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!

 

 

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:

 

 

 

Variations on a Challenge (100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups)

The challenge:

“Now for this week, I’m pinching (with permission!) an idea from my dear friend Jenny Matlock.  You may not be old enough to know this rhyme:

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot…

Now it has a rhythm to it – yes? Your challenge this week is to write something with the same rhythm using only 21 words that include ‘ …in winter we shiver…‘ Easy!”

Once I started the challenge, I couldn’t stop, so here are three variations:

Version I: Seasonal Silliness

Whatever the weather in winter we shiver
Whenever the wind does blow
‘Tis the season, surpassing reason
Making men from snow.

Photo by Steve Kramer

Version II: Celebrating the Season

In winter we shiver, limbs all a-quiver
Whenever winds do blow
Still many a reason, a smiling season;
Stupendous sparkly snow.

Version III: Season of Doom

Come hither children, in winter we shiver
as death creeps ever in.
Play, play, forever; undefeatable never
for seasons always win.

Be sure to read all the other entries.

Night Marchers in the Bathroom Help Me Discover Another Fabulous Friend

When New Friends Meet

“Oh my God, Lisa! You have to get in here!”

The cry came from the bathroom of my apartment in Hawaii. It was a strange cry coming from a relatively new friend, also named Lisa, who was taking a shower at my place when a day of getting to know each other better became one long string of adventures.

The next thing I know, she bursts out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel, gorgeous red hair streaming water. “I’m serious Lisa, you’ve got to hear this.”

I hesitantly follow her back into the bathroom where the shower is still running.  “What is it?’ I ask. Everything seemed the same as when I had taken my shower just a short time earlier.

“Shh! Listen, can you hear that drumming?” I listened carefully, and suddenly tuned in on what sounded like distant rhythmic drumming. It wasn’t water in the pipes. It wasn’t a drummer practicing a set. It was the very distant drums of ritual.

“What is that?” I asked.

“It’s the Night Marchers.”

“The what?”

“The Night Marchers. And I think we are lucky that we were taking showers, because it probably saved our lives.”

“What?”

A true friendship formed as she explained the legend; a friendship that started when Nathan introduced me to one of his best high school friends and has lasted through the years as she became a truly fabulous woman, mother, and citizen of this earth.

 

This story reveals how my fascination with the supernatural opened the door to another amazing person in my life who I wish to celebrate.

The Legend of the Night Marchers

The Night Marchers are

ghostly apparitions of a band of beings who move with purpose to the beat of primitive pounding drums. Some say they are armed spirit warriors en route to or from battle, toting archaic weaponry and clothed in decorated helmets and cloaks. Other accounts tell of high-ranking alii (ruler) spirits being guided to places of high importance or to welcome new warriors to join in battle. (http://www.to-hawaii.com/legends/night-marchers.php)

In Hawaiian legend, to look upon the Night Marchers and meet them in the eye means death, as the Marchers take them with you on their lonely march. However, you can save yourself from this fate by averting your eyes and crouching down. Or, according to Lisa on that particular day, “they won’t take you if you are naked.”

Good thing, isn’t it, since they seemed to be moving through my shower?

Lasting Friendship Formed

I’m not 100% sure of this, but I think our meeting with the Night Marcher’s came on, perhaps, the second day of our friendship. Nathan and Lisa had been best friends in high school. When she came back to the island for a visit after Nathan and I started dating, he introduced us, and within minutes it was like we had known each other forever.   Nathan was not with us on the day of the Night Marchers, I believe we had decided we just needed to get to know each other better and have a girls’ day. It became one of those days where you plan on doing one thing, and then you add on another, and another, until all of a sudden you’ve had a complete day full of adventures. I don’t remember all the details of that day (although I do recall a cop trying to pull us over for an out-of-date sticker or something, and Lisa managing to talk us out of it because her dad was a policeman and the cop recognized her–I was impressed).

I don’t know if the spooky beginnings cemented our relationship or what, but I have been honored to know Lisa these many years, and to count her among my closest (although long-distant) friends. Lisa is one of those amazing women that fights for what she believes in, and especially for justice, equality, and the rights of children. She used to work for Teach for America, then went on to pursue journalism, where she eloquently wrote about education. She then moved onto working for the public education system. Throughout it all, she has provided a passionate pursuit for change and the importance of an educational system that truly succeeds. She hasn’t always had it easy, as she became the victim of politics (as often happens to good people). But, despite the struggles, she always keeps a positive attitude and a caring heart. When I last spent time with her (she’s the one who took me for my first pedicure) she was trying to alleviate tensions between an offended rabbi and some people who unintentionally insulted him through naiveté. (I’m not sure the end result, I’ll have to find out).

Her husband, Matt, is also an incredible person, advocating for and supporting first-generation college students to help them succeed. Together they represent a truly caring, intelligent couple that wants nothing more than to live a life full of love, and share that love with others.

Lisa and Matt

Lisa and I are more than just friends. In many ways we are sisters, and I am so lucky for that. I was there when her now husband Matt proposed to her. While I wasn’t there when she gave birth to her first child a few months before I gave birth to mine, those two girls have since met and immediately became fast friends. In many ways, I think the spirit world has intervened to make souls come together who were destined to meet.

Instant friends, sisters at heart.

It just goes to show you that eerie things might happen, but perhaps messages from beyond are messages intended to help, not to harm. I’m sure Lisa and I would have been friends anyway, but it didn’t hurt to get a little nudge from the Night Marchers. (By the way, I only heard them one more time in that bathroom, and I listened for them all the time).

Monsters in the Closet and Other Scary Stuff

“I can’t sleep with the closet door open.”

I made this statement on one of the rare occasions when the entire Kramer family was gathered together. My mother looked at me as if I was completely insane and said, “Really? You’re kidding!”

“No, I’m not. I’m afraid of monsters in the closet. I know they aren’t really there, but I can’t help being afraid.”

My mother continued to scoff.

Much to my surprise my older sister (Deb) who you haven’t met often, and my older brother (Steve) who you have, jumped to my defense.

“I know exactly why she’s afraid,” Deb said. “It was because of Grandma’s house.”

“Yeah,” Steve agreed. “The door with the glass doorknob.”

My mom looked at us all strangely. “What are you talking about?”

So we explained.

When my grandparents were alive we would go visit them in Belmar, New Jersey. My grandparents passed away within a few months of each other when I was about 6 years old, so my memories of them are limited. My sister is 5 years older than me, so she probably has clearer memories, but we rarely talk about them. Perhaps we should.

When we visited my grandparents the kids all stayed in one room. A small double bed filled one side of the room, and a cot lay opposite for the third little body. We alternated who would sleep in the double and who would sleep in the cot. You might think we all wanted the cot, but you would be wrong. Why?

Because the cot was right next to the scariest door in the world. The one with the glittery, diamond-shaped door knob.

 

I’m not sure where the door led. I always thought it led to the attic (shudder) but someone told me it was just a closet. When it was my turn, I would lie in that cot, the door knob inches from my non-sleeping eyes convinced that at any moment the door knob would turn from unseen hands and open to suck me into a terrifying nightmare.

We were all afraid of the door knob.

“Why didn’t you say something?” Mom asked. “Grandma would have done something.”

“We were kids, Mom,” My sister answered.

But I think it was deeper than that, I think we didn’t say anything because nobody would have believed us anyway. We would have received the same reaction then as we did on this day, nearly 40 years later.

I am convinced that my grandparent’s house had its ghosts, even if they were simply the ghosts of our imagination. I am also convinced that, if I have ever really been visited by ghosts, the visitations have come from my grandparents, my nana (Dad’s mother) and possibly a man we called Cousin Lou who may or may not actually be my relative. All I remember about him is the giant red teddy bear with the flowered belly that he gave me after winning it from the fair.

When did they visit? I will try to remember some of the occasions that add to my belief in the power of spirit, as I discussed yesterday.

  • When Nana passed away, a bird got into my brother’s tiny bedroom somehow. My mom claims the window was open, but I remember it being closed. Even if it was open, this had never happened before. Birds, in Jewish folklore, can represent a “winged soul.” This particular bird was extremely important as it got into the room a few minutes before we got the phone call saying Nana had just passed away. I will always believe Nana came to say good-bye.
  • I used to have a recurring dream that took place at my grandparents house. Sometimes we would go down into the basement of the house (a basement that I really don’t have a memory of). Usually my grandparents aren’t there, at least not visibly, but I hear their voices talking to me and telling me something. I might just pass these off as dreams except for something I learned much later in life, Deb and Steve both used to have similar dreams.
  • In a similar way, Cousin Lou often visited me in dreams of my Nana’s house, although not as often.
  • There is one day that I know all my ancestors were with me in spirit; the day I became a Bat Mitzvah. I remember the day starting out cloudy, threatening rain. This upset me, as I wanted a beautiful day. But, by the time the Friday evening ceremony rolled around, the sun shone in glorious April beauty. A gift from my loved ones. When I stood on the Bima to read my haftorah, my stomach jiggled with a million butterflies. There was a certain part of the complex Hebrew text that always sounded like something else to me. I can’t remember exactly what, but it was something like “we love you” or another comforting phrase like that. It was early on in my chanting, and as soon as I hit the phrase my heart filled with warmth and I knew that the people who would have most celebrated that day (my grandparents were Orthodox Jews) were there with me, with glowing golden smiles on their faces. My Mom said she saw me smile then. I continued with a strong voice, and was even invited back to repeat the haftorah the following year.

Of course, this could all have been the workings of a very imaginative child, but who knows? Most bumps and creaks in the night can be easily explained away, but once in a while you experience a mystery that adds to the awesome complexities of life.

So forgive me if I close my closet door before I go to sleep. You never know when something unexpected might come out.

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

It’s that time of year again, when thoughts turn to jack o’ lanterns and spookiness, ghosts and goblins and all things that go bump in the night.

And, of course, candy. Don’t forget the candy.

For me this time of year is really just an excuse to delve more deeply into something that has always fascinated me . . . questions about ghosts and the paranormal.

Do you believe in ghosts? It’s a complicated question in this somewhat pessimistic era, where people demand proof of everything before they will believe (except, of course, those who are able to devoutly believe in religion without questioning–something I am not really able to do).

In some ways I think it was easier to live in a time when everyone believed in the unexplained, because they had no way of proving anything differently. For example, the roots of Halloween are based on the Celtic belief that

on the night before the new year, [which for them was November 1] the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.(http://www.history.com/topics/halloween)

Nobody questioned the existence of spirits them, because spirits helped explain away the challenges they faced throughout the year.

Despite the fact that we tend to be more cynical, it seems like questions about the paranormal still haunt many of us, and provide hours of entertainment. Television shows like Ghost Hunters have inspired the creation of numerous ghost hunting adventures, as well as a variety of other paranormal based television shows and movies. If you do a Google search for videos about ghosts or paranormal or anything related, you’ll find hundreds if not thousands of clips, many completely fake but a few that leave you questioning. I admit, I do this often because of my own fascination.

Do I believe in ghosts? I’m not sure I can answer. When I was younger, I could sense shifts in energy that left eerie feelings inside me. I’ve met many people who still seem to have an intense connection with spirit. In some ways, I recognize that believing in ghosts serves a psychological purpose, but I am just as fascinated by that psychology as the question of whether or not ghosts are real. Why do we want them to be so much?

And of course, I have had  several experiences that leave me open to the possibility:

  • One Wednesday evening when we were children, my sister and I (and maybe my brother, I don’t remember) used the Ouija Board (which I will no longer touch because of this incident) and were supposedly talking to the spirit of my grandmother. When we asked where Grandpa was, the response said, “Out dancing.” Further inquiry led to the name of a specific dance, that I cannot recall. Later, in discussion with our mother, we learned that Grandpa used to go out every Wednesday to do that dance. Now, my sister might have been old enough to remember that, but I certainly wasn’t. You decide.
  • Around the time the mini-series The Holocaust (1978) came on, I immersed myself in reading everything I could find about this horrific event in history. I was in Hebrew School and was immersed in my own Judaism at the time, so that isn’t surprising. I read, and read, and read. That is, until one morning when I lay awake in my bedroom and saw  a pile of skulls and dead bodies lying across the room. Yes, I know it was probably just my mind making visual sense of all the words I read, but it was eerily real and scary enough that I did not pick up another book about the Holocaust for years.
  • There was the night in college when several of us decided to sneak into the theatre building and spend the night on the stage. Every theatre has its ghosts, and this one was no exception. Let’s just say I didn’t sleep well that night, and it had nothing to do with the security guard that surprised us at one point (but let us stay because he knew many of us had keys anyway).

Perhaps these aren’t the most convincing ghost experiences, but the feelings I get sometimes in ancient places are enough to make me unsure of what I believe. My fascination carries over into books I choose to read, not horror fiction but non-fiction that explores the topic from believers to skeptics. I just finished reading The Medium Next Door by Maureen Hancock. She shares her experience as a “Real-Life Ghost Whisperer”, but her book does more than that, it helps explore the reasons behind this need to believe in ghost. It offers an explanation of why ghosts exist. She explains that our souls are here for a designated time and then move on, leaving our physical bodies behind like a “used car.” She offers an understanding of death that can provide comfort to the living, and enables them to understand that death is not an end–without delving into any specific religious doctrine.

Because, after all, isn’t the question about ghosts really a hope to understand the meaning of life an death?

I may never truly know whether or not ghosts exist, or at least not until I am looking from the other side. I may never know if there are creatures from other planets, or magic is real. I may never know, but I’m okay with that, because the mystery adds spice to life. After all,

“There are more things in heaven and earth, . . . Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (Shakespeare)

What do you think? Do you believe in ghosts?

For a fabulously creepy and wonderfully written  post that got posted as I wrote this, and supports the existence of ghosts read The Footsteps on the Stairs at She’s a Maineiac.

More stories keep cropping up now, so I will continue to add links to fabulous stories as I go.  Here’s one called “Serendipity, Coincidences or Lifes Small Miracles” by Georgette Sullins.

The Line Between Safety and Fear

This morning a girl from neighborhood, who I don’t know, knocked on our door. My husband answered and the girl said, “I missed the bus, could you drive me to school?” My husband hesitated before agreeing to give her a ride.

I know that I am new to small town life (or at least this small) but I was really disturbed by this incident. Maybe it is the fact that last year we had a big meeting at my daughter’s elementary school about Stranger Danger after a registered  sex offender (and high risk) was released on parole and moved into the neighborhood near the school, and after a couple of incidents in our neighborhood and at the school involving strangers and cars and children. We were scared. At the public notice meeting over the parolee, the police provided lot of information about the numbers of registered offenders in that area. There were a lot, both men and women.

Back to this morning’s incident. I like that this child has been taught to trust her neighbors, but at the same time my mind was screaming “You just asked a strange man for a ride!”

So what do I teach my daughter? I don’t want her growing up in fear of every strange person. I want her to be confident about asking for help when she needs it. But, at the same time, I want her safe. I was just saying yesterday, as we were with a group trick-or-treating  that I am cautious about arranging play dates for Sarah until I meet the parents. Is that being a good parent or instilling fear into my daughter and reinforcing loneliness?

It is all so confusing.  I would love to live in a world where this was not an issue, where I could feel safe everywhere and trust that everyone around me is as kind as I am. I would love to live in a world where I feel comfortable leaving my doors unlocked at all times. Maybe I’m just still not comfortable in my new town. I left my door unlocked in my old neighborhood. And, even though I didn’t know my neighbors well, I would not have minded if Sarah went to them for help.

I would have minded her knocking on a stranger’s door however.

Where is the line between safety and fear?

******

Some more thoughts . . .

A friend just commented that she was more afraid for Nathan because of  “In this day in age the shit that could rain down on him for having a stranger’s 4th grade girl in his care and in his vehicle (as in if there was an accident) is huge.” She’s right. In our time, being a good Samaritan or a kind neighbor has its own risks. That, in itself, is a sad statement. I would love to be able to trust people fully, but trust doesn’t last long in our society. Where did we go wrong?

Neewollah vs. Snowdown

I’ve spent the past few years living in small towns that pride themselves on special festivals which put them on the map. The first, Durango, CO is actually a tourist destination, so it doesn’t rely on its biggest festival, Snowdown, to make its name known. My current town, Independence, KS, does rely on the festival of Neewollah (Halloween spelled backwards) to make the town grow from 10,000 to 75,000 over the course of the festival.

Yesterday, as we watched the Do Dah Parade (a parade that is supposed to be for adult participants only—kids can watch) I couldn’t help but reflect back on the Snowdown parade to compare and contrast. Now the comparison isn’t completely equal, in that I should probably wait for Neewollah’s Grand Parade, but because of the adult-ish-ness of the two parades, I can’t help but do this.  Actually, I think I’ll compare and contrast the festivals as a whole. I think the results might surprise you:

Neewollah Snowdown
Lots of family friendly entertainment A few family friendly events, but mostly adult oriented and involving alcohol
Parade costumes  (for Do Dah)were Halloween based, ranging from scary/creepy to cute Parade costumes based on a theme, and usually including as much revealing of flesh as possible
Candy, candy, candy Candy, candy, candy
Parade starts with a single firework, but its daytime so you can’t see it Parade starts with a single firework after the sun has gone down.
Held in October, so it’s cold but not freezing. Held in February, so it’s bone-chilling cold.
Some interesting parade floats—my favorite being the deer driving with a dead hunter strapped to the hood. Some interesting floats, but, depending on the theme they can become redundant. I always loved the hot air balloons that allowed for a blast of warmth on a cold winter night
A fair full of rides and fair food Multiple events all around town, but not all family friendly.
Budweiser float. Coors light sponsorship
Queen Neelah competition Spelling Bees and other competitions, many snow based competitions
Community musical Snowdown Follies

I’m sure I can make this list expand as the days continue. I do find it interesting that Neewollah seems more family friendly, but I’m not attending every event, and I didn’t do that for Snowdown either.

I just find these small town festivals interesting. How about you?

Neewollah 2: Fair, Food, Fun

 

At the top of the world.

 

But I have to say it is kind of neat having this fair (because as far as I can tell that is what Neewollah is, a giant fair with lots of food) only a couple of blocks away. it is a great distraction for my daughter, who is bouncing around the house with excitement over food, festivities and fun. She and I, with a friend, wandered around downtown before the fair started to scope out rides and vendors. Much to my surprise, and a little sadness, Sarah is tall enough for a good number of the rides this year.  She took advantage of that and rode some high-speed, high rising rides later that evening (after Nathan joined us). We all rode the Ferris Wheel together, which is always one of my favorite things to do. I love to see the world from high places.

In addition, we spent money, ate, spent money, ate . . . (are you noticing a pattern here. Between the four of us (Myself, Sarah, Nathan, and our friend Dorienne) we managed to eat the following:

1 36 oz cup of lemonade (S & L)

1 bottle of homemade root beer (D)

1 caramel apple (D)

1 sampler platter of greek food with lamb, chicken and salad (N & L)

2  floofle (????) sandwiches, I know that’s not the correct word. It’s like a stuffed pastry. (S & D)

1 cinnamon roll (L, N, S & D)

Sarah and Dorienne also got their faces painted in an attempt to help some of the college students with their not-clearly planned fund-raiser. I mostly enjoyed walking around and people watching on a Wednesday evening, since the crowds haven’t grown to uncomfortable proportions yet.

 

It's all in the eyes.

 

After all that food, we went to a friend’s house to carve pumpkins, which  was the most fun I thought.

All-in-all a decent day. Is Neewollah anything special? Well, it’s your typical fair, but that’s okay. It is an excuse to wander around in the beautiful fall weather, to treat yourself to food you would not normally eat, and to watch hundreds of people witnessing the same experience. It’s nice to hear music being sung outside (even if I have limited tolerance for Christian Rock or Country) and to see every shop loaded with non-Christmas decorations, some created by local school children.

We’ll see what happens next as parade craziness enters the picture.

 

Halloween Spookiness

 

Neewollah 1: Chili Experience

One of the things my new town is known for is Neewollah, a ten-day festival that “is the oldest and largest annual celebration in Kansas. The city of Independence will grow from a town of 10,000 inhabitants to 75,000”  http://www.neewollah.com/. Today I experienced my first festival activities, and I thought I would share.

The day began looking overcast, so I prepared for chilly weather, but of course was wrong. I still haven’t figured out Kansas weather. The sun popped in an out, and then the clouds moved in. The wind picked up, bringing a slight chill, but the general mugginess of the air made me feel warm. I guess my solution is going to have to be layers.

The first event of the morning was a 5K race that I did not participate in. I am not a runner. It does remind me, however, that someday I want to participate in the 3 Day Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, so I better get back on track in the eating healthy and walking department.

Following the 5K was the Fun Run for all the school kids in town. Sarah was participating. I’d say there were more than 100 kids wandering around in brightly colored t-shirts (a different color for each school). Sarah was lucky and got purple, our favorite color. Before the race they took school pictures. Sarah couldn’t really find any of her friends, so she looked uncomfortable waiting with the purple clad kids. What also struck me, perhaps for the first time, was the fact that Sarah is not white. I know she’s not, her dad is Japanese and Korean, but it was so glaring as she sat in the midst of blonde-haired, blue-eyed kids from Independence, KS. Perhaps I’m over-sensitive, but it just really struck me today.

She’s also still suffering somewhat from ‘new kid” syndrome. We ran into one of the girls that Sarah talks about all the time, and the girl introduced Sarah to her Dad as “she’s the new kid.” I’ve never really been the new kid, so I don’t know how long that stigma lasts, or if it is even a stigma. Sarah seems okay with it, but I know it sometimes hard because she wants play dates and things but I am shy about meeting people. So maybe I’m making it worse.

Anyway, back to the race. Sarah seemed to have a good time. I think she probably walked more of it than she actually ran, but what the heck. I don’t know that she has ever actually run a mile. I’m proud of her for trying.

Next was the event I was waiting for.  All morning the wind brought interesting smells to my nose, the traditional smells of fall leaves combined with a little spiciness that meant chili was cooking in preparation for the contest. Three dollars buys you a dish, a spoon, a napkin, a bottle of water and enough chili to wreak havoc on bathrooms for the rest of the day. The first chili I tasted was the best, but it was also the most surprising. Alligator chili! I never thought I would try something like that, but oh was it good. None of the other chili recipes really stood out for me. I avoided the super spicy, not feeling up to gastronomic challenges like that today. It is always interesting, I think, standing in line with hundreds of other people in a competition over spice. I loved listening to all the jokes that never fail to happen at a chili cook-off, as everyone recognizes that our decadent overindulgence can only lead to one thing at the end of the day. Sometimes you just have to love the craziness we humans invent.

Meanwhile, Sarah was drawn to the numerous bouncing activities. I wish I had the camera with me when she competed with a bungee cord contraption to see how far she could get a beanbag before she was snapped back in a flying plunge. Her face was fabulous with wide-eyed excitement and joy. Later she went on the obstacle course slide, but it wasn’t the same.

The clouds got thicker and the wind got stronger. Our bellies were beginning to slosh with chili goodness. We decided it was time to head home, but first bought tickets for our next step on the Neewollah adventure–the town’s production of Music Man this evening.

It has been a fun start. Now I need a nap.

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