A couple of months ago we were in Breckenridge, Colorado on vacation. I was buying a lift ticket from the girl in the ticket book, and she starting telling me what to expect. “I worked in Beaver Creek (Colorado) for a few years — I even did what you do for two summers,” I told her, stopping her from giving me the spiel on riding the lift.
“Oh, so you know,” she said. Then, “where do you live now?”
“Ohio.” I answered, pretty much knowing where the conversation was going.
“Is that where you’re from?” (Because no one living or working in a Colorado resort town is from Colorado. She was from Oregon. And no one would leave for OHIO.)
“Nope. I grew up in Colorado. Moved there after we got married.” (I was the exception to the working-in-a-resort-and-not-being-from-Colorado rule.
“Oh.” (I know she was thinking ‘why?’) “Do you like it?”
“We really do. We live in a nice, smaller town. And everyone is so nice.”
She smiled knowingly. “My roommate is from rural Illinois. Here mom came out for Thanksgiving. She was so nice. And she cooked o much good comfort food.”
With that, I laughed. “YES! That was the first thing we learned. EVERYONE brings food to EVERYTHING!”
And that was one of my first lessons about living in the Midwest. Food is always the answer.
And it’s wonderful.
When someone is down and out–food. When something good happens–food. When you invite someone over for coffee–food. Playdate? Food. Football game? Food.
The answer is always food.
And, 99% of the time, it’s good food.
Appetizers. Desserts. Side dishes. All cooked or baked with love and thought.
I think it’s the perfect way to say thank you, or I’m thinking about you, or I care about you. I guess it’s a way to comfort the soul and share something that you love with those outside of your family. (Of course, it may also be a way to try recipes on people outside of your family.)
It’s feeding those you care about, and food is love. It’s feeding the soul by filling the belly. It’s the ultimate definition of comfort food.
We’ve learned, through time, not to put out so much if we’re having a party. If we don’t have time to make a dish for a potluck, it’ll be okay, because everyone else will make a dish (and it will more than likely be better than anything I could come up with on a moment’s notice.)
So here’s to the Midwest region of the United States. The breadbasket of the U.S. means great fall festivals, wonderful harvests, and bountiful covered dishes made with love.
Okay, onto my thoughts on Meg Little Reilly’s We Are Unprepared.
Once you go there, you’re already living in a state of emergency. You’re praying for the reckoning just to make all your efforts worthwhile. It’s a fine line between being prepared and letting the fear run your life, but you have to respect the line.
—Meg Little Reilly, We Are Unprepared
Ash and Pia are those irritating types of millennials — the hipsters that decide to live a genuine, natural life. These two take a bit further, deciding to move to a small farmhouse near Isole, Vermont, a Northern town surrounded by forest and mountains.
At the opening of the book, Pia gets devastating news when her doctor tells her it’s going to be tough for her to have a baby. It’s on the ride home that they hear about the impending winter and its series of storms that could devastate the world.
Once it’s announced, it seems obvious. Climate change and global warming are causing he summer to last longer, and then winter to land like a flat basketball. The President and other governmental officials are alternatively warning of a bad storm and holding back on the severity, in an attempt to preserve the order of the United States.
The couple takes the news differently. Ash, we learn, is not so much a hipster as a Vermont boy (he was raised in the state) who fell into the hipster life because of his age, his career (he’s a graphic designer), and his choice of clothes (coming from Vermont, he’s prone to flannels, jeans, and work boots). His upbringing makes him want to become part of the community, and he falls in with the city government-types. He’s also the first to want to jump in and help their floundering 7 year-old neighbor August, the son of parents with mental and (possible) drug problems.
Pia, on the other hand, becomes slightly obsessive. An artsy type without a center, with parents who seemed to indulge her without helping, Pia seems to be a bit unbalanced (and maybe a little bipolar?). As Ash tells us more and more about her, she seems to have some great artistic talent but no ability to see it through. She’s also beautiful.
But when she finds she can’t have children, and then the impending storm, Pia goes off the deep end. She turns into a full on anti-government prepper. And the storm will be her salvation or her death.
As the threat of the storm disappears, the town relaxes a bit (but not Pia!). A relatively warm February has everyone letting down their guard, especially during their annual winter festival. Then suddenly the alerts start pouring in: two weather related events are going to converge, causing the storm of the century.
As the town is first socked in by feet of snow and extreme cold, and then by the sudden thaw that causes massive flooding, Ash and Pia’s relationship is put to the test.The choices that they make will determine the fate of their marriage, and their lives.
I have quite few thoughts on We Are Unprepared.
Meg Little Reilly worked for the Obama administration, and in her author’s notes she tells readers “while I was proud of the unprecedented environmental steps taken by the Obama Administration, I was frustrated by the pace of progress and the tyranny of corporate interests.”
While I don’t doubt her thoughts and experiences, it makes it obvious that she had a bit of an agenda going into writing We Are Unprepared. It’s apparent in the gist of the story. The town of Isole seems to be a microcosm of D.C. in Reilly’s eyes.
All the politics aside, the story is good. I was hooked; caught in the story and unable to put it down without a struggle.
Ash was a likable character, although a little blind and naive to everything and everyone around him. He is earnest and wants to do the right thing, but seems to have been willfully blind to his wife’s craziness, instead seeing only her beauty and her passion. He’s caught up in the secret arm of Isole’s government because he wants to do the right thing. But overall he’s a good main character, and his honestly in his naivety makes him a pretty reliable narrator.
Pia is on the nutty end of the spectrum, from the moment she’s introduced. She’s a nice counterweight to the incredibly balanced Ash. And she provides a bit of an inside look into the preppers.
The story is the story of how the world, the whole world, would react to a cataclysmic event, especially one with warnings. There would be those in government trying to do right for everyone by keeping their agendas secret and not letting them decide, and there are those that only think about themselves and not those around them. And, of course, there is the balance, the ones who try to see both sides and make the world work for everyone. Isole is a smaller version of the world.
The story and the storm gripped me. BUT the ending, it was a little too perfect for Ash. As a reader, I always hope that that’s the way things will end, until they do. I wish Reilly would have just ended the book before telling readers everything, leaving a little mystery and letting my imagination wander.
But, all-in-all, this was a great read, very interesting. I give it 4 stars.