every girl needs a greek chorus

a blog about hope


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Batten the Hatches!

Batten the hatches!  My comfort zone is about to take a hit.  Apparently, the Polar Vortex has been kicked south by a mega-Asian typhoon over the North Pacific colliding with the Jet Stream, and something on Weather Radar bounced off a slow-moving front, shoving it into a Stationary High, causing it to flee south, around, and duck under, and according to the media meteorologists, disaster could, maybe, probably, be headed from Hudson Bay through Kansas, Dorothy, screaming like a freight train toward my neck of the woods, and it’s probably all my fault because I just can’t be trusted with weather.

Exciting!  Weather Channel map for November 11, 2014.

Exciting! Weather Channel map for November 11, 2014.

At any rate, some Weather Guru has determined that at least 42 states (Hey, who dared to offend eight states by leaving them off the list?) will be affected by something unpleasant, and, here in Maryland, we may have snow by the end of the week, just in time for my beloved Michigan State Spartans, who live with winter from November 1 to May 1, to journey here to play the University of Maryland Terrapins in their quaint little stadium in the middle of the night.  Advantage Spartans!    [Aside:  Who decided that sporting events should start at 8:30 at night?  Ridiculous!]

Has there never been cold and snow in the Midwest in November?  [Sorry.  I was laughing so hard at my own joke that I had to take a Kleenex break.]  Does no one own a coat, hat, gloves?  Ice scraper?  Spare roll of toilet paper?  Box of Kleenex for emergencies?  I suspect many of my old friends back in Michigan have snow shovels hidden in their garages.  Maybe even a snow blower or two.  I remember when the sidewalks were swept by the city with machines.  No snow days for us schoolchildren!  Now, everyone panics and huddles inside with cable or satellite tv, internet, and video games.

When did we become a nation obsessed with weather?  We’re like Goldilocks, never satisfied.  It’s too cold.  It’s too hot.  There’s too much sun/heat/rain/snow/ ________________ (fill in the blank).  There’s not enough sun/heat/rain/snow/ __________________ (fill in the blank).   The Polar Ice Caps are melting, endangering homes along the coast.  Should they really have built that luxury condo on a barrier island, defying God’s brilliant purpose of the barrier island?   They’ve been dredging up sand from the ocean floor onto the beach at Ocean City, Maryland since I moved here in 1976, saying that the destruction of the dunes for development is the culprit.  How is that my fault?  I drive a hybrid, after all.

Other than warning of an impending “weather event” of actual disastrous proportions, like a tornado, hurricane, or blizzard, I’d just as soon be surprised.  What can I do about it?  Not much.  The magic gene for weather control did not reach me in the great evolutionary process. How do I prepare for this?  Batteries, water, ice, bread, milk, toilet paper?

Boring!  Actual National Weather Service alert map.

Boring! Actual National Weather Service alert map.

Last February, an ice storm took out pine trees a half-mile away.  Their soft branches bent and snapped under the weight of the ice, taking out the lines that supply our little 20-house development.  (Ban pine trees!)  In July, a storm inexplicably took out the power for 51 hours.  Disasters?  Nope.  I’m still here, unscathed.

Unfortunately, we are insignificant to the power company because we have so few households, and, therefore, are some of the last to have power restored.  BFF Fiona and I have our survival routine down pat.  During the day, we go about our business, as usual (shocking, I know).  At night, we sit by the light of a Coleman lantern, with her snoozing at my feet while I read from my Kindle or from the Kindle app on my iPhone without the lantern.  Wait! We do that every night before we fall asleep.  No sweat.

I am not a camper, by any stretch of the imagination.  On vacation, I want to read books in a comfy lounge chair, wearing clean clothes, stroll through museums, have long lunches in nice restaurants, and drink lots and lots of soothing adult beverages.  I have done time on sailboats, freezing, pelted by hail, swatting at no-see-ums in sweltering heat, bathing with saltwater.  But I always had clean sheets on my bunk, a nice bottle of wine, a book, and, usually, a steak in the icebox or a beach restaurant in the next port.

Pellet stove+lantern=cozy

Pellet stove + lantern = cozy

My house faces south, with large windows, so, in the winter, the living room and bedroom warm up comfortably, if the sun is out, and my pellet stove runs off a 12-volt marine battery.  In the summer, leaves cover the tree branches and shade the house, so it naturally stays about 10 degrees cooler than the developments built in former cornfields.

What are my survival secrets?  I always have an Igloo-brand drink cooler filled with water, containers of solid ice stored in a spare freezer, and cooler packs frozen in the door of my freezer to protect its contents in the event of power loss.  I also keep water in old bleach bottles, which can be used for washing or flushing the toilet.  And, if I know that a tropical storm or blizzard is on its way, I am that woman who fills up at least one bathtub with water.  I see it as a talisman against the weather gods and have had to use it to wash dishes and flush the toilet more than once.  Of course, I have three low water-use toilets, so I can get at least three flushes out of whatever water is in the tank.

When power goes out in the summer, I move the block ice to my refrigerator, use my generator to run the freezer and refreeze the block ice.  The generator also is used to recharge a battery that I then use to charge my phone and laptop, run my television for the morning and evening news, and give me an hour of lamplight. I should have it set up to run the well pump and/or furnace, but I just can’t get motivated enough, because, news flash, it is rarely a problem.

When I designed my kitchen, I had a gas cooktop installed, which can be lit with a match and on which I heat water for bathing, dishwashing, and beverages, as well as cooking.  Of course, there’s always the gas grill outside or the charcoal grill in my dining room.  I’ll never lack for a hot meal, so, bring it on Polar Vortex!

DATE UPDATE:  Yesterday, I met a man for lunch at a nice local restaurant.  Upon my arrival at noon, we shook hands; he expressed surprise that I looked like my profile photos and inadvertently revealed that he had already consumed a beer.  During the next two hours, he drank three more.  I’m not sure if I was so awful he couldn’t stand me or if he has a drinking problem.  Since I can’t be more fabulous, I’m going to have to guess it’s him (plus he had exaggerated about a few things in his profile, like his occupation and his ownership of a boat, to name just two).  To ensure that there is no second date request, I played myself as silly, chatty, and as obnoxious as possible, finally throwing in my trump card —religion.  “Yes, you should know that I am the Senior Warden at my church and have seminary training.  My faith means everything to me.”  (All true, by the way.)  I think I actually saw him wince.  What a disappointment…he had such good grammar!

On the other hand, he paid for my $9 salad and glass of water (someone has to remain sober during a blind date).  My batteries are charged, my water is topped.  So, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!


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OMG! It’s Autumn!

My Fall Dilemma

My Fall Dilemma

OMG!  It’s autumn!  That means that winter is only three months away!  What happened to summer?  My hydrangeas never bloomed, and I have summer clothes that I never wore.  (Well, they’re mainly tank tops that expose the worst parts of my arms, which shouldn’t be seen in public, anyway.)

In preparation, I bought an electric leaf blower, and my current dilemma is whether or not to blow leaves periodically as they fall from several hundred large trees in my wooded yard or wait until they all fall.  If I start now, I’ll be bombarded by falling acorns.  If I wait until the end of November, when all the leaves are down, I run the risk of an early snow turning them into four inches of slick mush that won’t blow at all.  Looking at that mess all winter is too depressing to contemplate.

On Facebook, my friends wax poetic about sweaters, pumpkin recipes, and crisp fall air.  The Daughter is planning her first Halloween party, and all I can think about is that leaves are falling, the days are shorter, and winter is setting in.   My instincts tell me to grab my BFF Fiona and hunker down under a blanket on the sofa until March 1, 2015.

Living in Maryland, I’ve learned to fool myself into believing that autumn is really “Indian Summer,” until Thanksgiving, when the real autumn arrives on the Mayflower with John and Priscilla Alden and the other pious Puritans, followed by giant balloons and lip-synching celebrities on floats moving down Fifth Avenue in New York.  (Yes, I know that is anachronistic; John and Priscilla didn’t marry until after they bumped into Plymouth Rock.)

Fall (September and October) was enjoyable as a child in Michigan. With my theatrical flair, Halloween was a favorite holiday, although we usually wore a winter coat over our costumes to trick-or-treat, which was a real downer.  Then, there were high school football games on Friday night, college football on Saturday afternoons, and pro football on Sundays. Fall was preceded by hot, humid summer (June through August) and followed by long, nasty winter (November through May—read on).

In my head, winter actually starts the Monday after New Year’s Day. If I’m lucky, New Year’s falls on a Monday, which gives me one whole week to take down my Christmas tree.  My goal is to vacation somewhere warm in January to lop off a couple weeks of winter.  Football playoffs under the palm trees make it so much more bearable!

A season only a dog could love.

A season only a dog could love.

Snow at the holidays is delightful set-dressing.  Snow on Groundhog Day is dirty, icy, hazardous, depressing filth. That’s why no one sings “Jingle Bells” or “Winter Wonderland” or “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” in February (whose only “musical” holiday is Valentine’s Day, which intensifies the depression.)

Still, winter here is better than winters that I remember from my childhood in Michigan, where the snow caked the sidewalks until it turned into layers of ice from November to April.  As a college student at Michigan State, I daily wore a hat and scarf to cover my face, with only Vaseline covering the exposed skin beneath my eyes for protection from the wind.  Crossing the campus from one side to the other was like a trek across Antarctica to the South Pole.

In Maryland, winter is supposed to last from January 7 through February 28 (with an extra, depressing day in Presidential Election years, aka Leap Year—watch out in 2016!).  By March 1, Maryland is usually moving into spring, which I discovered when I moved here.  It’s all snowdrops, pink and white dogwoods, and azaleas!

There was no spring in Michigan.  Any season that required a special coat (yes, we had woolen spring coats) was not a separate season. Daffodils fought their way up through frozen clay in April.  There was a snowstorm on April 11, 1957, when my baby sister was born, and there was snow on May 1, 1976, just before I moved to Maryland.   This year, friends who live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (they’re “Youpers” to the uninitiated) reported that there were ice bergs floating on Lake Superior when they came south for a visit in June!  

The Farmer’s Almanac says that winter 2014-2015 will mirror last winter, which lasted into April, which is why my hydrangeas haven’t bloomed!  Keep your pumpkin pie.  It’s time to plant bulbs, order two tons of wood pellets for my stove, stock up on ice melt, fill the generator with gas, and recharge the 12-volt batteries. A woman’s work is never done!

“Where’s the hope in all this?” I wonder.  Let’s see…Time falls back at 2:00 am on Sunday, November 2, for an extra hour of sleep.  The Ravens are playing their typical “It looks like we’re trying to lose this game but will pull it out in the last heart-stopping 10 seconds.”  The Orioles may play the Tigers for the AL pennant, which is a win-win for me.   I have Fiona to snuggle up with when the winds howl through the trees, and, after 6:03 pm, on Sunday, December 31, the shortest day of the year, the days will get longer again.  I might make it, after all.  So, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!

To ward off the chill:

Cozy Crock Pot Cider

½ gallon apple cider

1 quart orange-pineapple juice

2 sticks of cinnamon

12 cloves, tied in cheesecloth

1 cup dark rum (or to taste – optional)

Combine all ingredients in crock pot and heat until warm, about 1 hour.