Sarah’s First Halloween

Little Sarah shook with fear,
she knew not what to do.
She clung to Daddy with trembling hands
as a ghost floated up and said “Boo!”

She had seen a bright green witch,
monsters and a vampire bat!
Why would her parents take her outside
and not protect her from that?

They dragged her toward a spooky house
with a cauldron that smelled like feet
they rang the bell, she closed her eyes,
Someone yelled “Trick or Treat!”

The pumpkin-shaped basket she carried
filled with strange weight
she looked inside to be surprised
by more candy than she ever ate.

 

 

This post is my entry in the (2nd Annual!) HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST!!!!! that was recommended to me by Nancy when I read her entry. The rules are simple: 

“The Contest:  write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (title not included in the 100 words), using the words witchbat, and “trick-or-treat.   Your story can be scary, funny or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)  Get it?  Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people :)”

Be sure to post it today (by 11:59 pm EST) and link it back to Susannah Leonard Hill’s blog. Have some spooky fun!

 

 

A Healing Brew (100WCGU)

Today Julia gave the 100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups with a little reluctance, but asked us to ” create a recipe of a dish fit for a witch.” I chose to take a slightly different approach, since I: a) prefer the image of witch as related to Wicca  and b) am very concerned about my father who has Alzheimer’s and just went into the hospital today. I decided to use the concept of healing herbs for my “recipe” and found this website as a reference. Julia, I hope you understand. Please visit the challenge for other entries.

Gather thee, sisters three
to use the power of magic that heals

A dash of rosemary
a sprinkle of dill
combat many different ills.

Oregano to disinfect
Cayenne to relieve pain.

Cilantro washes toxins out
Mint to calm digestive strain.

Curry powder
fights evil disease that strips away dignity.

Parsley protects our bodies plumbing
to improve health for one more day.

Sprinkle basil for additional aid
add a pinch of ginger to keep sickness away.

Stir it into a special brew
Mixed with words of prayer and love

Add the mixture to any meal

Let those who suffer
Blessed be!

 

 

Freaking Myself Out

NASA Sees Hurricane Sandy as the "Bride o...

NASA Sees Hurricane Sandy as the “Bride of Frankenstorm” Threaten U.S. East Coast (Photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video)

 

That’s it. I think I might have to take a break from all forms of social media for a while.

 

Why?

 

Because I can’t handle the stress or the terror that it creates in me.  Here are a few things that are frankly freaking me out:

 

  • First we have the daily inundation of political e-mails and Facebook posts that indicate the possible destruction of everything that I believe in. I am truly terrified of what will happen if Romney is elected. I know, I know, I said I wouldn’t get political anymore on the blog, but its the reality. I’m SCARED.

 

Please people, get out and vote.

 

  • Next we have the news about the Frankenstorm heading my way. Trust me, I believe in being prepared and we are doing our best to prepare. However, everyone else’s panic about every possible result is making me want to hide under the covers and cry. I am too terrified to follow the path of the storm. Add to that Mark’s brilliant, hilarious,  yet terrifying, post about the implications of the storm with election over at The Idiot Speaketh and I don’t  think I can read blog posts anymore. Is there anyplace I can hide?
  • Of course, then there are the fun forms of fear that I can’t help but watch at this time of year. I love reading stories with a creepy twist, like this one by Andra Watkins or She’s a Maineiac’s reflection on psychic experiences. Now, normally I love the chills and thrills and ghostly imaginings, but things that go bump in the night are too close to our current reality. I feel like we are living in a horror story of epic proportions, so perhaps this year I have to forgo the spooky moments and stay away from them all together.
  • Finally, I just can’t take the inordinate amount of stupid things being posted lately. I’m not talking stupid silly. Those make me smile, but the evidence about the pure stupidity of human beings. Hatred, prejudice, denying global warming, greed, stupidity about education, a girl shot for speaking for the rights of girls to be educated etc. etc. etc. I cringe whenever I look at a social media site. It makes my heart hurt for the world and makes me want to lock myself away in a fallout shelter somewhere only to re-emerge in a world that has come to its senses.

 

So what do I do? Do I continue to face the freakiness or do I hide away, sucking my thumb, hugging my teddy bear and writing about a world where things work out for the best?

 

 

 

 

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say or I’m Not That Stupid . . .

We live in a world where certain people thrive on the assumption that  everyone else is STUPID. Or at least many people act on the assumption that everyone else lacks in intelligence or the ability to think, recognize lies, or make wise decisions.

The current election season in America is evidence of that, since every campaign ad, debate, or whatever is filled with obfuscation, lies and wordplay to trick all the feeble-minded voters out there. I admit sometimes to feeling stupid when surrounded by the craziness because it is difficult to wade through the layers of lies and mis-directions to uncover the truth about issues, candidates or anything. That’s why all I can do is vote my conscience and vote based on my own understanding of the issues.

But this isn’t about the elections. The inspiration for this post came from my decision to clear out some spam comments on the blog this morning. We all get them, and it is pretty easy to recognize some of them: no real name, no picture, multiple links, repetitive address, on a post from way back etc. I admit, when I first began blogging, I fell for a couple of spam comments because I was simply so excited to be getting a comment on my posts.  However, after I started receiving real comments from real human beings, and interacting with those human beings in other ways, I began to think about spam comments and wonder–who are these people, what do they hope to achieve, and do they think I’m stupid?

This morning I discovered this comment in spam,

“I haven’t checked in here for a while because I thought it was getting boring, but the last several posts are great quality so I guess I will add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend :)

Now, this is one of those unusual comments which could trick you into believing that it is actually from a real person who  has something to say. It was on my most recent post. There are no links to unknown pages. And, although it doesn’t specifically address anything in my post, there’s nothing so random in it to suggest that it isn’t about that post. There is also a name attached to the comment (although only a first name). The sentence makes sense, and it even includes an emoticon.

However, I’m not STUPID. Let’s look at the above comment more closely, shall we? The language suggests an intimacy between me and the comment writer. “You deserve it my friend,” as if we have already had some kind of relationship building even if only through the blogosphere.

Now, it’s possible. I’ve made several friends through this blog. Some I’ve only interacted with through technology, some I have met in person. Some I talk to on Facebook on a regular basis. Some have faded away, but reappear at surprising times.

Meeting fellow bloggers Kathy McCullough and Tori Nelson. Picture borrowed from Kathy’s post about the experience. Click on the image to read that post.

Still, I will include them in my list of friends or at least acquaintances who I would like to get to know better.  I can say that the friendships I’ve formed through the blog have some similarities:

  • We may not agree on everything but we all respect each other’s opinions, ideas, and journey.
  • We show that respect by making thoughtful comments, giving constructive criticism, and occasionally sending virtual love and support to each other.
  • Most of them seem to say what they mean and mean what they say.
  • All of them recognize that sometimes people need space away from the blogosphere.
  • Each one of them is intelligent, creative, and challenges me to become a better writer, artist, and human being.

I could list them all here, but I think they know who they are.

These are people that I believe I would be friends with in person if we were near enough. I don’t always read their posts. They don’t always read mine. But, we read, respond, and react with thoughtfulness as true friends should.

A true friend of me and my blog would not include the not-so-subtle insult of the first part of this spam comment: “I haven’t checked in here for a while because I thought it was getting boring. . . ” Nor would they try to grace me with the honor of ” I guess I will add you back to my everyday bloglist.”

Do me a favor, don’t bother.

I’m the first to admit that my posts aren’t always scintillating prose full of wit and wisdom. I welcome constructive criticism of my work. But, I would never tell a friend, a fellow blogger, or anyone else that I was bored by their writing (unless I was giving constructive criticism to a student, and I would never use the word “bored”). Nor would I become friends with someone who leaves comments like this.

Seriously, what do spammers hope to achieve and why do they think we are so stupid?

Why Write? A Reflection on Writing vs. Talking

Writing

Writing (Photo credit: jjpacres)

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been meeting with a few students who wanted the opportunity to revise their midterm take-home essay exams because they were not satisfied with their grades.  As I sat down with each one to go over their paper, I realized that, for the most part, they understood the material and could express their ideas clearly when talking to me about them. The problem came when they tried to put their words in writing. They simply cannot express themselves as clearly or logically in a written form.

After talking to these students, I returned home to my 9-year-old daughter who moans, groans and complains every time she has to write a paragraph–and she has a lot of paragraphs to write this year. “I don’t know what to say,” she says. “Can you help me?”

“What do you have to write about?”

Sometimes it is a response to a reading, or a prompt to use her imagination and tell a creative story. I will ask her questions, and she can (usually) answer them. If she can’t answer them, I tell her to reread the passage, and then she is able to answer well. In terms of creativity I’ve heard her make up stories inspired by something small, and sat through endless puppet shows created by her and her friends. She has also written numerous poems that you can find sprinkled throughout my blog posts. But, when it comes to assignments for school, she struggles. Her topic sentences are often vague. Her supporting details are sometimes weak. Her concluding sentences non-existent.

Like the college students, she struggles with conveying ideas in a written form.

As a teacher, I’ve often struggled with my own inability to understand why people have difficulty writing. I know, it sounds naive, because everyone has skills that differ from each other. But expressing myself in words has always come naturally to me. When talking to these students or my daughter, they express themselves in words. So why, I wonder, is it so difficult to put those words onto the page?

It’s possible, I suppose, that the difference lies in how people use their brains. The students that I have been working with are predominantly business majors, so I am sure their comfort with numbers, statistics, and graphs is much higher than my own.

But still, that doesn’t explain the gap between the ability to talk fluently about something and the ability to write eloquently and logically about the same topic.

Perhaps the difference lies in how we perceive writing. To me writing is part of my thought process. When I need to work through a problem or an issue, I write. When I am frustrated or angry about something, I write. At times I have even written letters or e-mails to explain an important issue to someone. I am more confident in my ability to express myself in writing than I am in my ability to talk.

Why? Well, as a talker I have a few habits that I have never successfully broken, especially if I am nervous:

  • I giggle
  • I talk with my hands
  • I pace.

In other words, I do all the things I shouldn’t do if I want to be a great speaker. Somehow these habits in addition to my short stature makes me seem less authoritative even when I am the expert in the room.

However, when I write nobody knows what I look like. Nobody hears the giggles or sees the talking hands. Nobody notices my quirks and my pacing.

When I write, I become the speaker I wish I could be.

For me writing is my language of comfort. For my students they communicate in other ways. In Introductory Theater courses I usually give an option for my projects which allows for any type of presentation; including written papers, performed scenes, artistic projects, etc. I try to leave it open-ended to allow for the variety of learners that come to my classes.  For this upper-division course, however, which is filled with seniors, I am requiring written research/analysis papers as their final project.

Am I doing them an injustice by demanding that they express themselves in writing?

These are students who will soon walk out into the world. Most of them will enter the world of business. Most of them will never have to write another long paper. They’ ll never have to do library research. They’ll never have to turn in a written document with a well-thought out argument.

But then again, maybe they will. If they want to move up in the business world, they need to be able to express themselves clearly. They need to be able to write  well-constructed letters; develop well-thought out and researched reports. They need to be able to express themselves in ways beyond the numbers and graphs.

In other words, they need to be able to write.

And I need to be able to speak the words I write.

We all have something to learn.

 

 

An Ending Season (100 Word Challenge)

This weeks challenge at Julia’s place made me wax a little poetic and melancholy.

What if this was your last year to live?
Will the days speed by even faster?
Will you feel each moment as a special gift?
Will you yearn more for the past?

Will you see each day with brand new eyes?
Spring might seem fresh and daring
a rush of melting-water sighs
a saucy breeze filled with birds who sing.

Summer heat will melt away
concerns about the future
each lazy water-and-flower filled day
making every moment richer.

The flaming fall of crisp red leaves
will warm the fading senses
filled with love one cannot see . . .

And the winter will bring silence

Yearning for a Front Porch

The sound of laughter and jokes from the front stoop below my bedroom window almost every summer night when I was around nine (my daughter’s age now) tortured me as I lay in bed, yearning for the days when I could stay up later, imagining that this tradition would carry over even after my more popular older (by five years) sister had moved on. I was wrong. By the time I was old enough to participate, there were only a few fleeting moments on my front stoop, as the neighborhood kids opted for other activities that I wasn’t always welcome at. (Let’s just say the neighborhood got a little rougher over those years).

I don’t have a lot of pictures of Deb and I when she was in high school, so this will have to do.

I feel like I missed out on something special.

Not that I didn’t have some time experiencing the porch life. There were the occasional games of Truth or Dare where I actually had to kiss a boy. The stoop became home base for games of tag that spread around the neighborhood.  There were hook-ups and break-ups (none which involved me, just the lone Truth or Dare kiss). But that only lasted one or two short summers, while my sister’s reign as queen of the neighborhood lasted pretty much throughout her teen years.

(Yes, I admit, I was jealous of her).

Of course, I had a few other front porch experiences as a child that live on in my memory. Perhaps the strongest of those memories was sitting on the front porch of my Great Aunt Irene’s house near the beach and listening to the stories of times gone by, of relatives long-gone, and of my father’s childhood that even as we speak fades deeper and deeper into lost memory.

As I was reading Kathy’s post called “Redefining Front-Porch Culture: Bloggers and a World-Wide Notion of Neighbor” flashes of these “front-porch” moments came into my head, and I realized that I really want a front-porch.  Our first house in Vermont had a lovely front porch, but it was on the corner of a busy street, and we weren’t there long enough to establish a front porch community. Actually, most of the meeting and chatting took place in the yard between two homes.

I miss that.

Our homes since then have been front-porch-less. Of course, in Durango, CO we would meet with friends in the neighborhood and chat in the driveway, but it still wasn’t the same. Again, we were on the curve of a somewhat busy street, so it wasn’t exactly the safest place for hanging out and chatting. I had to go to other people’s homes for that.

Now, in our current home, not only are we front-porch-less, but we are also up a steep driveway and hidden behind trees. It’s beautiful, but doesn’t lend to casual stopping by as someone takes a walk down the street.

No porch here.

Across the street from Sarah’s front window. A gap in the trees.

 

Kathy suggests that blogging is perhaps

“. . .  a front porch, of sorts—a place from which virtual neighbors come and go.  When we leave comments, we take the time to stay and ‘set a spell’.”

I like that image and that idea, but I still yearn for a real front porch. I want to live in a neighborhood where people know each other. I want to have friends that drop by for tea, and I want my house filled with the sound of children playing on the front porch or stoop.

I wonder if those kinds of neighborhoods even exist anymore? I’ll keep holding onto that dream and keep looking.

But for now, I guess I will enjoy my virtual front porch.

Would anyone like a cup of tea?

 

My Spooky Fascination

It’s that time of year again, when children’s minds turn to costumes and candy, and adult’s who are in touch with their inner child think about spooks and specters as well as their own opportunity to dress in costume and become someone else.

Charlie Brown and Snoopy last Halloween.

I find Halloween fascinating. I don’t usually dress up, and prefer to stay home handing out candy and commenting on costumes. But I love watching the specials about hauntings and ghost hunts.  I thrive on the spooky feelings, and often wonder what is real and what is imagined. I admit that, when my mind is too cluttered to think straight,  I will sometimes (or often) distract myself by searching for videos of ghosts caught on tape, even though I know the majority of them are lame attempts at creating something spooky. (I hate the ones with pop-ups). Still, at this time of year I can’t resist . . . and if I am to be completely honest (as I try to be) when I feel overwhelmed and need to just get out of my own head I will even look for these videos at other times of the year. It’s my guilty pleasure.

I’m not talking about horror or slasher movies. I’m talking about the videos and pictures that give you a chill and make you feel like things go bump in the night. Of course, if I watch too many of them, then I start seeing shadows move or hearing things in the night. My mind begins to play tricks on me, or perhaps I open myself up and become more sensitive to what might be out there.

I am fascinated by the psychology of it all.

What really interests me though, is that questions about the existence of ghosts and  holidays celebrating and honoring the dead exist in cultures throughout the world. While modern Halloween has become a kind of bastardization of the Druid ceremony of Samhain, the roots and traditions of these ceremonies say a lot about human psychology, our attitude toward life and death, and our fears about a natural world that functions beyond our control. (I believe that our attempts to control nature have led us down an ultimately self-destructive path). Samhain  itself was a celebration connected with the harvest and the transition into winter:

“The origin of Halloween can be found in the ancient Celtic festival of the dead, Samhain (pronounced SOW-in). From present-day Ireland to the United Kingdom to Bretagne in France, the ancient Celts celebrated October 31st as the day when the normally strict boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead became mutable, and the ghosts of those who had passed away came back to earth. The celebration coincided with the final harvests of the year, the stockpiling of stores for the cold winter months when the sun set early and rose late, and when nature itself hibernated, dying until its rebirth in the spring.” (from “Not Just Halloween: Festivals of the Dead from Around the World“)

If you click on the link above, the article gives a brief overview and comparison of festivals of the dead from around the world including the Japanese Obon festival, the Cambodian P’chun Ben, and the Mexican Los Dias de los Muertos. I’m sure if I spent more time delving into research on the topic I would uncover many other cultures who have some sort of ceremony or day that honors the dead. (I have too many other things to work on so I can’t distract myself with that research now. Focus, Lisa! Focus.)

Why does this topic fascinate me so much? There are many reasons. I’m intrigued by the very human desire to seek out understanding about life and death. Most of us seem unable to live completely in the Now, which means we want to know where we are heading. What is our purpose in life? If our purpose isn’t simply to do good and live a happy life NOW then  we seem to need the reassurance that something else happens after death.  We also, I believe, yearn for an opportunity to connect with our loved ones lost, and festivals like these make the veil between the living and the dead seem less permanent.

I’m not 100% sure that I believe in ghosts, but I do believe that we are all somehow connected through energy. Perhaps that energy retains some snippets of our personalities or our thoughts and some sensitive people can sense those moments, those memories, those thoughts. Or perhaps ghosts are merely our brains trying to send us a message. I doubt I will ever know, but I will remain fascinated by the topic. I can’t help it, it’s my Spooky Fascination.

For some of my past posts about ghosts, you might want to read these:

 

 

 

In Defense of Letters

Poor, much maligned, “F.” So many people turned to my post yesterday thinking that it would about a much different “F” kind of day, only to find fun, fairies, and frolicking.

What did F ever do to deserve such a reputation? Is it because the lowest letter grade we can get is an F? or because, by simply attaching “-word” to follow a letter that letter becomes politicized at the very least and often turns into something negative? Our poor letters are taking a trampling in recent times.

  • The F-word or the F-bomb: Self-explanatory, but has definitely led to the corruption of poor innocent F
  • The L-word: a fabulous show, a shocking revelation, a word people are afraid to say to one another (love, silly–not lesbian). Neither of those words (love or lesbian) should be that terrifying or sinister, but . . .
  • The N-word: Now, granted, I don’t think this word should or needs to be said out loud, but I shared in a serious post in the past about how complex that word really is, because of its historical context as well as the way it is used at present.
  • Recently T-words and H-words have been trampled upon completely. I see you all scratching your head and thinking, what is she talking about? But, you have to admit that TRUTH has become twisted and HONESTY  has entered the realm of fantasy.
  • A poor little M-word has become a political hot-potato. As has an R-word, especially for women and G-words. (Translation: Marriage, Rights, and Gays)
  • The most recent attack on letters has, of course, been made on PBS, Oh, the humanity! (Or would that be Muppetity!)

I’m begging you people, stand up for the rights of letters to be well-rounded and represent all of their possible meanings rather than be defined by only one facet of their personalities. Let them embrace their multiple personalities and stand for the true power and variety of language.

Let F Stand for Freedom!

This Post is Brought to You By the Letter “F”

Friends, family, fun, fairies, fair, future possibilities, fantasy, fear of failure, frustration, and foolishness.

The letter F has had a starring role in my life this week.

It began with the Fairies. Monday was a school holiday in Massachusetts (you know the one that celebrates  the callousness of taking over other people’s homes and claiming it as our own).

We chose to celebrate by going on a little family adventure into the fantasy and wonder of fairies. We went to the Florence Griswold Museum in Old  Lyme, CT to see their Wee Fairy Village exhibit.

My favorite fairy house.

It had an uptree balcony where fairies could capture the sun and paint.

Of course, the fairies did not make an appearance in the wake of a hoard of loud, obnoxious, clumsy humans who had the tendency to touch things they shouldn’t, including trampling on some fabulous fairy landscapes and knocking over fences. Seems like the appropriate way to observe Columbus day, doesn’t it?

All sarcasm aside, the exhibit was lovely and some of my favorite fairy homes have inspired my family to build a fairy village in the rock garden behind the house. We haven’t started yet, but it could become a fabulous project. From the day I moved in, I thought it looked like a home for fairies and other wee creatures.

 

Don’t you think fairies would love to live here?

From Fairies we move onto fun with friends. On Wednesday I made another journey into Connecticut to pick up my friend Pam at the train station in Mystic. We had dinner at Mystic Pizza with Kristie, a fabulous college friend of mine. Okay, so Mystic Pizza doesn’t begin with “F” but the food was terrific, and the conversation was fantastic.

On Friday I spent the day at high school college fairs as an alumnae recruiter for Smith College. What an exhausting (although fun) way to spend the day. Kudos to those people who make a living doing that. It’s hard work trying to get overwhelmed college juniors and seniors to do more than give you a passing glance before running away with the look of scared rabbits as they try to avoid making choices about their future. Add to that the fact that I was fueled by caffeine to combat a night filled with insomnia, as well as  representing a women’s college, and the day became a combination of fun, frustrations, and fascinating observations. I did talk to about 8-10 students and meet an interesting woman, so at least it wasn’t an utter failure.

Speaking of failurefear of that has indeed been affecting my week as well (hence the insomnia). Its inevitable when pieces of my past meet (Pam is from one area of my life, Kristie from another) that I begin to reflect on the evil “coulda woulda shoulda’s” of my life, followed by a reflection on where I’ve failed and where the future leads. I’m a freak in this way, because I am very hard on myself, but I guess that goes with the territory of being a person who has always (perhaps foolishly) believed in the fantasy of living a life filled with adventure, good challenges,  fulfillment and fun.

But that leads me to another F that fell into my awareness last night. Have you ever read a job description that just felt like the perfect fit? I don’t want to jinx it, or go into too many details, but this position, which would be in a somewhat new field for me, has opened up my eyes and my dreams to future possibilities. Of course, I may not get it, but the least I can do is try. Failure here would be in not at least pursuing the possibility and seeing where it leads. I simply have to have a little faith in myself.

Today we will be following the fall by driving up to  Maine where we will leave Pam with her family after driving through fabulous fall foliage (I hope).

One of the fairies collected fall foliage for a fabulous artistic display.

I never realized how fantastic the letter F truly is.

May you all have a fabulous fall day full of fantastic, frolicking fun with friends and family, as well as fantabulous flowers, foliage, and future possibilities!

What was the guiding letter of your week?

 

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