Clear The Room, Stat!

If you find yourself in a half-empty apartment, disheveled by brown moving boxes and the Hefty garbage bags that are starting to haunt your dreams and fill your reality, promise me something.  When your late-night lust for snacking creeps up on you like a sneaky tiger, push it away with both hands.  This is especially important  when you've moved all of the food items out of your house, except the ones you'll eat for breakfast and those leftover baking ingredients that you wish you weren't going to throw out (but should've already, since you haven't had an oven in a month and a half).

Above all, avoid eating italian-seasoned bread crumbs by the spoonful.  I don't care how salty and garlicky it tastes, or how easily it becomes a very yummy, chewable ball in your mouth.  In ten minutes, you will have the breath of a monster fueled by breadsticks, fresh garlic, and hellfire.  If you aren't convinced, your spouse will be sure to inform you.

And when you wake up the next morning, you'll wish you could use chlorine bleach to rinse your mouth with, because coffee is not going to cover that up.  I have a feeling my co-workers will be quarantining me giving me plenty of space to "focus on my work" for the day.


Dancing Blindfolded

The thing I miss most, living in our small town next to Canada, is not a Target.  It's not good Mexican food or strolling by the Capitol building at night or my 3G phone actually having enough service to be 3G.

It's fish.  

A little while ago, I asked my sister, who's a wildlife biologist (and clearly the more intelligent sibling) if I could make sushi with brook trout.  Apparently a wealth of parasites keep these fellows off of the menu at your local raw bar.  Good thing I asked first.

But last night, I had fish.  And it was really good.  

So, last week, some good friends graciously informed me that 1) they had an extra ticket to a concert in Boston, and 2) my sister was going.  The bad news:  I was scheduled to work.  However, when I told my boss about the opportunity, I think he looked at me sideways.  "What are you thinking?  Go."  Sir, you are a saint, and when I am back in tomorrow,  I will answer phones like you've never seen.

And what was I thinking?  This country mouse likes food, dancing, music, and - chiefly - her sister, which are all hard to come by in the north woods, but were found in plenty last night.  We had dinner at an italian place in the North End (thank you, Greg and Heather), and I don't think I've ever had such good calamari anywhere.  The aroma of garlic, shellfish, an incredible pesto, cured meat and red wine danced throughout the room.  It was just glorious.  It felt like I was on another planet.  

The fish planet.  The best planet. 

This was followed by a walk to the Garden, and a concert with so much energy that you could have been blindfolded and still found yourself dancing in the aisle.  Before the concert, we all threw out guesses at what the average age would be at this show.  I guessed 22, and I'm pretty sure I almost nailed it.  Two thoughts:

1.  These guys started making music in 1995, which put the said average concertgoer in 1st grade.  Did you really spend elementary school bus rides listening to funk and reggae on your ipod?  The Wiggles probably drove you to it (for which I wouldn't blame you). They were around then, right?

2.  You are just over the legal drinking age, so I don't want to tell you how to live your life, but I'd like to warn you about the dangers of combining too much beer, steep concrete stairs, and metal balcony railings.  With all of that sloppy clapping and drunken dancing flailing, I seriously thought we were going to lose you.  

I admit, however,  that I did get a little shameful joy out of watching you party by yourself.  Your moves, albeit off-beat and haphazard, were pure genius.  I especially liked your use of the "cat claw" motion as you ambled up the stairs toward your seat.  Rawr.

All in all, despite the drunken guy at our nine o'clock and the thick puffs of smoke surfacing from the stands, the night was pretty incredible.  I danced, I laughed, I ate, and I spent most of the evening linked arm in arm with my favorite girl in the world.  

Driving 12 hours for an experience like this seems like such a small price to pay.  Just give me a reason.


It's a Drive-By

The other day, a friend told me that the railroad crossing in town (which carries the lumba' from up heah to all of you city folk), had a mechanical misfire a little while back and was stuck in the down position for most of the day.  I saw this from our little perch at the restaurant, and I can't say how unsafe I felt as I watched the cars weaving between the striped gates and flashing lights.  If people weren't so bold, it could stop traffic permanently.  We'd either need to build a bridge or start traveling via canoe.

Like some of you already know, there's a guy who drives his lawn mower home from the bar across the street from us, usually at around 11PM.  Sometimes the sound is so loud that I think he must have the mowing deck on, skimming away a 3 foot strip of every front lawn along his path.  At this point, he must be keen to my watching eyes, since I scramble to the window to observe his pilgrimage every night.  I don't know who is more unnerved.

When we were living down south, there was a miniature horse farm right by our house.  We'd often take walks this way just so I could converse with the animals. Spoiled little creatures, they had soccer balls to play with, fences to jump, and buckets to play on.  Every Saturday morning, people would latch tiny carriages to these tiny horses and parade down the back roads.  It was a glorious thing to see those small creatures with their miniature carriages, proudly clip-clopping down the street.  The people looked huge.  Perhaps they were.

This is Einstein.  He was born the smallest horse in the world, thus making Barnstead, NH famous.  This is the kind of thing that really puts you on the map.

We've now slid off the map.

On a total side-note, check out my friend Jacob's whitewater raft videos.  If this doesn't make you want to hit the river, nothing will.


Kansas: A Story of Prohibition, Fried Chicken, and Flat Camp

Well Sister, you’re in Kansas right now visiting one of your best friends, and it got me thinking:  what’s actually in Kansas?  I’m sure that when you return, you’ll fill me in on all the fun coffee joints and late night eateries of Lawrence, as well as some cool trails or places you go to walk the dogs, but until then, I’ve got to satisfy my curiosity in my own way, via a swim through the interweb.

Kansas is right next to Arkansas.  I seriously didn't know this, or at least didn't realize it.  I guess arkansas should have given it away, but then again, we both know I'm not a quick learner, so no surprise here.

Kansas was a place of nasty clashes during the pre Civil War era.  Apparently Free-Staters as well as pro-slavery southerners flocked to the state with plans to either hold the practice from infiltrating the border with Missouri or intentions of welcoming it state-wide.  The confrontation was inevitable, and that's how the state earned the nickname "Bleeding Kansas".

In January of 1861, Kansas entered the Union as a slave-free state.  Unfortunately, two years later, due to still-seething unrest, your destination town was raided, destroying much of the city structure and killing 200+ people.

Because cowboys had a tendency to be so nasty, Kansas adopted alcohol prohibition in 1881.  I wonder how long that lasted.  Wikipedia didn't tell me.

Big Brutus is the largest electric shovel in existence.  It's in West Mineral, Kansas.

Contrary to popular belief, Kansas is not the flattest of the United States.  It ranks between 20 and 30th on the list.  I can't believe there's a list for that.  I wonder if there's a camp for those states on the lower end of that measure.  It could be called "Flat Camp".  

From 1950 to 2006, Kansas reported the second-most tornadoes in the country, bested only by Texas.  This, I suppose, is a good contest to lose.

There's supposed to be more than 6,000 ghost towns in Kansas.  I'd like for you to visit one for me, which doesn't sound like it will be that hard.  There's even a trip guide.

Farmers Insurance employs more than 3,000 people in Kansas.  I wonder if they think that's funny, or if it's just an old joke now.

There is a Kansas portion and a Missouri portion to Kansas City.

Crawford County is the "Fried Chicken Capitol" of the state.  Perhaps Flava Flav should have thought twice about going into business out of business in Iowa.  Wrong state, buddy.  

Lastly, there's Kansas, the band of 6 boys from Topeka.  I hope you are finding a way to mix them into your trip soundtrack somehow.

I hope you're having fun, but remember that Dorothy was just a sheltered and confused little girl.  Sure, there's no place like home, but probably it's not Kansas.  Come home soon.  


Wicked Wednesdays

I’ve you haven’t noticed, my Monday-Wednesday-Friday blog (that was once a MTWTF blog) has turned into more of a Monday-IHopeNoOneNotices-Friday blog.  It’s not that I don’t intend to offer you a midweek masterpiece, it’s just that I’m busy doing more important other things.

For example…

  • I saw 13 moose Wednesday on a drive home after dinner with friends an hour away.  13 is a record for me, so far anyway.  Even more exciting is the fact that we managed to miss all of them with the truck.
  • I rolled a kayak.  On purpose.  In the right direction.  More than once.
  • I’ve been watching Unwrapped.  I love Unwrapped.  I’m not sure if it’s because of how much I enjoyed the crayon factory episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as a child, or how excited I am about eating.  I don’t mean this in a foodie kind of way, but rather in an “I’m glad humans developed a taste for pancakes and fondue instead of tree bark and centipedes” kind of way.  I mean, would you rather chew grass nine times?
  • I’m booking a vacation with my sister and mom.  When I asked my sister if I should talk to our mother about coming on the trip with us, she responded with, “Yeah, what’s the worst that could happen?”

 Mom is the best world traveler I know, and is nearly fearless when it comes to foreign environments, which is exactly the kind of cohort we’ll need with us on this adventure.   That, and the potential for hilarious and awkward conversations goes up by about 300%. 

When I was first searching out vacation/trip options, I was quickly faced with a unique challenge.  Google searching for “adventure junkie sister vacations” led to suggestions like:

-Zero-gravity flights in sub-space
-A personal shopper at Georgio Armani
-Surf/Yoga camp (the only tempting contender)
-Sledding on treadmills (this wasn't really a google result, but yes we've done this recently)
-Hiking in active volcanoes

If I had found a tropical island with unlimited snorkeling, yoga, guacamole, cliff jumping and costume parties, my search would have been complete.

Next year this is you and me, sis.

So next time I forget am too busy to post a mid-week blog entry, just remember that I’m off doing important things, like watching Marc Sommers narrate on frozen banana pops or flailing upside down in the river.  Don't worry that I won't come back - I'm out building a library of awkward stories to share with you on Friday.  


The Big Dig [Through My Basement]

In any move, a person is likely to stumble upon a myriad of strange and forgotten objects of yesteryear.  As C and I contemplate never eventually selling our home, I am terrified by what memorabilia might be unearthed from our basement storage and dragged from our closet shelves.

Some examples of what I fear I will discover in the Great Task:

  • Bundles of letters - some received from old boyfriends and others written to imaginary ones 
Dear Guy Reading This, if we go back far enough, this could be you.  How does that make you feel?  Should I even ask?  Probably not.
  • Lion King ticket stubs from 1994
  • Lion King stuffed animal tags from 1994.  And 1995.  And 1996, and so on.  You probably slept better not knowing that I was playing with plush toys after studying for Algebra II.
  • Yearbooks/Annuals:
"M, Thanks for a great year! You are ________ !!! (Blank filled by descriptions such as: awesomereally funneatantisocial, a real downer, or awkward and you make me feel uncomfortable).  Love, Your 8th grade Classmate Teacher.
  • Lisa Frank stickers
  • Crayons (remember, since we don't have kids, we have no real use for these, unless we were to own coloring books, which would be kind of ridiculous for people our age)
  • Coloring Books
  • 43 chapstick tubes.  This is insane.  Once I manage to collect them all, it could take me a legitimate 15 year period to use them, if that's even safe.  
Is there a chapstick "best by" date?

A shelf life?

    As a friend's little girl would say, I've got a problem with purchasing far too many "lips".
  • Polaroids of my 13-year old sister in her green bathing suit, her hair teased out like Jessie from Saved By the Bell - This is the only artifact I will be happy - no, wait - thrilled to dig up
  • Happy Nation by Ace of Base on cassette tape
  • "No Detention" awards from ninth through eleventh grade.  As you can imagine, not getting this award my senior year was a real victory for my social life.  A fact that becomes especially evident after reading this list.

At this point you should be able to understand the rumble in my stomach and anxiety fluttering in my chest as I contemplate picking through rubbermaid containers I haven't seen since moving out of my parents' place.    They were glowing at least as bright as I was on my wedding day, I assumed, because I was marrying a spectacular man.  However, as I look back, it's equally possible that they were just that excited to get all of my junior high flotsam out from under the shelter of their roof.  

And now it's under mine, equally untouched.  So I press on, unwilling to let the terror keep me up at night, but also equally unwilling to face it.

I wonder if Goodwill takes chapstick donations.  You think?


The O.S.: The Real Deal

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about honesty and authenticity and genuineness.  Based on my silly, meaningless observations (code for “please don’t take this personally, I’m taking liberties with broad sweeping stereotypes”), different areas of the country can be broken down into varying degrees of genuineness.  

Here in New England, we wear our comparative hearts on our sleeves.  We are who we are, and we don’t care what you think.  Really, we don’t care.  This obviously comes with inherent flaws.  In the Midwest, everyone is nice to everyone.  I can’t tell you how initially disconcerting it was to walk down the streets of Chicago and have a complete stranger draw your eyes to theirs and lock eye contact like some sort of freakish tractor beam, smile at you, then say hello.   It made my skin crawl for a long time.  It seemed like an invasion of my personal space.  Everyone seemed to be attempting this perfect outward projection of him/herself, or rather, what they thought was desirable to their peers, thus who they really were could be dramatically different than their projected persona.  I referred to this as “fake nice”.

I’d put the South in the same family, but as a different animal entirely.  South = nice.  As in, maple syrup on top of chocolate chip pancakes covered with fudge sauce, whipped cream, and a sprinkle of pink sugar for presentation.  Sweet and sticky nice.   However, these good folks are known for such an extreme sense of hospitality that it has to be at least moderately genuine. 

Jea-nnie, who can resist that drawl?  No one.  source

We won’t even get into those West Coasters. Talk about a different culture and set of societal constructs.  How do they feel about this? 

They’re stoked

This is all only an introduction to what I want to cover this morning:  Why is it that 100% of the times we are asked how we are, we reply that we’re doing well?   The probability of actually being “good” 10 out of 10 times is not actually, well, good.  Those people closest to me know that “fine” is practically the kiss of death.  You might as well pick up your cell phone, call the state hospital, and have them send men in white coats with a straight jacket to come strap me down, because I’m probably on the verge of a mental breakdown.  I’ve had my days.  Some of you might be laughing while reading this because you’re uncomfortably aware how close to the truth it is.  My goal is to ban “fine” and “ok” from my conversational repertoire.  Don’t get me wrong - there should be laws to regulate sharing appropriately.  There are things I probably don’t want to and should never know about you (underwear color, skin condition, favorite lip gloss).  But while each of us shouldn’t wallow in self-pity or over-share, there is something refreshing about a healthy, honest response to that basic human question:

“How are you?” 

Fine.  Well, today’s been rough.” 

Why are we quick to share in each other’s joy, but not our pain and struggles.  Friends and family are often referred to as a support system, right?  Well, let them in; let them support you.  Friendships are like everything else in life, an investment - you get out what you put in.  Relationships take work, and sometimes you’re the one being invested in and other times you’re doing all the investing.  Be ok with that.  Even the most seemingly well-adjusted, happy person has things lurking below the surface that keep them up at night.  It takes a bit of a leap of faith to allow one’s self to be vulnerable, but what’s the worst that could happen?  You might get rejected a hug and you’ve managed to tighten the bond with your friends?   Gee, that sounds lousy.   

Do yourself a favor.  Take the risk.


Puppy Piles and Bikes Built for Bus Drivers

This last week was a pretty busy one - the kind that makes you shake your head back and forth a little, like you've just been woken up with a splash of cold water.  Long work days at a new job can be stressful, but luckily I've got some pretty great friends and co-workers, along with a short list of happy surprises that have made this second week of June bearable, fabulous even.

The other day I went over to visit the owner of a local business who was just in a nasty car accident.  It was enough to get to see her in good health and cheery spirits, despite such a traumatic event, but I had never seen her home, and let me tell you - it was incredible.  Based on my life experiences so far, I have never expected that I would put the following words together: cabin -- taxidermy -- breathtaking.  However, I cannot express that despite being watched by what must have been two dozen sets of dead, beady eyes, there was something beautiful and awe-inspiring in the decor of this house.  Every piece of furniture seemed as if it had been chosen specifically for this or that spot in this particular room of this particular house.  It was really very wonderful.

I do suppose that picking out a sofa and "picking" out a large bobcat are not really the same kind of thing, but decor is decor, right?

And this wasn't even the surprise that I am referring to.

There.  were.  puppies.

Excuse me while I compose myself.

4-week old blue-tick hound puppies, to be precise - I was staring at a literal puppy pile. Yes, I got to hold one, and the his or her tiny brown and white body snuggled right into my chest into my heart.  Our little apartment is enough of a zoo right now with the cat climbing into the towel cubby above the toilet (unpleasant if you aren't expecting hot cat breath on the nape of your neck during your 3 am potty break) and the turtle climbing out from underneath garbage bags of unpacked clothing.  We don't need another animal.  We'd never find them in the mess.

So, I got to hold a puppy.  Pleasant surprise #1.

Pleasant surprise #2 is the following.  I met a charter bus driver yesterday named (I think) Mike.  Mike is probably in his mid-sixties and started driving charter buses in 2001.  He likes to go from Connecticut to Lake George, NY, or take groups into NYC, but he seemed pretty excited about coming this far north.  I gave him some recommendations for moose-touring (although I neglected to tell him that sneaking up on a moose in a charter bus might prove challenging at best and mind-numbingly boring at worst), and we talked for awhile about what he does for a living.  His son-in-law is the Ex-O for some nuclear submarine on the east coast, so I learned about the sub's double periscope, and how glad Mike is to have someone in the family with "his finger on the buttons".

Mike got especially excited when we started talking about his bike.  His ride is not a motorcycle, but is actually a Citizen Miami - a foldable bike.  He takes it with him when he's on charter tours, and while his customers are all buying I heart NY t-shirts and eating hot dogs, he can be off pedaling along the Hudson.  It's an especially great idea when you consider that Mike spends hours of his time in his bus, and could - as he told me - easily live there.  When I explained to him where to find a bathroom at a meeting place during his drive yesterday, he reminded me that he had his own restroom in the bus.  He also has his laptop, important personal accoutrements and ample food provisions.  This man has it all.

Anyhow, after he finished talking about his bike, he got to the good part:

"Do you want to ride it?"    

Does a bird fly?

And so the second surprise of my week was riding Mike's collapsable bicycle around the parking lot.  It was really very stable and had great tread for something that you could practically fit in a 757's overhead storage compartment.

Puppy piles and a bike ride.  These are my answers to a long week.  Now go out and find your own.


Sister Insufficiency

Sister, I’ve been missing you this week. 

C and I are surrounded by valuable friends and breathtaking scenery, but I still can’t shake the feeling that something very essential to daily wonderment is not in order.  Email banter just isn’t enough. 

My relational diet is lacking in Vitamin S. 

I know this because no one laughs at my jokes anymore, and you at least give me a pity laugh.

There are some seriously misguided seagulls flying over our town, which makes me want to go to the beach, but I don’t want to go to the beach with anyone if it isn’t you.  No one else can wallow in the sand like you and me.

I find myself chuckling and snorting alone amongst the cat calendars at WalMart.

Restaurant sweet potato fries don’t taste as good as the frozen ones we bake in your oven.

C gives me this look when I start to eat our dinner while it’s still cooking.  You know how it goes - swiping a scoop of marinara sauce, poking at some carmelized mushrooms, slurping ciopinno broth.  He should recognize it as an obvious bloodline characteristic. Luckily for him, these days this isn’t a problem.  The other night I had peanut butter for dinner.  Scoop away, M.  Scoop away.

Suffering through workout videos in my tiny living room pales in comparison to getting heat stroke together in Bikram yoga.  As I slam awkwardly into our table, couch, and twin bed at 10 PM, my thoughts often wander to those good, humid afternoon sessions.

I can’t have a tacky fashion show with C at TJ Maxx.  C in a floral jumpsuit just wouldn’t do it.  Or would it?

And finally:

I haven’t had a vanilla soft serve ice cream cone since we moved. 

Things are not right.  

I know that you are so very busy, and that I am as well, but I would love to find a way for you and I to be in the same place for a day.  We can meet in the middle somewhere, or I’ll drive the whole way.  I will do practically anything to see you, even if it means renting the seaplane from the locals.

I just need me some you.  Please.


Sunny With A Chance Of Tantrums

Some days I feel like a total monster.  Monday afternoon was like this.

It moves in sequence.  My head starts to hurt, my energy wanes, my attitude dips below the "pleasant and professional" line, and my expression looks like I've just been told my life's vocation will be to lick stamps.

I think that maybe I need a snack.  So l nibble on some almonds, the fit-and-healthy choice of champions. 

But now I find that I've consumed enough almonds to feed all of the squirrels in Illinois until at least August.

It all happened so fast.

I like to think that I'm a pretty happy person, you know, cheery-with-a-chance-of-rain, but every now and again about twice a week,  it's like Mr. Hyde takes over and I become a showers-with-a-chance-of-sinkholes kind of girl, which makes me pretty hard to deal with.  Usually C just gives me a look of disdain and asks how he can fix it, which only makes me more ugly and inconsolable, and then I disappear for some alone time.  And some more almonds.

The best cure that I've found for the grumpies is a friend that doesn't care.  I have a friend like this named Amy.  Amy is terrific for a lot of reasons, but at the top of the pile is her ability to talk to me like a 27 year-old adult.  Well, most of the time.  She doesn't coddle my cranky attitude or snap at me with frustration, or even push me down the stairs like I deserve.  She just talks like I'm a normal human being (which is giving credit where very little is due), and suddenly the skies open up and the forecast starts looking crystal clear.

It's very similar to, when your favorite 3 year old falls and starts to whine, talking to them like they are fine, even happy.  Like they are riding down the slide at their favorite park.

So the next time your friend/spouse/buddy is acting like an angry rattlesnake, get your Amy on and talk to them like they can handle a little bad weather.  

Or you could just push them down the stairs and watch them drown in their own empty almond cans, like I they probably deserve.

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