hope for the best.

But one more thing, my co-relgionists:  do not, under any circumstances, go around singing "Sur le pint d'Avignon."

Don't even hum it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Fitness Sickness

So yesterday after church we went to our new gym. Working out as a family!  We are so fit and so cool!

Naturally this morning everyone's throwing up.

I'm really not sure about all this "health club" lifestyle sometimes.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

And In Other News, The Pope Has Still Resigned

Sunday morning.  That precious time between waking up for the dogs and anyone else waking up. Peace.

Today will be the first Sunday sermon  since the Pope dropped his bombshell this week.  I imagine it will be along the lines of the-pope-is-brave-and-God-is-in-charge.  Which is a reasonable reading of the situation, I guess.

Probably won't mention things like lightning strikes and meteor explosions.  I mean, why get folks all worried, right?

Not me, no, I'm not worried.  Deeply curious is how I'd describe my mental state. Also calculating, as in "I wonder if I have time to make the five First Saturdays before, uh, anything happens?"

Other things to consider:

Should I finish clearing out the garage?

Is it worth getting my roots touched up or should I save myself the trouble?

That bottle of vintage port is still in the basement... time to give it a try?

Definitely get rid of leftover half cans of paint.

Cancel the cable, or beef it up for better coverage?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

A New Record

I decided what to give up for Lent:  bread.  I love bread.  Especially when it's the underside of a pizza.  So I boldly promised to give up pizza as well.

All right, tell me if this sounds familiar.

Ash Wednesday, 9am.  Planning what to have for dinner.  Decide:  salmon.  Yum.

AW, 2pm.  Check calendar, which until recently only said "Ash Wednesday."  Notice something else:  "basketball game, 6:15."  Make deal with spouse:  You take the kid to the game, I'll follow in my own car so I can get dinner ready.

AW, 5:45 pm.  Waiting for game to start.  Spouse announces he'll skip dinner and go to gym instead.  DIH's resolve to broil salmon weakens.

AW, 6pm.  Check iphone for emails.  What's this?  A coupon from fave pizza place?  "Two for one night?"  Dinner problem solved!  I mean why waste food, right?  And since spouse not coming home for salmon there's really no point to going all out with the broiler pan, is there?  Besides this game won't be over until 7, it'll take 35 minutes to get home... who needs to scrub broiler pans at 9 o'clock at night?

AW, 6pm-7pm.  Thinking pizza thoughts.  "Buy one with sun dried tomatoes, get one with eggplant for free.  Perfect."  Also, since now there;s no need, I don't leave the game early to go home and start dinner.

7pm.  Spouse changes his mind about gym.  Decides he will just come home for dinner after all.

7pm- 7:01.  Wrestle with conscience.

7:01  Check emails again.  Coupon is still there.  Opportunity not merely knocking but banging the door down.

7:25.  Standing on line at pizza place.

8:15 Home again, chowing down on eggplant pizza.

So let's see, not even 24 hours into Lent and already screwing up.  I wonder if there's a "but I had a coupon" section anywhere in the Catechism.  I should look that up.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday Thoughts

Things I could give up for Lent:



Listening to or repeating rumors.  BUT THERE'S A CONCLAVE COMING UP.


Hm.  I better come up with some more ideas.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fat Tuesday 2013

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday.  Today is DIH's last chance to scarf down some chocolate or know back a Cosmo without feeling guilty about it.

We face special challenges this Lent.  E.g., how can we give up Facebook when there's a papal election cooking?  And more importantly, now that they've taken the Quattro Formaggi off the menu at the pizza place, what are we going to eat on Fridays?

Ah, Lenten Fridays.  We all have fond memories of them, don't we?  From frozen fish sticks to tuna casserole, Lenten Fridays have treated us to some of the most disgusting fare man ever created.  Childhood Fridays were truly penitential.

We've come a long way since then.  Linguine with clam sauce.  Salmon with pesto sauce (pasta on the side of course).  Pasta alla Norma, if you remembered to freeze enough eggplant last September (I didn't).

That's just home cooking, of course.  For you gazillionaires out there there's always lobster at the Capitol Grill.  Delicious and low cal to boot.  Who says money can't buy happiness?

But let's not dwell on all that seafood now.  Today is Fat Tuesday, and it's time to meat up.  Put pepperoni on the pizza, chow down on BLTs, buy the filet mignon at the supermarket- it's on sale this week, at least in my neighborhood.  And don't forget the Cosmos.

The pope resigned.  I cannot face this Lent without Cosmos.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Benedict XVI Resigns

Last night we go the welcome news that my kid's school would have a delayed opening today.  Two more lovely hours of sleep!  I was so excited.

But the dogs got me up at 6, and as I waited from them to return from the back yard I idly turned on the computer.  Just to check the headlines.  Then I planned to go back to my  nice warm bed and--


HOLY CONCLAVES, BATMAN!!!  The pope - the Vicar of Christ, the Numero Uno honcho of the Catholic Church on earth, had just announced he was quitting!!

Needless to say there was no going back to bed after that.

I had to read the piece a couple of times before it sank in.  I still can't really get my head wrapped  around the news.  The Pope resigning?

Wait.  Isn't that also called "abdicating?"

No, can't be.  "Abdicating" sounds like something only a troublemaker would do. "Retiring,"  maybe?  No, that sound like he just wants to play golf.

People are opining all over Twitter and Facebook. Everything from  "What a brave decision" to "How could he leave us now?"  With of course the usual anti-Catholic crudity from the usual suspects.  I just hope Stephen Colbert doesn't say anything stupid.  That would be sad.

According to reports the Pope-- what do you call an ex-pope, by the way?-- plans to spend his retirement in Castel Gandolfo. OK.  Fine.  But what about next August when it's time for the new pope to take his vacation there?  What's Benedict going to do- sublet?  Timeshare?

And oh, Lord, here we ago again with the conclaves.  It seems like only yesterday St Peter's Square was packed with pilgrims checking for white smoke.  And you know why it seems like yesterday.  Because in Catholic Church terms, seven years ago WAS freakin' yesterday.  I mean, come on, guys!  Not even a decade!  And now we have to listen to all that "who's papabile" gossip again?  More speculation on African cardinals, more jerks on CNN giving us their expert opinions on women priests and married clergy.

Not to mention the conspiracy theories.  Apparently Piers Morgan has already gone on Twitter to say he's "not buying" the poor health excuse.  "What's the pope hiding?"  And you thought only conservatives were the mad theorists.

I think it's appropriate, though, that Benedict made his announcement right before Lent.  Listening to Piers Morgan was bad enough before, but now it will be some kind of uber-penance.  Also the prospect of a papal election before Easter gives all one's Lenten penances kind of a twofer effect-  reparation for sin, and a votive offering:  "Please God. don't let the College of Cardinal screw this moment in history up."

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Richard III

I cannot stop thinking about Richard III.  Ever since they found his skeleton buried under a parking lot somewhere in England he's been on my mind.

Let me be the first to admit that I know next to nothing about the Wars of the Roses.  As near as I could tell they were just a series of rumbles extended over thirty or so years.  England must have felt like the Bronx under that idiot mayor Lindsay.  Plenty of busting up and nothing much accomplished.

I know that the House of Lancaster won, of course. You know, those beauties who gave us Henry VIII.  It was all downhill from there as far as I was concerned.

(But don't ask me if Lancaster was the white rose or the red one.  I don't know.  I could never keep them straight.)

Like most people I got most of my knowledge of Richard III from Shakespeare's play.  I saw it performed by the Royal National Theatre, when they brought it to Brooklyn in 1992. I was so enthralled by Ian McKellan's performance that the spouse and I drove down to DC a few weeks later to see them do it again at the Kennedy Center.  I even bought their tee shirt:  "And thus I clothe my naked villainy."  On the back it said "Richard III- The USA Tour."  I loved that shirt.

And of course, I got curious about the accuracy of Shakespeare's Richard.  It's a great play, he's a great character, but if DIH has one rule it's this:  Never trust anyone on the Tudor payroll.  Like the Bard was.

When Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth, the Yorks were finished and the Lancasters took over.  Henry VII was Henry VIII's father.  Shakespeare was writing for Henry's daughter Elizabeth.  So put yourself in Bill's position.  "Gotta write a play about Richard III.  His folks were the sworn enemies of my patron Queen Bess.  Gee- should I make him look good or bad?"

Anyway.  So far they know one thing about the Bard's Richard.  The Richard of "Richard III" was  hunchback with a withered arm.  The skeleton they discovered under that parking lot definitely had a curved spine.  But no withered arm- no evidence of one.

A-HA!  Let the speculation begin!

I dont' know about you but I'm going to stay tuned.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Love Is Murder 2013

Desperate just got back from a fascinating weekend.  Although it involved catching the cold of the century, being manhandled by the TSA and missing the Superbowl it was all worth it.

The 2013 Love Is Murder mystery writers' conference was held at the Hotel Intercontinental at Chicago O'Hare.  The Intercontinental is a very nice hotel that does not have free internet or a hot tub, two of the reasons DIH generally sticks to the Hampton Inn.  Also there's a significant difference in the price tag, but that's a topic for another day.

What the Intercontinental does have is a location near the airport, and it stands smack in between two very nice restaurants.  One of them, the Capitol Grille, is the main reason DIH hopes to become a millionaire some day.  If I were a millionaire I would eat lobster at the Capitol Grille every night.  OK maybe not every night, but often.

Let's just say the menu is pricey.  I mean, come on, $48 entrees?  When was the last time you were 48 bucks worth of hungry?

But last year we were at the LIM 2012 conference, same hotel, and we thought, What the heck- we just drove seven hours to get here.  Don't we deserve a little pampering?  After all it's not like we flew or anything.  Or even rented a presentable car for the drive.

That was the first time I ate at the Capitol Grille.  It was really one of those "through the looking glass" experiences.  So this is how the other half lives, I thought. I looked around the bar at the women in their fur coats and the   men with their single malt scotches and I wondered how long it would be before some social x-ray type spotted me for the interloper I was and had me escorted to the nearest McDonald's.

As the spouse commented when they seated us at our table and he took in the crowd, the ambience and the right-hand side of the menu:  "If my father had ever taken my mother to a place like this for one dinner, she would have talked about it for the rest of her life."

So when we returned to Chicago for this year's conference, I had my excuses all lined up.  "There's only one other restaurant for miles!  And it's just as pricey!  And steak is pure protein, and protein is brainfood, and..."

But we were in for a pleasant surprise.  It was Restaurant Week in Chicago.  In honor of which, the CG was offering a deal:  three full courses for $33.  Entrees included things like filet mignon. Dessert was creme brulee or flourless chocolate cake.

Do I have to tell you where we ate on Friday night?  Or Saturday?

I can hardly wait to go back to Love Is Murder next year.  Oh, yeah- the conference was interesting, too.
But that creme brulee!

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Baptism of the Lord

Yesterday was the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  The official end of the Christmas season.  And as it does every year, the Baptism of the Lord brings up a dilemma.

"Yeah, I know," you're saying to yourself.  "Why did Jesus have to be baptized?  It doesn't make sense. I mean if baptism removes original sin, obviously Jesus didn't need it, and if baptism makes you an adopted child of God well that's pointless in His case too, and if...."

No no no.  All those questions have been resolved.  Check out the Church Fathers, or the Catechism, or EWTN.  They've got all those answers.

No, the dilemma of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the one that never goes away,t hat has to be worked out anew every freakin' January, is just this:

"What the heck are we going to do with all these poinsettias?"

Every Christmas every church I've ever attended packs itself to the gills with poinsettias.  I've seen banks of poinsettias, trees of poinsettias, wildernesses of poinsettias.  Vast fields of flaming red tropical plants.  And they look great at Christmas, I think we can all agree on that.

But what about after Christmas?  You can't have holiday red flowers after Christmas.  It looks stupid.

The problem is poinsettias arent' flowers, they're plants.  And the damn things live for weeks, or months.  Too long, anyway.

So what's to be done?  There's always the poinsettia giveaway.  "Anyone who'd like to take a lovely  plant home after Mass please feel free!"  I fell for that one year.  I picked the biggest, gangliest plant I could find.  When I got it home the only place I had room for it was in my bathtub.  It was there until July, when someone (ahem) finally put it out of its misery.

If your parish offers the poinsettia giveaway, my advice is:  do not succumb.  Walk away.  Those plants aren't orphans and you're not Mother Teresa.

If you can't walk away, the next best thing is to go for the white ones.  At least you can try to pass them off as liturgically neutral.  Failing that you can clip the stems and put them in a vase until they have the decency to wither and die like supermarket zinnias.

It's usually kids who can't pass up the big giveaway.  In this case all you need to do is tell them "OK, but you have to take care of it. You have to make sure it gets enough water and sunlight."  I guarantee that plant will be history in a week.

If you live in a tropical climate it's probably ok to take the poinsettias home. You can just stick them outside it the dirt and let them fight for their own survival, I guess.  We don't have that option in Minnesota.

Nobody wants to look at red poinsettias in January- it's like looking at the sweater your aunt gave you for Christmas that you didn't have the heart to return.  Stick to the white or walk away.  In the mean time watch your mailbox for spring bulb catalogs.  That'll take your mind off winter for a bit.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


You've heard it from the time you were old enough to travel:  Always take a carry-on with a change of clothes.  That way if the airline loses your luggage you'll be ok for a while.

A wise dictum, and one DIH has always followed.

Except this last time.  All I had in my carry-on was my laptop.

And this time I paid the price.

There's nothing quite like that sinking feeling you get when you've been standing by the luggage carosel in a strange airport, watching those few forlorn remaining suitcases going round and round, knowing that none of them is yours and no more luggage is coming down the chute.  It's a sad feeling.  A feeling of loss and loneliness, which when combined with jet lag and fury at the airline for losing your stuff makes for a bad moment at the airport.

As it turned out I was not alone in my loss.  Ten of our party were luggage-less.  Including, of course, the bar mitzvah boy, the bat mitzvah girl and their mother.

No matter, we said, they'll turn up tomorrow.  Besides we're staying at a really nice hotel.  They'll have whatever we need.

Surprise #1:  this very nice hotel had no shops.
Surprise #2:  if you ask an Israeli hotel clerk if the hotel has any toothbrushes and he says "Yes, we do," he thinks the conversation is over. You have to complete the thought.  "Well could I have one, please?"  Then he will think about it.
Surprise #3:  Luggage did not arrive the next day, or the next, or even the next.  Lesson learned:  when you've been wearing the same socks and underwear for five days, it doesn't matter how many stars the hotel has.  It feels like a campsite.

Finally our luggage turned up, or some of it.  Whose was still missing?  Why, the b'nai mitzvah group's of course.  They had to find a Gap store in the Old City of Jerusalem just to have something decent to wear to the ceremony.  Luckily there was one a couple of blocks away from the hotel.

The hardest part from me was looking longingly at the heated swimming pool, which was right outside our room.  I kept thinking how nice it would be to stretch my travel-cramped muscles out with a swim.  But here's another lesson I've learned form travel:  buying a bathing suit while on the road is usually a losing proposition.  You overpay for the damn thing and then when you get it home you wonder what you could possible have been thinking when you bought it.  (The answer is:  Oh, well, no one I know will ever see me in this thing.)

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Accidental Amsterdam

Quick, what do you think of when you hear the word "Holland?"

Is it windmills?  Tulips?  Assisted suicides? Chocolate, wooden shoes, Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates?  Pesky Dutch bishops always stirring up trouble?

For me one image will always come to mind:  chewing gum.  Not for sale in packets, no.  Chewed-up wads of gum dotting the sidewalks like a case of the hives.

The sidewalks of Amsterdam are a veritable minefield of gum wads.  This is particularly disgraceful given that the sidewalks I walked on would have been beautiful otherwise.  They were made of paver stones, you know, the fake brick you want to redo your walkway with some day.  Neat, quaint, octagonal I think.  And a disgusting mess of gooey stuff spat out of countless Dutch pieholes.

I have been in Amsterdam twice in my life,  both times by accident.  The first time I was on my way home form Rome, and we got rerouted through Schipol.  I didn't do much touring that time, just hung around the hotel, hiding the in- house magazines boasting about how hygienic the Dutch sex trade is.  Ick, I said to myself. Amsterdam?  Ick.

The second time was three weeks ago, on our way to Israel.

We were supposed to fly from Minneapolis to JFK, then JFK to Tel Aviv.  But somehow we got word that we were bumped from the JFK flight.  But as I mentioned yesterday we were traveling with a b'nai mitzvah party, and if there is one thing this Long Island girl knows, it's that nothing can stop a mom with a bar mitzvah on her hands.  Within ten minutes she got us all on a flight to Amsterdam with a connection to Tel Aviv.

"This is perfect,"  she said.  "We'll take a tour of the Anne Frank house.  It'll put us in the mood."

So, once again we flew in to Schipol.

December 22nd, a lovely soft rainy day.  Christmas lights reflecting on the canals. Barges full of flowers floating on the glassy canals.  The scent of hashish hanging in the air.  Ah, Amsterdam.

And gumwads.  Honestly I couldn't get over the gumwads.  I grew up in New York.  We learned all about when it was New Amsterdam and the Dutch ruled the joint, and why we called out front porches "stoops."  "The Dutch settlers were very clean,"  Sister Mary Mel told us in first grade.  "They called Saturday 'schoonmadaag.'  It means cleaning day."

If Amsterdam is any indication, let's just say the Dutch have come a long way from the days of Peg-Leg Stuyvesant.