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

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

26 April 2012

Souvenir Shopping

Although I'm not a huge shopper,  I do love a good gift shop.   And I have very little interest in museums  -  but museum gift shops rock.   I'll always remember the coil bracelet from MOMA and the acid green clutch from SFMOMA and the Monkees video collection from The Museum of TV and Radio;   just a few of the great museums I never went inside.

And now it appears that Liam has inherited the gift shop gene.   Again,  he is not a shopper......he still cries at the mention of a mall stop.   But gift shops are like tiny, allowance-friendly amusement parks of stuff.   Driving up and down the eastern seaboard,  he calls out every time we pass a general store  (a quaint, New England term for "souvenir shop") because he knows there will be key chains with the state motto and $3 pocket knives and postcards of lobsters who fart or say bad words.   Things I might just buy because they're funny.   You know that mom, that good and practical mom, who won't buy anything cheap or stupid because it's a waste of money  (and it's probably dirty from all the truckers who looked at it first)?  I'm not that mom.   I swear,  I'd buy him a shot glass if it made me laugh.

So he's well-acquainted with gift shops/general stores/souvenir shops.   And this was made glaringly evident during the following incident:   Not long ago, we found a little walking trail near our house.   And instead of looking forward to a lovely day as a family, Liam cried and whined about having to spend quality time outdoors on a beautiful day.  He begged to go home.  He offered to stay in the car.   And when we eventually parked at the start of the trail he said,   "Why don't I just meet you in the gift shop?"  

Omigod, what have I done?   Dude, it's a TRAIL,  not a national park.

But his love of souvenirs also works in my favor.   Last weekend,  Mike couldn't come home for the weekend so I decided it was a good opportunity to do something he would hate.   "Liam,"  I say.   "What would you rather do   -   visit Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower or visit Minuteman National Park and see Revolutionary War re-enactments?"

He looks pensive, skeptical.   Neither of these things sound fun to him.   Too educational.   Too PBS-y.   But then he says,  "Which one has the better gift shop?"

Score!  I'm in!   You KNOW there's a whole factory in China devoted to making pilgrim crap!

So off we go to see the Mayflower and Plimoth (old timey spelling) Plantation.

When we arrive in Plymouth (regular, modern day spelling),  we can see the masts of the ship from the car window.   The masts of the ship that carried the pilgrims!   It's the freakin' Mayflower,  people!   Re-built in 1957,  but still!  We won't focus on that!   We quickly park,  feed the meter and, I'm not kidding,  we start running.   We are running like the Griswolds running toward the gates of Wally World.   Vangelis is playing in my head and I do a little slo mo skip-hop.

We spend a grand total of 20 minutes on the ship because that's how we roll.   The most interesting factoid about the Mayflower crossing is that the Pilgrims didn't dump their chamber pots overboard;   instead,  they dumped them into a barrel below deck (you know, where they eat and sleep and play and live)  and then they dumped the barrel overboard when it got full.   That just seems like rubbing salt in the wound, doesn't it?  It's bad enough that you have to live all smashed together with everyone's BO and barf smells but you also have to sit and spin yarn next to a barrel full of other people's pee and poo?   I saw windows down there  -  like they couldn't just dump their pots out the window?  Can I speak to the manager, please?

But I digress.  On to the souvenirs......

The official Mayflower gift shop is a little disappointing.   Not kitschy enough.   Too many quills and ships in bottles -  not enough pilgrim t-shirts.   So we go across the street to the shop with a big sign announcing  "PLYMOUTH SOUVENIRS!   T-SHIRTS!   FUDGE!"    Jackpot.   And here is just a sampling of our finds: 

Souvenir #1:   Thanksgiving Turkey Hat.   Perfect for more formal holiday feasts.

Souvenir #2:   Tiny View Master Camera.   Look through the viewfinder and click through 40 year-old images of  "Signing of Mayflower Compact (re-enactment),"   "Pilgrim's Landing on Plymouth Rock,"   "John & Priscilla,"  "Pilgrim Houses,"  "Plymouth Rock,"  "Mayflower at Dock,"  "Mayflower at Sea,"  "Massasoit Statue,"  and  "Plymouth National Wax Museum."  

Souvenir #3:  Bikini Doorstoppers.   For Thanksgiving at the beach.

And the piece of resistance (drumroll please)..............

Souvenir #4:   Starring in our own Old-Time Pilgrim Photos.

When I saw the sign outside the kiosk,  I immediately thought  "There is NO WAY I am NOT doing THAT!!!!!"   Although we miss him,  one of the great things about traveling without Mike is that we can do impractical, stupid, embarrassing, quasi-classless things without him going  "Noooo.......Kristin.   What are you doing?  Sigh.  Rub browbone.  Fold arms over chest and look away."

The photographer takes her job very seriously as she is an actual descendant of a pilgrim (yes, I'm sure you are).   So I try not to laugh the whole time.   Just at appropriate times.   But when she goes to the closet and picks up the styrofoam Plymouth Rock and places it at our feet (see photo above!  do not miss rock at our feet!)  I let out a series of guffaws that would make that uncle in Mary Poppins proud.  I even had to slap my knee several times because I couldn't express all the laughter through mere laughing.  It was so damn funny I thought I just might die of laughter.

She makes me take off my sunglasses for ultimate authenticity.  But, in retrospect,  I wish I would have kept the sunglasses on and asked for a cigarette.  I'd put my foot up on styrofoam Plymouth Rock and be like,  "Holy shit, that voyage effing sucked."

Don't be surprised when you see this on your Christmas card next year!  Note Bible and gun! 

Happy souvenir shopping!

23 April 2012

The Photo Acclimation Project: Cape Neddick Lobster Pound

Here's an iconic photo that you'll come upon every time you google  the term  "lobster pound."   The difference with this picture is that I took it!   Seriously!   I didn't even recognize the scene until I looked at my pic in my iPhone photo stream   -   while standing right next to the real life image.   Like  "That's where I am?   Who knew?"

Having just a couple of months left of living on the east coast makes me hungry for lobster.   And we take any opportunity we can to seek out off-the-grid lobster pounds and clam shacks.   On this occasion, it was Easter.   He is risen!   Fried clams, please!  With extra tartar!

17 April 2012

A Little Real Estate Help

After 2 months on the market,  countless showings,  one offer,  one round of negotiations,  one grueling inspection resembling the real estate version of  the end times,  another round of negotiations with fearful end times buyer,  a final agreement with sedated end times buyer,  then a LOST agreement after end times buyer loses job,  then another round of rapid-fire showings,  and one big ass stress-induced canker sore,   I'm feeling the need for a little extra help.

So I google  "Meditation on selling a home,"  thinking there has to be something out there intended to help sellers simultaneously chill out and create some kind of home-selling juju.   Just like we used the giant sage doobie to de-stinkify our new house and attract happy energy, I was sure the Native Americans must have a similar ritual for selling teepees.

Well.....they don't.   But guess who does?   The Catholics!

My google search turned up page after page of hits for "Selling Your Home Using a St. Joseph Statue."

Note:   I have an innately low propensity for religiosity.   I am very  anti-ancient-white-guys-making-up-seemingly-arbitrary-rules-for-their-own-gain.   I think the Pope is just a guy in a fancy hat.   In my 5th grade communion class,  I remember looking each kid in the face and thinking  "Are you falling for this?"   So you wouldn't think that I would follow a link for St. anything.   But who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth?  A mouth completely free of canker sores? 

Plus, despite my innately low propensity for religiosity,  St. Joseph has always been my man because my birthday just happens to fall on March 19th.   Also known as St. Joseph's Day!   It's true.   I'm sure you've never noticed this,  but if you go to your calendar right now and flip to March 19, it will most likely say  "St. Joseph's Day."   You've just never noticed because it's not your birthday so you don't spend countless hours looking for March 19th on calendars.   Like I do.

So I take this as a sign and I stuff my innately low propensity for religiosity in a sack and I clicka onda link (as my foreign-born grad school TA used to say).   And here's what I found out:

St. Joseph is the patron saint of home selling because he was a CARPENTER  and he built many HOMES one of which contained our lord and savior JESUS CHRIST.   He was a stand up guy who married his girlfriend even when she was knocked up and he wasn't the babydaddy.   He created a happy HOME with them.   God gave Joseph mad props for this because he had to have a great deal of FAITH in order to not scream "THIS IS WHACKED!  I'M OUTIE!"  

And he can help you SELL your happy home by following these directions:

1.  Obtain tiny plastic Joseph at your neighborhood God store.

2.  Make a hole in the ground that's large enough to bury tiny plastic Joseph vertically (it says "in protective wrap" but I don't think he actually feels anything.  Plus, then he couldn't breathe).

3.  Place tiny plastic Joseph upside down in the ground.

4.  Face the upside down Joseph towards the home to be sold.

5.  For 9 consecutive days,  pray the St. Joseph Novena.

6.  Once the home is sold,  remove tiny plastic Joseph from the ground.

7.  Display tiny plastic Joseph in a place of honor in your new home.

It sounds crazy but so does putting plastic fruit in the fridge because it doesn't match the color of the real fruit in the fruit bowl display.   Or putting piles of clean laundry back in the dryer.    So I think we're all on the same page.

I seem to remember that there's a God store in the strip mall next to Wholly Scrap.   Something with HIM or HIS in the title   -   in all caps.   Like you're shouting.   I walk in and try to look cool.   Like I shop for this shit everyday.  I know what I'm doing.   This is not weird at all. 

I feel like I'm shopping for condoms and I have to browse around a little to make it look like I'm a well-rounded shopper who also just happens to need condoms.  If you buy the condoms without browsing it looks like a condom emergency;   like you're going to use the condoms in the parking lot.   So I pretend to look at stuff, most of it so ugly if makes me cry.   And some of it is scary.   Like clown scary.   Like if you put that picture of that angel in your kid's room,  they will surely have nightmares and turn to Satan.

I can't find a St. Joseph statue but I can't leave without buying something or they'll think I'm in here on a dare.   Or that I don't like Jesus.   So I pick up some TestaMINTS and a guitar pick that says  "Pick Jesus"  -   I put it down on the counter  and then I casually, oh so casually say,  "Oh yeah,  I almost forgot.....um, you don't happen to have a tiny plastic statue of St. Joseph do you?"   (not for crazy shit.  Just so I can, you know, pray.....and stuff).

"Do you mean for burying?"

Oh.   So this is a thing?  Yeah,  this is so much of a thing that you can buy tiny plastic Joseph in special home-selling packaging.   Like this:

And this:

Faith can move mountains........and homes!   Sign me up!   Apparently,   St. Joseph statues outsell Mary statues by 5 to 1!

So.........did I do it?

Yes.   Yes, I did.   St. Joseph is buried upside down in my front yard as we speak.   I'm on day 6.   Do not mock me.   For yay unto the Lord goeth all that is...........okay, I'm not going to pull that off.   Just go with me on this.

13 April 2012

A Mistake. And a Correction.

Have you ever had a violent reaction to something and then in the middle of your overreaction you suddenly see the light?   But you can't stop now because you would lose all credibility -  so you just keep talking?   Trying to figure out how to get yourself out of this mess while you continue to spout about the thing that you now know is bogus?   Or worse,  going to get you into big trouble?

So you either have to very subtly backpedal - in a way that seems totally authoritative and sensical  OR you have to come up with a new reason for why you're doing what you're doing.

Exhibit A:  above.   Liam gets in big trouble.   Like "both parents yelling at the same time" trouble.   He protests.  Life is so unfair.  He dramatically runs away.   We let him go.

Several minutes later we hear stomping and thumping coming from his upstairs bedroom.   It goes on for a really long time.   Really long.   What the hell is he doing?  We decide to let it go.   Separation is good right now.   Giving him a little space to express his frustration is good right now.   We'll/he'll deal with the consequences later.

When the stomping and thumping slows and turns into silence,  it feels like the right time to approach the angry wolverine in his den and make amends.   But when I get to the top of the stairs..........I see the scene in the photo above.   And a sheepish Liam, waiting,  peeking his face around the door jamb.

"What is this?"  I ask.   Calmly,  I might add.

"It's all my stuff,"  he says.

"What do you mean,  all your stuff?"

"All my stuff.   I took everything out of my room."   (and here's the kicker)   "To punish myself."

"Hmmm,"  I say.  Again,  super calmly.

"Yes.   I knew I needed to be punished and so I decided to take everything out of my room.  Because what I did was wrong.   And so I shouldn't have anything in my room."

He's not kidding.   I carefully climb over the pile and peer around the corner..........and see that he has, indeed, taken every bleeping thing out of his room.  All that is remaining is a stripped bed,  a dresser,  and a completely empty shelf that once teetered with toys and books.   He even unplugged the floor lamp and hauled it out to the hallway.   The book bins,  unweeded and heavy, must have required him to channel Superman before lifting and schlepping.  Even the art is removed from the walls.   Clever touch.

This must have seemed like a mighty fine idea at first.   The perfect protest.   The I-don't-know-what-I'm-doing-or-why-I'm-doing-it-but-I'll-sure-show-them protest.   But after getting half his stuff out in the hallway and burning off some steam he must have looked with a clearer head and said,  "Uh oh."   He must have looked at the monster he had created and knew there would be big trouble in little china.  But since half his stuff was out there,  he quickly came up with a REASON,  a parent-centric reason, for doing what he was doing.   Whew.  Crisis averted.

And I'm actually incredibly impressed.   I don't know that he's ever committed to a task this large.  I don't know that he's ever committed to anything.   Except maybe a Spongebob marathon.  The focus!  Oh the focus this required!   Are you telling me he didn't get distracted by any of those toys and plop down on the floor and start playing with them like he does when he's mid-teeth-brushing?  Or mid-running-to-the-bus?  And he's never lifted anything heavier than a Wii remote.   I'm so relieved.   And oddly proud.  I want to congratulate him.

But instead, I say  "Yes.  Yes, this is good punishment.  Thank you for taking care of it for me.   Now put it all back."

And he did.

10 April 2012

My Relationship with The Crate and Barrel Outlet

If I go to the Crate and Barrel Outlet in Maine and the cashier handling my purchases looks at the lime green pouf I'm buying and says

"I don't think this matches the other greens in your house........."

.........does that mean I go the Crate and Barrel Outlet too much?   Hmmm.

I've clearly formed a relationship with these people.   And they apparently have my back;   they really care about my family room.   How great is that?   So I put the lime green pouf back on the shelf.

On my very first visit to the CBO,  after moving into my big, empty house,  I met Susan.   Susan sniffed me out immediately.   There was something about her face that stood out from the rest of the employees;  her expression was more relaxed,  almost smiling but not quite.   Just softer.   Not as irritated.

"Where are your from?"  she asked.   So there was something different about me, too.

"I'm from Minnesota.   I just moved here."

"I knew it!"  she said.   "I'm from Bemidji!"

We always find each other, don't we?   Susan is so nice and so excited to meet me, as Minnesotans are always excited to meet each other.   When I lived in the suburbs of Chicago,  I would run into other Chicagoland people around the world and they were never very interested to meet me.  Which always made me feel foolish in the bathroom of the Scottsdale Cheesecake Factory or wherever it was that I ran into my zip code-mate.  (  "I'm sorry,  I just overhead you say that you're from Glen Ellyn?   I live in Wheaton!  We live just minutes away from each other!   Hey!   Where are you going?"  )

Right away,  Susan gets a concerned look on her face and says,   "How's it going?"   As a fellow transplant, she must have been through this before.   And here she is today living a perfectly happy life at the CBO.   "Don't worry,"  she says.   "It's going to get better."  She says this even though I give my standard diplomatic reply, saying how I'm really looking forward to getting to know New England.   I never say that it's going badly.   That would be rude.   And whiny. 

"You're going to like it.   Eventually.   It takes some getting used to but then you'll like it.   Except the Massholes.   You never get used to them."    (Her words!   Not mine!   I swear!)

Since that time,  the CBO has been an important piece of my transition into this new place.   When we moved into our big, formal, colonial style house,  all the furniture from our smallish Minneapolis semi-bungalow looked ridiculous.   Like the house was mocking us.   Filling this house with furniture it approved of was tough.   And we duked it out, the house and I, several times...........trying to find a style we could both agree upon.   And the CBO was like our mediator.

I could go to the CBO feeling low   -   what had I gotten myself into?   And the CBO would say  "Try this.   It's clean and it's modern but the natural wood gives it a traditional vibe.   And the scale is perfect for your big house."

So I'd go home with my new dining table or sofa or end table, all dirt cheap,  and the house and I would be friends again.

"See?   It's gonna be ok.   Little by little.   Piece by piece.   It just takes time,"  seemed to be the CBO's message.

I've taken friends to the CBO and they're always impressed when I'm greeted with a little extra familiarity than the rest.   How much furniture can one person buy?   Well..........a lot, actually.   And it helps if you're from Minnesota so that all the transplanted employees have someone to talk to.   The other day,  it was Chad.   Susan sees us chatting and shouts out  "He's from the Midwest, too!"   We have a little party for a minute.   "Ooh!  Where?  That's so great!"   And then he digs in extra hard to find a suitable end table for me,  even searching databases of stores around the country, because he just can't let me go home with the one I have in my hand.   We can do better than that, girlfriend!

And now, the CBO factors into my transition again as I stage my house for the people who will come through its doors,  fall madly in love with it, and then want to buy it so that we can move once again.   Making it look perfect.   Making it look like a home.   A home for someone else but still a home;   a place that shelters us and our children and our dogs and makes us feel snug and secure and protected and well-fed. 

Thank you CBO.   Thanks to you and Susan and Chad and the cashier who was worried about my lime green pouf not matching the other greens in my house.   I feel like we've created something really important here.   Let's all cross our fingers and wish together for a quick sale.

05 April 2012

A Very Rare Bus Ride

As we come around Little Boar's Head,  my car keeps veering off course and crossing the center yellow line because I can't take my eyes off the waves crashing against the rocks below.   The surf is wild today and the surfers are lined up,  waiting for the next curl.   I love watching the spray fly off the top of the waves as they unfurl into the wind.   Wispy, steady, almost like vapor.

"Liam,"   I say.   "Look out the window."


"You have to look out the window whenever you get the chance because you won't live by the ocean very much longer."

"I know.   I see it every day.   Four times a day."

"Four times a day?   What are you talking about?"

"This is where my bus goes."

What?!   How did I miss this?   This seems like something I should know.   Like you should get a special robocall from the school informing us that our school bus passes something important.   Like a nuclear power plant.   Or the White House.    "Good evening.   This is your child's school.   This call is to inform you that your child's bus will pass an important historical marker/ natural wonder with cultural and/or aesthetic significance.   Please advise your child to look the window of his or her bus and appreciate said historical marker/natural wonder with cultural and/or aesthetic significance as we are not able to provide this experience for every student in our school.   Thank you and enjoy a safe weekend.  Click."

Liam looks out the Jeep window as we climb to the top of the rise that overlooks the rocky cliff.

"This is where I get scared,"   he says.

"What are you scared of?"

"That the bus will fall off the road and crash down the rocks and roll into the ocean."

Okay, that IS scary!   Dammit,  why did he have to put that in my head?!   I can totally see that happening!

"You know that's not going to happen, right?"

"I know."

"Liam,  I want you to look out your bus window every single day and say  "there's the Atlantic Ocean,"  and I want you to look at it hard and know that almost nobody gets to look at a scene like that every day on the school bus.   Almost no one.   Just you and the 30 kids on that bus.  Physics won't let your bus fall toward the ocean so you don't have to worry about that.   I don't want you to be a grown-up and say  "When I was in 3rd grade, my school bus overlooked the Atlantic Ocean every single day  -  and I didn't appreciate it.   Sometimes I didn't even look at it.   Because I had no idea how rare and extraordinary that was."   I want you to know how extraordinary that is.   Get it?"

"OK, Mom."

02 April 2012

The Photo Acclimation Project: Something NEW England-y I Noticed on My Drive to School

Here's an image you wouldn't find in my former city life.   A visual example of how "where I am" differs from "where I was".   I laughed the other day when Mike gave me directions to the crappy chinese take-out place;   you know you live in the country when your husband references donkeys when he's giving you directions.   Like  "it's past the donkey but before the golf course."   So when I passed the donkey,  I waved. 

How have I not seen this postcard image before?   I drive by this spot multiple times a day   -   how is it that I've never looked up to see this New England travel brochure?   Maybe the New England snapshot only exists at a particular angle, in particular light at a particular moment each day.   As if there's a cast of characters and set dressers and animal actors waiting patiently in the barn for someone to yell  "Action!"  And then they all trot out to their marks and look iconic for a short while.  And then when a local drives by,  they dim the sun and yell  "GET DOWN!"

But as pretty as this scene is,  I would trade it in a minute for some Viet Namese food.