Joan Cusack watched me lose my mind

The holidays are a stressful time for many. Presents, money, time, money, calories, money. What can make them a little easier? Joan Cusack. "What?", you say? Let's do this.

This past weekend, I was buzzing around Old Town looking for the perfect gift for my mother-in-law because the other three gifts I had purchased were equally unacceptable in my warped, judgy brain. This is how I work; purchase multiple gifts for the same person and lament their (perceived) increasing crap factor.

EK doing what he does best.

EK doing what he does best.

Then I remembered it! Judy Maxwell Home.  Actually, I only remembered the storefront because the last time we were there, their sign was out for repair or something and I thought the proprietor chose the most lovely color combination for the facade (hence the photo).

Anywhoo, JMH (can I call it that?) considers itself an "urban general store" and, I have to say, that is a pretty accurate description. Giant scrabble tiles? Check. Lovely food tins? Aww, snap - what mother-in-law doesn't love those metaljobbers? Tiny suitcases for tiny people to take to their grandma's house (cough, cough, you can have him whenever you want). And even badass manbags (murses? ). Plus handmade jewelery, vintage glassware, funky, original artwork and more.

Suffice it to say, their items range from quite lovely to hilarious (not that these categories are mutually exclusive). Normally I would be happy to shop in a fun store sans bébé, however, at that exact moment, I felt under the gun to perform on the gift front.

Enter Joan Cusack.

I was picking around at bits and bobs, harassing the ever-patient store employee for the "perfect gift" when I witnessed an elderly patron bringing a grammatical error on a printed store sign to Ms. Cusack's attention. Then the customer walked over to me where I  incredulously asked/informed her, "you just told Joan Cusack her sign was wrong !?!" And then I went ahead and gave in to the crazy.

I  mosied over to the soaps where my friend, the store employee, kindly suggested more items that Mrs. Swirley might enjoy. "We are the only store in Chicago that carries these soaps/lotions/etc. [which, I must admit, are quite nice]. Our owner has met the  [royal title] of Jordan" (I had clearly stopped listening at this point). I screamed piped in, "JOAN CUSACK? JOAN CUSACK IS THE OWNER?"  "Yes", he so kindly replied and his finger probably started to nervously dial 911 from his pocket.

Tea towels for fancy people like my mom in law and Joan Cusak.

HAM tea towels for fancy people like my mom in law and Joan Cusack. You can get them at JMH! (photo:

Sweat, sweat, sweat.

Talk, talk , talk.

I nervously told the employee about my friend who is often told she looks just like Joan Cusack (I started to pull up a photo and then had the tiniest bit of insight into my temporary bout of insanity), and that "oh my God, this is so crazy. Joan Cusack is just walking around this tiny shop. She likes purple. I like purple!"

As if things couldn't get any better for me (and worse for the employee), Ms. Cusack suggested some gift ideas for my mom-in-law. We talked about tea towels. TEA TOWELS!  I looked at her staff, mouthed "Joan Cusack"  and pointed while they worked up restraining-order paperwork.

I love that she talked to me about cutting boards and tea towels and I especially love that I wasn't  kicked out of the store when I had very clearly lost my damn mind. She could have sold me the moon and I would have been down with it. Instead, I got a pretty sweet cutting board and tea towel...and a good story about how much of a freak I can actually be when I put forth some effort.

So, if you are struggling with gifts this year, I suggested getting some input from Joan Cusack and the Judy Maxwell Gift Guide. Plus, her store is freaking adorable.

p.s. Joan, er, Ms. Cusack? Please tell your employees I am sorry for being such a weirdo. Moreover, I would like to apologize in advance as I am sure I will be back for the matryoshka doll votive holders.

p.p.s. My friend Gretchen sort of does look like you and on the off chance that we both come in together, please don't hate us if we ask for a picture. Then, just a heads up, the world might explode.

p.p.p.s. Thank you for answering my questions re: tea towels. I was always too embarrassed to ask.

p.p.p.p.s.  You might disagree, but i think you would have played Overboard's Gertie expertly. Or, and I may be wrong here, Mrs. Burbridge. No, actually I am 100% God damn correct on this one; you would be a gimmie if we could go back in time and re-film this classic.

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    Annie Swingen

    Chicago-based hyperbole enthusiast. Mom to a kid and sometimes my mom. Overboard (1987) obsessed weirdo. I like the funnies in life.

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