......finding a new home for lutefisk lovers.

(ok we don't love it. or even like it. but we're supposed to.)

11 July 2012


I was sitting in a movie theater last weekend when I realized that the blogpost that would end this story had already been written and posted.

I had unwittingly written the last page of Clam Chowder For Lunch and brought it to a close.......without really intending to.   If you read the last post,  you'll see it too.

It's not that I don't have anything more to say.   Like that would ever happen.  Laugh heartily, laugh heartily.   I have a stockpile of unposted pieces that could take me into next year, all about being a Midwesterner in New England.   I could analyze and conclude and summarize about the sociocultural differences between these two places until you feel like stabbing your computer screen with a ballpoint pen, screaming  "OH!  MY!  GAWD!   GET OVER YOURSELF YOU STOOPID THINKY WOMAN!"

With everything that I've learned in the last two years, I could keep writing about this city mouse/country mouse thing indefinitely.   I even have an unposted piece titled  "I'm Not Done Talking About New England Yet."   Because I'm not.   Not really.

But the blog now feels that it's time to move on to a new story.  Seriously.  As I sat in that movie theater,  I felt as if the blog itself had put the story to bed.  I was just the person with the pen writing it all down.   And at the funniest part of the movie,  I started to cry.
Because I'm really going to miss it.

Those of you who followed Clam Chowder For Lunch actually became a part of the story;   you were my online neighbors checking in on me and picking up my mail and taking in my trashcans and throwing me a virtual wave as you passed by my online house.   You cheered me on and backed me up and commiserated with me and encouraged me and I have to tell you, dear readers, that it really really really really really really helped.   You checking in on me and my little story really mattered to the story.   And to me.

And I thank you for that.

So we've officially finished our last bowl of Clam Chowder For Lunch...........and maybe a new story will emerge elsewhere.   If it does,  I'll happily email subscribers and those who sign up for email alerts (you can do that somewhere on your "machine" as my mother calls it, but you'll have to ask someone besides me to help you.   Do you have an IT guy or a child who could help you?).

In the meantime,  I need to figure out where to put this lamp.   And I need to throw away about 45% of the shit I just unpacked.   Lift out of box,  unwrap,  throw in garbage.   Like this fish food.   We don't even have a GD fish.

With that I'll tuck you in and say goodnight and say thank you over and over again.
Thanks, you guys.   For reals.
Now let's flip this record over........


03 July 2012

The Arrival

 I step out of the car and stretch and instinctively take in a deep breath.   I fill my lungs with air.   And, I swear, the air goes in easier.   I am breathing easier.   With fuller, more cleansing breaths.

And it proves to me that certain people are meant to live in certain places.   We all have our preferences and our needs and our wishlists but it's clear that our ease in one place over another could take place at a cellular level.

It's exhausting to live in a place where your puzzle pieces don't fit.   It's exhausting to push and maneuver and manipulate, trying to push a square peg into a round hole.   And when the piece slides into place,  an exact fit,  I let out a breath and relax.

And I start to live.

Liam in the backseat, as we cross the border into Minnesota.

26 June 2012

The Roadtrip.......or Why Do Dads Always Have to Go 100 More Miles?

We spend our last night in New Hampshire at a hotel in Portsmouth.
The same exact hotel we pulled up to on the first day we arrived in New Hampshire.  
We walk in and Liam says  "I recognize this smell!"

Our room is next door to the room we occupied for the first 3 weeks we lived in New Hampshire;  the woman at the front desk gives us directions and tells us where we can get ice and how to find the pool and I'm like  "We were just here.   Don't you remember us?"   It feels like a Twilight Zone episode in which your life is being played in reverse but the people in your life have no memory of you.   Like you never existed in the forward version.

Instead of wandering around Portsmouth and saying goodbye to our favorite things,  we leave dinner early because Mike's stomach doesn't feel good.   When we put Liam to bed, his head feels feverish and he complains of a headache.   Four hours later he hangs his head over the toilet and we make a bed for him on the bathroom floor.   He wants me to sleep with him on the bathroom floor but my body is aching from the mystery rash that covers my legs and elbows.   Doctor visits, food elimination diets and blood tests leave me with nothing except instructions to try not to scratch.

The next morning we have big plans to leave at 7am and knock out 12 hours to Cleveland but our ailments are signalling the gravity of our situation;   1) even a good move is a big move and  2) the last four months of buying a house, selling a house (technically 3 times, but that's a story for another time) and being a family divided by 1500 miles is finally catching up with us.   Instead of leaving at 7am, we manage to leave at 9:30am after a stop at the Rite Aide for cold medicine, alka seltzer, another anti-itch cream and a barf bag.

And thus, even before we begin the journey,  Mike is obsessing about our ETA,  our miles covered, the breakneck speed at which we can attack the interstate road system.   I've planned only one fun thing to do on the roadtrip:   a stop at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland (very cool, must get some Stevie Nicks boots).   And although he is a good sport and tries to be patient,  the look on his face says "If we started driving right now, we'd be in Chesterton, Indiana by 5pm."

Why do Dads do this?  I remember a day on our last roadtrip in which he was so anxious to leave, he was all "we gotta get packed and outta here by 4:30am, we're not lollygagging around this time, we've got some serious ground to cover, blah, blah, blah......"   And I was like  "Dude,  our destination is 11 miles away."   In both of our roadtrips,  we had no homes waiting for us - just some form of less-than-comfortable temporary housing while we waited to move in to our actual home - but we're still not allowed to stop and experience the attractions along the way because we won't cover enough ground and it'll cut into some arbitrary ETA.   So tell me......if we're not going to stop and see the sites and we're only concerned with the speed of travel, why didn't we just fly?   It's faster, more comfortable, and maybe even cheaper.   And we could eat food that doesn't come from a rest stop (can't take the time to drive too far off the interstate).

And why is this universal among fathers?   It's not a male thing because I don't remember this phenomenon on any of my co-ed roadtrips from the 80's and 90's.

And I want to say shut up already and pull over so we can see the world's biggest ball of string.

That being said,  we were all excited and very anxious to be in Minneapolis again.   I just didn't need to go so fast.

While we drive,  we search for license plates  -  a game made that much more exciting by recording our finds in our new iPhone app.   If you see a Hawaii, will you please call me?   I think it's ok if we share that one.   We talk about the things we're looking forward to, we listen to Sirius radio (definitely got bored with that), and we clap as we enter each new state;  not in a cheering celebratory way but as if we're applauding an accomplished performance.   Good work, Ohio, good work.

The landscape changes quickly and the trees and forests of the east give way to the open sky and rolling farmland of the Midwest.   The scenery of the east coast is beautiful, but living under the canopy of all those trees has given me a new appreciation for the Midwestern landscape.   The scenery speeding by us looks like painting after painting after painting of green carpet, red barn, white farmhouse, tall silo.   The sky seems so big and filled with fluffy clouds that don't exist in the smaller, New England sky.   The farms are painted into perfect squares of green and ecru, like a quilt carefully laid over the middle of the country, and I almost lose my head when I see what looks like AMBER WAVES OF GRAIN!   I'm like  "FAMILY LOOK!   THAT'S AMBER WAVES OF GRAIN!  I MUST'VE DRIVEN BY THIS SCENE A MILLION TIMES IN MY LIFETIME BUT I NEVER NOTICED THAT IT WAS AMBER WAVES OF GRAIN!  THEY WROTE A SONG ABOUT THIS, PEOPLE!" 

Every scene looks like something you'd see on the side of an organic milk carton.

And although I'm in no way a farm girl,  it makes me happy to be heading home.

19 June 2012

Goodbye New Hampshire

Today is loading and leaving day.   The whole thing goes so well, so smoothly, that as we drive away, I can’t help feeling like we forgot the dog.  

Just to be clear,  we don’t have a dog.   But, dammit, what did we forget?.    

There’s got to be something really obvious that’s sitting on the lawn right now as we drive away.   So I look in the backseat to make sure Liam is there.

If yesterday was my wedding, today feels like graduation day.   I watch everything I own drive away on a moving vehicle and, once it's gone, I am free to go.  I'm done.   I have worked hard and I have gone to class every day, even when the bullies got me down.   I studied and I did my homework and I made time for extracurricular activities like walking to the beach and visiting every lobster pound and tourist attraction within 100 miles.   And I tried to make friends.

In this moment, there is one distinct advantage to living among these people who don't easily open their doors and their hearts:    I can say goodbye to them so easily.  One neighbor drives by as we stand by our moving truck and she gives a limp wave.   She doesn't even bother to roll down the window.   A couple of other neighbors, though, do take the time to pull over momentarily;   and I revel in the fact that I can just smile and say goodbye and then we can part without having to grapple with the heavy burden of uncontrolled sobbing.   Whoa.......that’s a gift big enough to make me laugh out loud with joy after each parting.  Not because I’m happy to say goodbye but because I’m just so freakin’ relieved to not be strangled by grief.   So freakin' relieved!

When we finally get in the car and drive away, we are so happy that it's over and we made it.   We did it, seniors!  

............. but we are a little choked up.  
It's a relief.  
It's an accomplishment.
But it's still an ending. 

And Liam learns the definition of bittersweet when he swears he's happy but can't stop his chin from quivering while he sits in the backseat and watches the Atlantic Ocean speed by outside his window.

Our Last Cuppa Clam Chowdah

Last night was my last night in my new house.   It was packing day.   The beginning of the end of our time in New England.

When the day arrived and the packing began, it felt like my wedding day;  as if all the stress leading up to the event just dissipated and I coasted and let the day unfold naturally.   I let the wedding planners/movers do their magic and I just did what they told me to do and went where they told me to go and, because they’re very good wedding planners/movers, the day went smoothly, efficiently and beautifully.   Sunny and mid 60’s all day!   Not a cloud in the sky!   Every bride’s dream!

One of my jobs was to get my Jeep weighed.   We will drive Mike’s car to Minnesota but do you know where my Jeep will go?   On the moving truck!   Isn’t that trippy?   They load up our furniture and then they pack my car somewhere between the dining room table and the treadmill.   So I have to go to a truck stop and get my car weighed.   This is a trucker thing, I guess.   So I drive my Jeep to the truck stop and weave my way between all the eighteen wheelers, not a normal sized car in sight, and my Jeep feels like a tiny matchbox car or a happy meal toy.  I keep looking up through my windshield like I’m searching for sunlight, like I’m lost in the giant blades of grass and I’m being chased by a giant baby who wants to play cars.   When I get on the giant scale (both a very big scale and a scale for a giant), I’m supposed to open my window and press the big yellow button which signals the fuel desk inside to activate the scale;   but the button is not just out of reach – it’s at eighteen wheeler height, about 6 feet above the roof of my happy meal car.   I roll my window all the way down and stretch my whole upper body out of the car and stretch my arm as high as it will go.   R-e-a-c-h!   S-t-r-e-t-c-h!   Which is so dumb because you can’t make up 6 feet by stretching.   I’m stretching and I’m reaching and now the yellow button is 5 feet out of reach.   Do you ever get a snapshot in your mind while you’re doing something dumb that brings into focus how dumb you look while you’re doing the dumb thing?   While my upper body hung out my car window and I s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d and r-e-a-c-h-e-d for a button that was 5 feet away,  I saw that picture and said to myself “Stop stretching and get in the car.  Big truckers are watching and laughing at the Lilliputian matchbox car driver who thinks she can make her arm stretch 5 feet.”   Then I went inside and got a broom.

The rest of the day was like a farewell tour of familiar faces from the last 2 years of errands and activities in New Hampshire:

I said goodbye to Georgia and Lorraine, the cashiers at Marshall’s who always have something nice to say while they ring up my purchases.   Like  “Oh now that’s a good price, isn’t it?   That’s what you wanna pay for kids stuff, am I right?”   Or  “Oh my, look at this.   Are you goin’ to a luau or something?”  The Marshall’s ladies may be the kindest people in all of New England.

I said goodbye to the lady at the post office who wouldn’t give me a piece of tape when my envelope popped open, jerking her chin at the wall of merchandise and saying,  “You want tape, you gotta buy tape.”  Not one of the kindest people in New England.

We said goodbye to the guys at the surf shop who are always so excited to see us and treat my kid like the surf king of New Hampshire and me like the super cool mom who birthed the surf king of New Hampshire.    I feel so hipster cool because the guys at the surf shop know me.   I start saying that everything is “sick.”   Not sick like when I was a kid and sick was a bad thing, like  “the turkey a la king is sick.”   But surfer dude sick like “that wave was SICK, man!”   Or, for me, it’s more like  “Little Debbies are SICK, man!  The Swiss Cake Rolls?  Totally SICK!”   Along with the Marshall’s ladies,  these are the nicest people in all of New England.

I said goodbye to the sub sandwich maker lady who takes my sandwich order  like this: 
 “Can I get  a roast bee…….”  
“ Whole wheat, plea…”   
“um….whatever you think is best.”

And we said goodbye to Reggie, our regular server at both the barbecue place AND at  Petey’s Summertime Seafood Bar & Grill, where Liam learned to like clam chowder.   Reggie swells with pride when he learns that we have chosen Petey’s for our farewell dinner.

If only I could gather the singing painter, the sassy gay exterminator and my realtor, it would be like a real going away party.

The Highlight Reel: A Seacoast Christmas

**MOVING DAY IS DRAWING NEAR!   I'll be re-posting some of the highlights of our New England experience until the world stops spinning and I get rid of this stress-induced rash!   See you in Minnesota!! 

For Mike (age 42) and Liam (age 8), this would be the first Christmas ever celebrated outside the snowy, familial cocoon of Minnesota. For me, it would be the first outside Minnesota since 1977. For all of us, it would be the first celebrated without our families of origin.

This Christmas would have to be special.
It would have to be carefully crafted.
It would have to be different.

Welcome to our seacoast Christmas........

Falling in the surf while gathering sea water for our Christmas lobster boil.
Mike to me 60 seconds earlier: "Do you want me to save you when you fall in? Or should I just get a good picture?"

Got it! HA! Our lobsters will be boiled in sea water (and sand and rocks).

Cookbook says: "Kill the lobster. Preferably with a butcher knife to the head. Plunge the knife into the head, then pull the knife down, splitting the front of the head in two. Or plunge the lobster into a pot of boiling water for one minute."

It's your choice. Whatever you want to do. Really. Whatever. And his name is Pinchy.

Full Menu:
Oysters on the Half Shell
New Potatoes with Chanterelles and Dill
Onion Pie with Jarlsberg and Thyme
Buttermilk Biscuits

(thanks to Kitchen of Light: New Scandinavian Cooking by Andreas Viestad)

Merry Christmas from the coast of New Hampshire!

18 June 2012

The Not So Much of a Highlight Reel: Mini Golf Can Be a Dangerous Sport

**MOVING DAY IS DRAWING NEAR!   I'll be re-posting some of the highlights of our New England experience until the world stops spinning and I get rid of this stress-induced rash!   See you in Minnesota!!

On Thursday, I suffered a sprained ankle and foot fracture.............I fell off a tiny bridge while playing putt putt golf. It was a pirate-themed establishment called Captain's Cove. I was trip-trapping, trip-trapping over the bridge when I heard a SNAP (oh - did that come from me?). And in the fraction of a second before I hit the ground, I saw all the children and grandparents looking at me, and said to myself "KEEP IT CLEAN!!!!!!!!!!"

Liam ran and got ice. Then I nursed my injury while he continued his round of putt putt golf with another family. No - I did not know them. And no - I did not even ask their names. I just said ok. This is actually a recurring theme; when we go to family-oriented events, Liam tends to shamelessly insert himself into other families and hang with them.........instead of us. Like Mike and I don't even exist. We sit off to the side, discarded, and wonder if it's normal. So he leaves me on the ground and happily takes off with his new family whose names I don't know. In the meantime, I notice that a line is forming behind me; people think I'm sitting on the ground contemplating how to get my ball past the waterfall. So, as I ice my foot, I also direct traffic and assure people that no mini-golf etiquette will be breached if they pass me.

After a good 20 minutes (Liam could be in the minivan with his new family by this time), I hoist myself up and use my tiny golf club as a cane so I can hobble/hop into the pirate clubhouse. The two teenage workers offer to refund my money, which is really nice, but I need more help than that. Did I mention that Mike is out of town? And we've lived here for 13 days? So I haven't met any emergency contacts yet? I don't think it's wise to drive and I don't know how serious the injury is and the mini-golf teenagers won't let me take my golf club cane home (just to get me home! I promise I'll bring it back! But they say no.) so it seems best, if not a little over-the-top, to call an ambulance. At least they can assess the injury and tell me what to do. Maybe they could even give me a very expensive ride home. Or to the hospital. So we call and we wait for the embarrassment to ensue.

Liam appears at the 18th hole (thank god) and starts throwing a completely age-inappropriate fit when he learns that I won't be joining him for another 18 holes (I guess that other family didn't pan out). My leg is propped on a picnic bench, covered in ice, and he's screaming at me like "get off your ass woman and play putt putt with me!" Children and grandparents watching - stunned and embarrassed. Me - mortified and completely speechless. And then (dramatic pause) the ambulance arrives. Can you say SWEET timing? And he suddenly understands the connection between me falling, running for ice, leg on picnic table and the ambulance. As if that had not occurred to him before. Why why why must children be so narcissistic?????

The EMT's are somewhat useless if not mildly entertaining. They're like two teenage boys who drive an ambulance because it's fun. They say yes it's sprained (yep, I got that. Should I do anything or just write about it in my diary?). They give me no information unless I ask them a direct question. And they give 2 or 3 answers for every one question. As in "well, you could go to the hospital and get x-rays or you could just go home and see how it feels. Or you could go to the hospital later and get it wrapped or something." They seem hesitant to drive me anyplace - which seems strange because I thought that was why we have ambulances. So I ask if they can wrap it for me and then I'll skip the hospital. And here's where my faith in our local emergency system is completely crushed: THEY DON'T HAVE AN ACE BANDAGE! Is it really possible that they don't have a first aid kit in their ambulance??!! Now, I'm definitely going to the hospital where my chances of getting some real guidance will increase. Liam is pushing for an ambulance ride (for my welfare, of course) but the EMT's encourage me to drive myself.........using my left foot. They even give me a lesson. And I agree because I'm not convinced the ambulance ride would be any safer. Like maybe we'll have to stop for a dimebag on the way or something.

And..............tune in tomorrow for the next installment of "Mini Golf Can Be a Dangerous Sport."