Our regular readers know that the House Chronicle is the place to go for all the insider information on what happens at St. Anthony’s. In the Spirit of Christmas, this week we share with our readers the gift of one of our deep, dark secrets: JustBob keeps three hot ladies in the basement.

Our story begins just minutes after last week’s Chronicle was posted. Wednesday had been an unseasonably warm day, one that set a record for the warmest day in December in many Wisconsin communities, and the forecast called for severe storms to roll through the area that evening. So it was not a surprise when the rain, wind and lightening made their presence felt even through these sturdy brick walls.

The storm did not last very long, but long enough to cause our power to go out just after 10 pm. The next morning, the culprit turned out to be a tree from our woods that fell on Fourth Street, taking down one of the power lines in the process. Total darkness at night is not a hardship; we had flashlights to navigate the halls for any necessary trips. However, the lights are not the only thing that we lost: no electricity meant no computers to regulate the boilers, no pumps to move the water through the radiators, no hot water heaters, and no pump for the lift station that pumps our sewerage into the Village’s sewer system.

Now, while Wednesday was very warm, Thursday’s high temperature was at 12:01 am. The temperature dropped steadily through the wee hours of the morning and kept dropping throughout the day Thursday, heading toward a forecast low in the teens. It would be challenging enough if only the staff and residents were impacted by the power outage, but we were expecting retreatants to arrive on Friday for a weekend retreat. Fifteen hours into this powerless adventure, the building was noticeably cooler, so we made the decision to postpone the retreat until January. Adele contacted the retreatants, residents made plans for alternate housing and JustBob planned to hunker down in the Residents’ Community Room with the fireplace for heat so he could keep an eye on the house.

Power was finally restored around 9 pm Thursday, almost 24 hours after it went out. JustBob immediately went to the basement to check on his three ladies, Betty Jo, Bobbie Jo and Billie Jo. They were quite cold, as was to be expected. JustBob did his best, but he could not appease all three ladies and bring back their fiery spirit. For whatever reason, all three seemed to take turns spurning JustBob’s efforts and turned a cold shoulder to him, and us. Their temperamental behavior continued through the weekend and into this week. JustBob finally called for some assistance from Johnson Controls, and they devoted all day Tuesday to giving Betty Jo, Billie Jo and Bobbie Jo focused attention and TLC (in the form of new ignitors and flame monitors for each), hoping to cajole them into returning to their normally hot selves. Only time will tell if the efforts succeeded in modifying the ladies’ temperamental behavior.

We are grateful the damage from the storm at St. Anthony’s was limited to some downed trees and other minor mischief caused by Brother Wind. Certainly others in the Upper Midwest were not as fortunate, nor were many in Mid-America the week before.  Adventures like this often make me think about the early days of St. Anthony’s and what life was like for the friars who survived without many of our modern conveniences. These periodic interruptions in the normal routine also remind us how spoiled we are with all the modern conveniences and how powerless (pun intended) we are against forces outside of ourselves like Mother Nature and the whims of the three ladies in our basement. These adventures should also remind us to be grateful for all the modern conveniences like lights and heat EVERY day, not just the days when they are taken from us.

For all the blessings of modern life like lights, heat, hot water, working sewer systems, computers and the internet available at our fingertips; for those three hot ladies in the basement and their man that works to keep them all hot and happy; and for the occasional reminders of our powerlessness and to be grateful each and every day for all our blessings, we say Deo Gratias!

And a blessed Christmas to one and all!