Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What we've lost by becoming fearful

What can be said about October and its ‘infamous’ (according to some) holiday? Halloween and all the good and bad connotations that come along with it – do you talk about it and if you enjoy it? Or do you zipper your mouth in certain company and hope they don’t find out it’s a guilty pleasure? Ah Missy, your mouth – if anything – can never be zippered. All shall know that Halloween and all that goes with it is one of your favorite times of the year. For this, I shall never feel guilty.

There’s something to be relished in this wind-whipped season, with leaves the color of burnished gold and a chill wind that doesn’t yet hold the sting of winter. There was an innocent time that I remember, before alleged back-masking and all the fears of the day tried to take away what was a time of fun and creepy pleasure. Before everyone made you feel guilty for enjoying several weeks of pranks and wild, dark rides through Panther Hollow. It was a time when we Trick or Treated on the streets of Berlin, yes Berlin, and stuffed our plastic pumpkins full of miniature candies and caramel apples. Back before there were rumors of razor blades tucked inside apples and the hysteria would reach a fever pitch. I hurtle myself back through layers of years that have turned this time of year into Trunk or Treat and ‘Harvest’ Festivals that don’t allow a single wisp of a witch’s hat or devilish grin to be found. The innocence has been repealed and replaced with sterile times that never hold a hint of anything that makes your skin shiver, just for a bit. We don’t want our kids exposed to anything that might contain anything other than light and life. Why? Is life so perfect and pleasant that they should never see anything outside the bubble?

I’m not going to go into the histrionics and babble of why things changed. What I can do is reminisce about what I miss. I lament the fact that most kids don’t get the joy of donning a plastic mask, knowing your breath will come hot and heavy under its hollow shell, and running merrily door to door and ringing the doorbell. “Trick or Treat!” we would cry with our loot gradually making our bags heavier and heavier. The night would be crisp and the wind would whip our costumes because yes, we always Trick or Treated at night – why in the world should it be done during the day? Before you tell me that it’s because of safety, let me remind you that we oft times cling to the fears that are set before us. If a seed is planted that something is evil, then it grows and grows along with the fears that are put into us.

“Halloween is evil!” they cry.

I’ll never be in the majority, especially in the area I live in. But, I must tell you that I embrace letting the outside in. My kids grew up watching scary movies and dressing for Halloween. I took them to neighboring towns so they could Trick or Treat and be part of a spine-tingling childhood experience. Why must we hide it from them? When our children go out into the world, with nary an experience to draw from, they will be inundated with things that have been kept from them. As for us, my kids were ready. Nothing surprised them. There is evil in this world and we must face it, see it, and deal with it. I believe in none of this sterile ‘fall party’ theme that is pushed to the limit – all in the name of keeping our kids hidden. We used to bob for apples in the old Berlin gym after we marched down Main Street in full Halloween regalia. There were prizes for best costume and medals handed out. We mingled and mixed in full costume in a school that embraced this time of year.

My little hippie, witch, and valiant warrior circa 2000. 

When did we become so fearful? When did we begin to hide and shelter our children so much? My children were not sheltered. We fostered embracing our beliefs along with knowing what is in the world. Ignoring that Halloween exists doesn’t make it disappear. My husband, being from Mexico, celebrates Dia de los Muertos which coincides with Halloween night into November 1st. It is a time where they believe the spirits of our loved ones return, for one night, and a small altar is decorated and food is put out. The gravestones are cleaned up, flowers placed around and most of the night is spent in the cemetery laughing and enjoying the evening – all while embracing death and the journey to the afterlife. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is an evil belief. This is a time of remembering those who have passed and honoring them. It’s a highly-held tradition in Mexico and to put evil into it is to miss the point.

My 'Dia de los Muertos' picture. This is how sugar skulls are painted in Mexico. 

Every year I struggle with what I say and do around this time. I long to don a mask and skip merrily house to house as I did so long ago, to feel the dark evening wind and have it caress my face. I’ve long ago realized that I don’t much care what others think. In the past several years we’ve been so busy in October with soccer and work that I didn’t decorate as much as I wanted to. This year, however, I’m in the midst of relishing it. My house is empty and I decided I would enjoy each season to the fullest. Grinning pumpkin cutouts hang on my door, and sparkly skulls hold reign in what soon will be my Dia de los Muertos vignette. Jack O’ Lanterns will soon be carved and smiling brightly from my porch, and if you drive by on a dark evening, wave at our friend we put together to greet you as you go by. Topping off the décor is a trio of vintage masks I found at local thrift store. When I saw them my heart swelled – they were the masks of my youth. Heavy and thick with an elastic band in the back, they now smile at me from my bookshelves where I can see them every day …. and be reminded of lost times, that in all their innocence, might never be repeated again.

The masks of my youth. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Stubbornness found in a bowl of Seven-Minute Frosting

I’ve noticed a strange and frightening trend in myself – I’m learning to stretch the food I have in my pantry. No one panic. Gone are the days when if I had one stick of butter left I
would run uptown before I ran out. Do you know I’ve made one stick last for five days? Butter. Me. Five days. This is something that would have been unheard of when the kids were home because the pantry was always stocked. Since cleaning out the kitchen I’ve learned that buying what we like, enough of it, and not freaking out when said item is gone – makes you become a bit more inventive in the kitchen. It’s become a game of sorts, eating what you have. Also, it saves you a lot of money.

I recently wrote about cooking and the excitement I felt at trying new things and cooking in different ways. Using what I have available is also very new to me – and no, that doesn’t make me a bad person. Before, if I didn’t have two jugs of milk in the fridge it felt very empty. Now I’ve learned to tamp down that growing feeling of nausea when I have one half gallon sitting there in all its glory - fresh milk, enough just for George and I, waiting to be used. I’m using war tactics on myself to become trained in the art of self-sufficiency in the food department. Let’s be honest, we all know that trips to the store are a life-sucking process that drains our wallets and leaves us feeling we don’t really know what we have available to cook with. We think, “Ugh, do I have lasagna noodles? I’ll just pop in to the store and get some anyway.” While there, the black-hole set up of the grocery store makes our carts fill up to capacity. Somewhere, somehow, I’m gaining strength in that department. Last evening I made a white chicken chili that was amazing. I made it with looking in the cupboard and pulling out things on hand.

Maybe I’m being a bit bullish. As I type, I am refusing to buy butter until I need groceries and I am down to half a stick. Anyone that knows me knows that I hoard butter. When I run out you know that life as we know it is slowly winding down and the universe is drawing itself into an implosion. That being said, last evening we were both craving something sweet. I put my thinking cap on and thought about what I could make that didn’t have butter in it. I decided on an old crazy cake recipe from our church cookbook which uses oil as the shortening ingredient. It’s also mixed up in the baking pan so this meant I was winning on that aspect alone. Also, any cake that has vinegar is a winner. Just mark my words. Frosting, though, was the problem. A good buttercream or mocha frosting takes copious amounts of butter, and as well they should, and I make a mean mocha frosting. Suddenly, I remember an old, old recipe for seven minute frosting – which I had never made. Cookbooks, though, are something I like to peruse through so I knew it was a cooked frosting. About seven minutes later, arm aching from holding the hand mixer over the double boiler, I had a delicious frosting that didn’t need butter. Stubbornness, and using what’s on hand, can often net you delicious endings – and money in your pocket

Friday, October 3, 2014


I have seen movies and I have loved them. My repertoire goes back into the vast recesses of the seventies, or at least as far back as I can remember. My list of movies that have affected change in my life is a long one. The list of movies that I simply love is even longer. Not many days go by that I’m not watching one - or have one on the Netflix queue ready to go. I wouldn’t make it very long without them, and if that makes me petty then so be it. There are more addictions than people in this world and movies don’t top the addiction list at a very high number. Books and movies are my only vices, well, along with live-tweeting the Oscars. Guilty.

I remember back to when I was small and we only received six channels or so from the awkward antennae on the top of our house. Yes, I did once get stuck on the climbable antennae tower. Our Zenith Color TV (notice the word color) stood proudly in the family room and when the TV would lose reception, we would get on the floor and turn the dial on the little box that controlled the antennae. You could hear it clicking as it moved its direction N, S, W, or E. The fuzzy ‘snow’ on the screen slowly evaporated as the connection clicked into place and it was a go to find my favorite programs. I spent many a Saturday, after Scooby-Doo in the morning, watching Super Host and John Lanigan. They introduced me to the old, old Dracula movies, vintage Wolfman, so cheesy yet divine, as well as those space movies I loved so much. Supe was part of my childhood and I soaked up every bit of those old flicks with an eager eye – I mean what’s better than ‘The Blob’? Friday nights with Big Chuck and Little John were memorable for the skits and scary movies they always showed. How can you not love a slate of Hammer Films, chocolate chip cookies, and chills?

Say what you will about my selection of films, I never gave up being a movie watcher. I remember seeing ‘Holocaust’ and ‘Roots’ on our TV at home in all their mini-series hoopla. Those movies are burned into my psyche. The late seventies and well into the eighties brought us the slasher films in all their glory. Friday the 13th, Halloween, and so many more became part and parcel of being a teenager in the eighties. Who can forget seeing Footloose in the theater as well as Dirty Dancing, Red Dawn, or St. Elmo’s Fire? I drove to Wooster during a thunderstorm in the summer of ’85 in my dad’s rusty old truck to see St. Elmo’s Fire. It was the first ever movie I saw alone and the memory of the trip and movie make me smile. I remember the first time I could get into (or did someone get US in?) the Lyric Twin Cinema with a friend to watch a movie, as well as the Quaker in all its vintage glory. Buy your popcorn, hold your ticket tightly to show the man with the flashlight, and when the lights went down you would sink into your seat. I called it heaven. 

With the advent of the VCR we were able to bring more and more movies into the home. In those days you had to drive to New Phila just to rent movies, and drive we did. We were so proud of that huge box that played movies that we would’ve driven to Canada just to rent them. Remember when you had to pay to have a rental membership? A long way and many years later I still have my rental card. Questor movies, that was the place.

I did luck out with my husband. Girls, if you love movies never marry a man who won’t see the ones you like. It’s a give and take, because we take turns picking, but my guy will see any movie with me – ANY movie. This includes chick flicks, horror movies, independent movies, action/thriller, and even a movie called Tusk where he really did walk in blindly. Bless him for laughing, crying, and going along with my crazy choices. It’s been an adventure in film. When the kids were smaller we would stock up on movies at Video Connection (miss that place) and make a big bed in the living room. Movie after movie would play until they fell asleep, then it was time for our movies. We’ve made them movie lovers and now my son is in school for Film and Video Direction. I couldn’t be prouder.

Now that we’re alone in the house our Netlix queue is big and wide, vast and deep. Movie rentals stores nearly no longer exist, so every once in a while we’ll rent at Redbox for $1, or download a movie On-Demand for a little bit more. We make treks to the cinema in Canton be it Tinseltown or Movies 10 which is a dollar theater. Some people spend money on sports or hobbies – one of our hobbies is movies. When it’s time to get out of the house we’ll look at each other and say, “Wanna go eat and see a movie?” I’ll grab my reusable Cinemark popcorn bucket and cup for cheaper than cheap refills and we’re off. If we’re sitting on the couch and cable has nothing to offer, I’ll load up Netflix and we’ll peruse the thousands of titles available for our viewing pleasure. We’re a movie household or even movie freaks if you will (shout out to the Movie Freaks Facebook community – which has given me more obscure and awesome titles to choose from than I’ll ever have time to watch). 

We’ll be watching movies forever until we’re old and gray – and yep, we’ll be that cool trendy couple that still goes to the theater because once it’s in your blood it never quite goes away. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

On being a worthy room-owning woman

Do you feel worthy?

Slipping back through the curtain of years I take a look at myself with a harsh lens. I was not very confident and cared way too much about what others thought of me. I wish I could go back thirty years and give myself a slap in the face. Harsh truth. When faced with a myriad of ways I could’ve reacted to adversity, most of the time I let tears take over and went home to bury myself in a book. Granted, books are a good thing, but taking the time to be strong and face conflict is even better. Listening to music in my own world was healing, but not even Shaun Cassidy can solve all problems. I slid through those years feeling sorry for myself and especially letting those feelings of “not good enough” take over. Most of these feelings were covered up with a good heavy mask that I took off when I entered my room, which was my haven. Even now, thinking of that girl and the genuine ability and spunk she had makes me weep for what she could have been then.

We ask ourselves, if given the opportunity, would we travel back in time and live our lives a different way. Knowing what I know now, I would just want several days back. I would speak words differently, gather myself and who I am, and project that I wasn’t a pushover. Somehow, it took entering my forties to realize who that girl is – she is me. That was a few years too long, but I’m so glad I met her and we started taking names. There are times it creeps back in, like when I enter a room or gathering and start thinking that all these people are wondering why I’m there – that I don’t belong. I tamp it down and hold my head at a cocky angle and I walk in that room like I own it. It takes a bit of practice, but soon you’re not feeling the old emotions anymore. Victory.

It’s a bit liberating to state that you’ve beaten your old foe insecurity. As women, though, we are a bit too apologetic. I read an article this morning called “15 Career tips for women” and though the title sounds a bit blasé, it was an absolutely refreshing article. One of the quotes hit me square in the face because I’ve been this way. I know what I’m worth and I should state it without wording it like a question. We all, as women, need to tap into our own worth and power and use it to better ourselves – so we can all walk into the room like we own it.

“Speak in statements instead of apologetic questions. No one wants to go to a doctor who says, “I’m going to be your surgeon? I’m here to talk to you about your procedure? I was first in my class at Johns Hopkins, so?” Make statements, with your actions and your voice.” –Tina Fey

You can find this and all my other columns on The Holmes County Bargain Hunter

Friday, September 19, 2014

The insatiable desire for order from chaos

Insatiable, yes, that’s the word. I have been infused with the insatiable need to purge my house—every corner, every closet, everything. If you know me, you know that I have become more streamlined over the years. I no longer yearn for heavily decorated knickknacks lining every shelf in a whimsical fashion. I want spare. I want clean. I want minimal. When I was newly married, I was out buying all sorts of things from thrift stores that we needed. Garage sales, clearance racks—if it was on sale and we needed it my house enveloped it. I think envelop is the right word because when I go through things now, I don’t remember buying half the stuff I find. I’ve purged a lot over the years at our garage sales and by selling online, so my home is nothing like it was then. But, something has taken over me and it wants to clean it, all of it.

I’m thinking it has something to do with the empty house. For nearly 24 years there were children running amok in the home so we always were careful what we had sitting around. Now that they’re gone, I think Missy’s sense of style and spatial reasoning is coming back. I’ve got projects in my head that are popping out. I’ve already cleaned the kitchen cupboards and thrown everything out of the pantry. Folks, you do not want to know what was in the back of that thing. I have cranberry-dark chocolate trail mix that I now nibble on, and black corn tortilla chips that we dip in hot salsa. It is filled with things that our palates crave, and everything is arranged with clean lines and non-sticky surfaces. I cleaned out my coffee nook and threw away a myriad of containers. It is now spare and pleasurable. My bedside stands and shelf have been cleared of books I don’t need, as have my library shelves. I have a laundry basket full of books that I need to take somewhere to sell or trade, and I have my eye on more as my shelves groan a little less heavily now. I am planning on clearing all the shelves of my library and painting the insides a bright color, then arranging my books in an artful way. 

I’ve already cleaned out some of the boy’s stuff in his room he no longer needs and posted it online. The girl had her pile ready to go as she kept her room fairly spotless. I have a few things left from our eldest, but it’s bits and pieces of her life that no longer have meaning to her—except for the fuzzy pants she keeps here to wear when she comes home for Christmas. Those are neatly folded on her closet shelf. Three heaping closets, made when we created the dormers upstairs after the fire, have somehow become dens of iniquity and they are next on my radar. My fingers are itching to sort through the rubble and see what I find to sell or get rid of. This new phase of actually wanting to sift and sort is a tantalizing surprise to me. It was never something I enjoyed doing, but now I feel it’s just the shifting of the years and the wanting for things to be in order. It’s putting your life into a semblance of things that are within your control and tangible to your touch. With each piece I am gaining peace and making my world spare and clean so I can go out and do more with my life. I can’t feel as if the home is in tatters as I’m making a new way in a child-less world. I press onward, garbage bag in one hand and steely mentality in the other. With each item thrown away or sold my heart gets a bit lighter.

You can find this and my other columns on The Holmes County Bargain Hunter.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Casting out demons and finding your spark

I've been silent. I've been pensive. I've been letting the dark shadows curb my writing. Silent demons, stop your scratching at my neck. I'm tired of you and the way you make me feel.

It's a salient process, this thing called writing. My focus, when I left my desk job to set up a nook here at home, was to find time to start the novel inside me. For so long I've let those demons tell me I can't write it.

"You will never finish it."
"You can't even start it."
"Just do it tomorrow."

Adjusting to the warm niche of home, along with the added benefits of coffee and food on hand, has taken some time to get used to. I have found love for home, kept inside, that now flows out of me. I am doing what I'm meant to. I'm sharing a passion and spreading it around, though thin in spots, that is ever progressing and changing with each day.

Losing inspiration sucks.
I feel as if I've lost a spark and can't find it.

Yesterday I got a text from my niece McKenzie. She's always told me how much she loves to read what I write be it my newspaper column or a blog piece. She says she can get lost in my writing and I always just smiled and said, "I'm glad you love them" never really realizing how much she meant it.

She started a blog. Because she was inspired. You can find her at Just Your Average 20 Year Old's Blog.

This has quite blown me away not just because she started a blog, but because she felt like she was never good enough at writing to start one. But she said "screw it" and created one. And she wrote. I believe she has lit the spark inside me once again. Sometimes we just need to say "screw it" and start doing the impossible.

In listening to those demons speak we give them life. We give them power. We make them bigger and scarier than they really are. Really, we just need to tell them to go back to hell where they came from. Slip your bad selves back into the pit because I don't need to listen anymore. Sincerely.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Throw-away blog.

I wrote a blog and couldn't publish it. My thoughts are too raw, too charged and full of gristle. Someday soon I might, but today isn't that day.