Monday, January 13, 2014

Top Ten Good Things About the Polar Vortex

Now that it's gone away, let's look back in appreciation.

10.  Sure your neighbor has a snazzy Mercedes.  But whose crappy ancient Subaru actually started every day?  Ha ha.

9.  You spent quality time with your family.

8.  After a few days even your family admitted they were done with quality time, so you all got to watch Netflix for hours.

7.  You  made enough soup to last until the spring thaw.

6.  You made enough soup to last until the first snowfall of 2015.

5.  Way too cold to open attic door.  Guilt-free slow Christmas cleanup!

4.  Next time you bring up the subject of going someplace warm and sandy, spouse will actually pay attention.

3.  32 degrees feels like a vacation!  Go out and walk off those Christmas cookies!

2.  22 degrees doesn't feel so bad, either!

1.  IT'S OVER!!!!!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Quote of the Day

Sitting in the Barnes and Noble Bookstore Cafe.  Two twenty-somethings are having lunch with their grandparents.  They discuss vegetarian and Kosher lunch options, then settle down to eat.

Someone mentions the author of a popular book.

"I know something about that family,"  the grandmother says.  "The youngest son converted from Judaism to Catholicism."

"Really?  That's unusual,"  replies the granddaughter.  "Why would anyone want to go out of the frying pan and into the fire?"

Tuesday, January 07, 2014


The much-vaunted Polar Vortex is supposed to be ready to subside.  As of tomorrow we will have above- zero temperatures and SCHOOL WILL RE-OPEN AT LONG LAST!  YEE- HAH!

Not that I'm complaining. It hasn't been all that bad.  My daughter and I decided to cook our way through the cold.  She looked up the Jamie Oliver videos and we'd cook 'em.  Let's just say I now know what Marmite looks like, although I'm still not exactly sure what it is.

(Funnily enough there were two British guys watching me as I found the stuff in the supermarket.  I noticed raised eyebrows.)

We made "Brown Windsor soup," because we heard about it in an episode of "Poirot." We made split pea with ham soup because we had to get rid of the last of the Christmas ham somehow.  We were about to tackle "Steak and Guinness pie" when we ran out of steam.

So what shall we have for dinner?

I want pizza.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Batten Them Down Again! We'll Show Those Hatches!

It seems to Desperate she has spent a lot of time battening down the hatches lately.  We've been in quite the deep-freeze here in Minnesota lately, and according to the National Weather Service it's only going to get worse over the next few days.  I'm talking wind chills of 60 below, people.


So I've stocked the freezer, filled the gas tank, sealed off the semi-heated porch. I have also taken the very Little House on the Prairie step of covering the walls of my bathroom with plastic sheeting.

I did this because the plaster in this particular bathroom was ripped off the walls a couple of weeks ago.  We had an in-house flood, and the plaster got soaked, so it had to go.  Unfortunately this left us with nothing but exposed lathe and tar paper to keep the chill out.

I can't just close the bathroom door, as the pipes will freeze.  On the other hand the draft from the bathroom is bone-chilling. So I covered the walls with old plastic tablecloths.  I hope it works.

Now back to thinking of other things to batten down.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Welcome Annie Moore

I just learned about Annie through a Tweet from Lifesite News.  On January 1, 1892, 14-year old Annie Moore, from Cork, Ireland, became the first woman to be processed through the newly opened Ellis Island immigrations center in New York Harbor.

Welcome Annie!

Some 22 years later my grandparents entered the US through the same station.  Welcome Harry and Sadie!

And many decades later, Desperate herself was there.  At the time Ellis Island had been closed for years and was nearly a ruin.  It was just beginning its huge restoration to make it the museum it is today.

I was there as part of a team that was making a documentary about immigration in America.  The host for the show was an American blueblood, scion of an important New England literary family.  The rest of us were immigrant stock- our director was an Italian-American kid from upstate New York.

One day during a break we were talking about what Ellis meant to us as Americans.  I said my grandparents had come through Ellis;  my husbands had as well.  So had the grandparents of several crew members.  Our director added that when his grandparents arrived at Ellis from Italy his grandmother was pregnant with his father.

It was just an ordinary conversation, but there was real magic at work for us there that day. All our grandparents were from very different parts of the world, but here we were that day, and we had this in common:  Ellis Island was part of what made us all Americans.  It was almost as if we were all related. And Ellis was our old family home.

Happy Opening Day, Ellis.  Thanks for being there to welcome all of us.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year

So, it's 2014.  The fireplace is on, the dogs have gone back to bed and it's 6 below zero outside, wind chill minus 20.  Happy New Year!

It was a quiet New Year's Eve for the Desperate household.  Spouse is down with the flu, and 13-year-old daughter was at a sleepover.  When last seen the young ladies were heating up the curling irons.  Gotta start the New Year in style, am I right?

Right now I'm at the kitchen table, surveying the wreckage of the holidays.  The piles of Christmas china, waiting to be put away for next year.  The punch bowl that still hasn't been washed-- man it's a pain fitting big things into a small sink.  The shards of glass that are all that's left of the antique oil lamp from the guestroom that some kid broke at our post-Christmas dinner party.  (Note to whatever kid broke my lamp:  I will find you.  Oh yes.  I will.)

And just like every other year, I'm asking myself:  Why do we do all this?  Why?

And I remember a moment of amazing grace.  It happened more than 20 years ago.  Was I in church?  No.  I was standing on line in the men's socks department of Macy's on Queens Boulevard.

I was buying a Christmas present for my father. He always wants socks.  So there I was, waiting on line with about twenty-five other people, who were also buying socks for their fathers.  Merry Christmas, Dads of American, your tootsies will be warm again!

It must have been towards the end of the day.  Macy's was a madhouse.  A loop of Christmas music you've hear about seventy times playing on the sound system.  Everyone in front of you wants to pay with a check.

And I asked myself, Why am I putting myself through all this?  What could possibly make me do this kind of exhausting, mind-wearying, money-worrying thing every year?

So as I stood in line I took a little mental quiz.  Would I go through all this for anything less than to celebrate the birth of God on earth?

And I realized the answer was NO.  I wouldn't do this for the dearest friend having her first baby.  I wouldn't do this for the dearest friend getting married.  I wouldn't do this for anything less.

In our little household the celebration of Christmas has always been my job.  I get the tree, I put up the lights, I bake the cookies, I hang the wreath...

And the truth is I'm happy to do it.  I'm happy to welcome the newborn Savior with as much fanfare as I can muster.

Happy Birthday, God.  And a special shout-out to Mary, the Mother of God.  It's her feast day today.  Happy Feast Day, Mary!  I know all the holiday preparations were your job, too.  We're a tough crew, we wives and mothers, are we not?