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

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

29 March 2011

The Photo Acclimation Project........Barn Edition

If you're not running late and speeding and scanning the horizon for cops who are just itching to pull you over because there's been no crime to speak of all week - not a single GD crime........... it can be quite a nice drive to school.

"What are you lookin' at?
Get back to work."

25 March 2011

My Birthday Present

Let me tell you about my birthday present. I sat outside in the unfamiliar sunshine waiting for Liam's bus. For once, I didn't wish to go inside.......I just sat. I could practically hear the crackling of the earth as it began its yearly thaw. For the first time in months, I felt warm. And I thought, "This is my birthday present." And I said a little thank you.

Then the bus arrived and Liam jumped off the top step and ran up the driveway, his backpack thump thump thumping on his back as he galloped from foot to foot. He's smiling - unlike yesterday, or many of the other challenging days he's encountered in this new home that is not yet his home. And as he's running and thumping and smiling, he shouts from far away "Hi MOM!" like he can't wait the length of the driveway to greet me. That image - it's like something out of a made-for-tv-movie about the joys of parenting. And I think "This is my birthday present." And I say a little thank you.

When he reaches me, he says "Isn't this a BEAUTIFUL day?" Like he's trying out a new vocabulary word. And, frankly, a new sensation. "I think it's a birthday present for you," he says.

Now THAT is my birthday present! And I say a little thank you in my head.

"Do you think so?" I ask, all happy and birthday-ish.

"Sure. You're pretty popular ya know."

"I am?"

"Yeah. Your mom's in cookbooks."

Rats. I should've milked that in high school.

He makes no mention of going inside. Of watching TV. Of playing video games. There will be no battles today. He will stay outside and make me feel like a good parent.

He grabs his scooter and we chit chat in the sun. Eventually, a neighbor rolls by with matching scooter and helmet. The boys greet each other like eager first dates and the neighbor invites Liam to scooter with him. I step out of the way so they can roll on down the highway, I mean driveway, and I just stand there. I can't go in the house just yet. I stand there and watch their matching silhouettes get smaller and smaller, two friends disappearing around the corner.

And THAT, I think to myself, is more than a birthday present. That is all I want. Ever.

My job since arriving here has been assembling a life for me and my family. And my number one responsibility amongst all the plumbers, painters and cable guys has been managing - no, BUILDING - a social life for Liam.

For a child, that IS life. Playing with friends is a kid's primary source of joy, it's the vehicle thru which a child learns pretty much everything except calculus. And if I knew what calculus was I would probably find out that climbing trees involves calculus. Add ding dongs and Disneyland and you have nirvana. In fact, I could write a whole column on the things I learned from playing with my friends. I'm talking to you, Anne Chase!

And it has not been easy. It has been 8 months of trial and error. 8 months of reaching out, barking up the wrong tree, readjusting, thinking you're home free, and then finding yourself starting over anyway.

Given our somewhat remote surroundings and the age in which we live, kids no longer make friends in backyards after school. I have to seek people out and make arrangements. Try them on for size and see if it sticks. Lather, rinse, repeat. And even when you find a couple that stick, you can feel like you're moving backwards when you realize that perception is all that matters; Liam's perception trumps reality. In the midst of having some great, consistent buddies, he can still feel sad and alone. He can still feel like he has no friends.........

..........because he has 15 kids in his class instead of 30. And he hasn't known any of them for more than a handful of months. He can't relax into the comfort of a bevy of lifelong friends.

So you'll forgive me if I cry when a kid knocks on the door and asks if Liam wants to scooter.

23 March 2011

A Donkey Post from My Dad

After my last post about Marky Mark and his donkey, I got an email from my dad, Gordy. Gordy from Gardner, Mass. Gordy was educated in the Massachusetts school system and was able to give me more information about the bronze donkey statue that sits next to the Benjamin Franklin statue:

"..........the mule statue in Boston is of a mule named Sal. There was a song about her pulling barges on the Erie Canal. Now everyone should know that the Erie Canal was in Massachusetts and went from Cambridge (where George Washington was born) to Worcester (the boyhood home of Abraham Lincoln -- who married a Kennedy, I think, and that's how he got to be president)."

Consider this your introduction to the Massachusetts geography curriculum........

21 March 2011

Boston Birthday Outing Chaptette 2: Ben Franklin and a Donkey

I've been told that Boston is the birthplace of general civilization as we know it (this is only kind of a joke). Ask my dad, a Massachusetts native, and he will tell you that Christopher Columbus landed at Plymouth Rock.........where he wrote the Declaration of Independence and then freed the slaves.

As a result of all this history, Boston has a lot of commemorating to do, mostly in the form of statues. There are statues everywhere. Like every 3rd crack in the sidewalk. All men, of course. History LUVS its men. I saw George Washington, Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin and a bunch of guys I don't know.

And this donkey.

What's with the donkey? There's Ben Franklin and then there's this donkey. There's no plaque, no explanation. Just a donkey cast in bronze standing by Ben Franklin. Maybe it was Ben Franklin's donkey?

Or maybe it's the donkey from the SNL sketch featuring a very Boston-centric Marky Mark (no funky bunch) and a donkey.

I go up to the donkey....... and I say, real quietly, just like Marky Mark, "Hey, donkey. How's it goin'? Say hello to your mothuh for me."

Watch it here.

17 March 2011

A Birthday Outing in Boston (and by "outing" I mean "excursion")

In a city this old, you have lots and lots of people who have died.
And the guidebook says you have to see them all.

If I'm going to make it in this bucolic paradise, I'm going to have to get an urban fix on a regular basis. That means I have to get to know Boston.

So far, I know that if I get off the train and turn left I can get pizza (as referenced in my posts about the North End). Other than that, I can't seem to get a handle on this place; the geography of it wiggles around in my head. Navigating here is not as straightforward as it is in the midwest with your grid patterns and your numbered streets and your alphabetized avenues that all intersect so nicely. Instead, I'm dealing with streets that amble and frolic any which way they want; streets that may or may not intersect with other streets that at one point run parallel and at another point run perpendicular. AND these schizophrenic streets change their names every block or two and you never know which street name the map has chosen to use. GPS means nothing to these streets. It tells you to turn left in .2 miles on Court Street but you don't because it says State Street - so then the GPS gets mad and has to recalculate and you just keep not turning and getting further and further from where you are supposed to be - all with the aid of a GPS system.

I have a lightbulb (as Liam says)! THIS is why New Englanders use landmarks when giving directions!! Like the oft-repeated line "All you do is, go down there a ways and turn left about a mile before where the old barn used to be."

So I decide I just need to put a bunch of maps in my pocket and get out and walk. Make mistakes. Figure it out by feel.

Boston: Blog Chapter (or "chaptette") 1

My first stop will be a visit to the Old Corner Bookstore - best known for it's assumed appearance in the book Make Way for Ducklings. We all assume that this is the same bookstore passed by Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Oack, Pack and Quack as they head to Boston's Public Garden. The Old Corner Bookstore has been around since 1820 and it's building has been the home of an apothecary, a jewelry store and, of course, a variety of bookstores. Today, I will see what adventures it holds for me.

But, big surprise, I can't find it. I get lost, use 3 different maps to get back on track, then arrive at the exact location indicated on the map........but it's not here. Dammit to hell, Boston, don't (bleep!) with me!

Then, finally, I spy this tiny plaque:
Hurray! I DID find it! All by myself! Then I look in the window and see this:

And then I turn around and look across the street and see this:

Do I even need to say anything here? Is my rant implied? Should I fill you all in on the marketing strategies of the "The Big B's" (as they're known in the book industry) or can I assume that you know that we can blame the apocalypse on them?

Suck it, Borders. Oh, what's that? You ARE currently sucking it? Chapter 11 you say?
Well, karma's a bitch, isn't it?

Tune in next time for "Chaptette" 2: Ben Franklin and a donkey!

14 March 2011

The Photo Acclimation Project............part deux

Last week, I introduced my new attempt to nurture appreciation for my new New England home called "The Photo Acclimation Project."

Here are some photos from last week's drives to school, the grocery store, pick-ups and drop-offs, etc. Lots of churches and houses with peeling paint and crumbling rock walls. But, ironically, that is what makes them charming. Am I right? Week one proved a success; my eye was constantly tuned to the environment around me instead of racing to the next item on my to-do list. And this is what I saw:

I have to point out the blue sliver of sea to the left of the church.
Note to self: Would you be more likely to go to church if you could look out the window and see the ocean? Definitely maybe.......especially if Justin Bieber was in the choir and he handed out Little Debbies after the service.

I thought this house was abandoned. But then I found it wasn't. And then I ran away.

11 March 2011

Again with the front door?

Here's something else I learned:

If you leave your garage door open, people will take that as a secret message to come inside your garage and knock on the interior door. Seriously! I've even had pizza delivered to my garage door! The first time this happened, I went back and forth between the front door and the side door 3 times before I finally stood there silently so I could follow the sonic cues. I was like "WHERE IS MY DAMN PIZZA?!" When I finally found the guy in my garage, I didn't even know what to say. You're not my dog, dude. I also think of my garage as kind of a personal space; I've got stuff in there. It's like delivering pizza through my bathroom.

My neighbor in Minneapolis, who grew up in Massachusetts, told me about her one attempt to get people to use the front door. She was hosting a milestone birthday party for her mother and felt it was a special enough event to welcome people at the formal entrance to the house. The special occasion entrance, if you will. So she decorated the front door with happy birthday signs and flanked it with balloon bouquets. And then, knowing the propensity of New Englanders to gravitate toward less party-ish entrances, she put signs on the other doors - even the garage door! - saying "PLEASE USE FRONT ENTRANCE!"

And while she waited by her pretty front door flanked with balloon bouquets and happy birthday signs, she heard the familiar tap, tap, tapping........and found crowds of people huddled in her mother's garage knocking on the door labeled "PLEASE USE FRONT ENTRANCE!"

So this might be an uphill battle. But I WILL continue to find ways to encourage people, little by little, to come to my lovely and much more hospitable front door..........and this birdie doorpecker is the first step.
Then maybe I'll get a snowblower so Pa won't have to drive the team so hard.
And then I'll knock down the garage.

But I think it'll be worth it.

09 March 2011

Who's that knockin' at my door?

Will someone please tell me why people in New England don't use their front doors? Like ever? Ever EVER? Front doors around here are like trompe l'oeil paintings. I bought this pretty birdie doorknocker for my front door to A) add yet a little more personality to my uptight house and B) to show people that we do, indeed, acknowledge our front door and validate her right to exist. For actual entering and exiting purposes. I expect that the colonial reproduction nazis are disgusted with me right now but I love love love my little birdie.

But, so far, my pretty birdie has been very lonely. I don't think this woodpecker (I'm assuming it's a woodpecker. which would make it a doorpecker) has pecked any wood since the day we met. It doesn't help that until this weekend our front door was blocked by 4 feet of snow. Every time I visualize people coming to our front door, I picture Pa Ingalls leading a team of horses in a blizzard.

My front hall is open and dramatic with a beautiful staircase. My back hall is narrow and cramped and does not have room for 2 people standing abreast. This means there is no physical space to actually invite people inside without doing an awkward getting-out-of-the-way dance and then giving my guest directions from afar. As in, "Hi! Come on in! I'm going to go over here - just a little - ha ha awkward laugh - if you want go that way toward the kitchen. Little bit more. Great. Thanks! Then I'll meet you over there and grab your coat and bring it back here to hang up in the closet!" It's not exactly welcoming.

Oh I get it now.

Maybe this is by design?

It took some trial and error, but I eventually figured out that New England front doors are for show only. You enter through side doors, back doors and even (god, I can't even say it) garage doors. I figured this out our first week in this new house when I was haunted by this phantom knock, knock, knocking. At first, I'd get all geeked out because it meant someone wanted to meet me (or maybe it was a guy from the water company threatening to shut off our water - that was disappointing).....so I'd run to the front door to welcome my new friend. Only to find no one there. That's just mean. So then I'd run to each and every door (hollering "I'm coming!" the whole time) scrambling to catch the new friend behind door number 3 before they gave up on me and left.

When we arrived this summer, Liam and I hit the pavement with the intention of knocking on doors and introducing ourselves. So we'd go to the front door where there would be no doorbell (never a doorbell. Paul Revere didn't need a doorbell so none of us should have doorbells) and often times there was no door knocker either. Or doorpecker. You might as well put a sign on the door that says "GO AWAY!" We'd just keep trying doors until some startled and uncomfortable person came to the door.

I admit now that I might have been a little too Midwestern in my tactics. But I thought nice was good. Nice is good, right? How can you go wrong with nice?

Tune in Friday for more about my front door drama. Yes, I'm serious, more about front doors!

07 March 2011

I Want to Be Friends.....

.........with the people who live in this house. Cheeky monkeys!

I usually veer away from people who display holiday flags, or wear holiday sweatshirts (teachers and grandmas excluded - it's part of the uniform), or those who decorate for minor holidays like Groundhog Day or President's Day or even Valentine's Day.........unless it's one tiny, well-spoken heart displayed in your window. It seems like we may not be on the same aesthetic page. I say less is more. Or maybe I say "Say more with less!" And my assumptions about people who "flag" for any and all holidays is that we may not have a lot to say to each other beyond how excited we are for the upcoming holiday.

But these people took me by surprise. Historically, they have changed their holiday flag right on schedule with every page-turn of the holiday calendar. And right on the heels of the Valentine's Day flag and another unexpected snowfall ........surprise!........SUMMER flag!!

Replace the "z" with a "k" ...........and what WAS Cheezy now becomes Cheeky!

My assumptions about them may be wrong; we may not have the same aesthetic but we definitely have the same sense of humor. And for all I know, they're inside discussing the global economy right now.

04 March 2011

The Photo Acclimation Project

I've been told many times to "be where you are" and "bloom where you're planted" and "don't live in limbo," etc., etc. All of them directives to excavate the goodness in my surroundings and live in the present moment.........instead of living each day, wishing to be somewhere else, thereby missing the opportunity to reap the benefits of where I live NOW.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I was driving down a winding road flanked by tall trees. And I passed an ancient red barn with strong, clean lines and wrought iron hardware. "Now THAT," I thought to myself, "is classic New England." Then I drove by a small pasture that held two giant workhorses. And I thought, "I have horses in my neighborhood. That is so weird." And then I passed a small waterfall tumbling over rocks and I thought, "I don't hate that. I should drive down this road more often."

Lightbulb moment!

Here's my idea: what if I took pictures of the quintessential New England that I see every day? The things that people love so much that they FLY here just to DRIVE AROUND and look out their windshield (and maybe stay at a B&B with twee wallpaper - wait, getting off track. sorry). Perhaps if I saw these things in photos, I could see more clearly what people are responding to........and then I might be more able to appreciate these things.

My camera will be my new set of eyes.

I will call it...........
"The Photo Acclimation Project."

(but I'd still trade a red barn for some good Viet Namese food. In a heartbeat!)

Here are some photos I've taken so far. I'll keep posting them as my camera sees them. Tell me what you think.......would you want to live here?

01 March 2011

K is for Kristin

Not ME Kristin. My friend Kristin. When you grow up in Minnesota, you know lots of people named Kristin. You collect Kristins like Charlie's Angels cards. Or quarters (a habit I can't break despite the fact that I've had my own washer and dryer since 1998. When I get change, I'm like "Sweet! A quarter!" ). Moving to Minnie at age 7, I entered a 2nd grade with 3 Kristins, 1 Kirsten and 1 Kerstin. And that does not include my 1st grade neighbor Kristi who was really a Kristin.

And this is one of the best Kristins I've ever had.

At one point in our history, we shared both a first AND last name. Which at first felt a little freaky and single-white-female-ish.............but then it became truly bonding. Maybe because I could use her Dayton's credit card and get her employee discount at the annual Daisy Sale.

This Kristin, a favorite Kristin, recently turned an incredible shade of 40. And in her honor, I composed the following poem and performed it in the style of a dramatic reading - a very dramatic reading - at a gathering of like-minded Kristin fans.

It is called..................

A Poem About Kristin

K is for caring. No it's not. That's a c. But Kristin IS caring. So I'm leaving it.

R is for "R you kidding me? Those R the cutest kids I have ever seen."

I is for Introvert...she... isn't.

S is for Superwoman. Full-on stay at home parent. Full-on working parent. And she bakes.
Beware the Superwoman. For she might make me look bad.

T is for Tony. Her knight in meticulously polished armor. He can bring home the bacon - and clean up the kitchen - after she fries it up in the pan.

P is for "Please change your email address. So people will stop thinking your emails are from me." Just kidding. There's no P.

E is for.........just kidding. There's no E. This is a joke for people named Kristin.

I is for "I am cracking up, girl.........every time we are together."

Hey......is this poem about me? No wait. My husband's name is Mike. And I don't bake.

N is for NO WAY would I ever want to be without you. And NEVER is when I will get sick of you. And NEAT is a word my dad uses to describe things that are cool. And that is what you are.

And H is for.........(it's a silent H)........H is for Happy 40th birthday, Kristin.

Love, your friend Kristin.