Halloween Spooky Stuff

It seems appropriate to write something a little spooky for Halloween.  There's only so much you can write about candy corn and caramel apples.  Halloween calls for something a little darker.  I think everyone probably has some little eerie event in their memory that they just can't quite explain.  (I'm not talking about drunken college days; I'm speaking more paranormal.) The spookiest memory I have involves a Ouija board, a garage sale, a yellow legal pad, and some of my favorite relatives.  My cousin's BFF was having a yard sale, and she invited us to bring anything we had to sell. I'm not sure who had the Ouija board for sale.  I think it was the BFF, but I know for certain that it wasn't me, and I am pretty certain given the religious climate of their home that it didn't belong to my cousins. I had never really believed in Ouija boards, but they were weird enough that I felt a little spooky about them.  We started talking about the board and all the rumors about it, and the discussion became divided between the people who believed the thing moved by itself and those who believed it was being moved by the fingers. Those of us on the side saying the people were moving it argued that since you were already thinking about the answer, you would naturally push the planchette (that's the official term for the "thing" you push) toward whatever you were thinking.  This is actually backed up by scientific research. In an effort to convince us otherwise, the plan was devised to send two people inside the house to ask a question.  Then two of us outside the house would get the answer from the board.   The theory being that if we did not even know what question was asked, it would be impossible for us to move to the answer.

Well, let me tell ya, it freaked me out.  The board continued to answer questions correctly even when those questions were asked out of earshot and completely independent of those moving the planchette.  Even when we switched the players around with different people inside questioning/outside answering, it was accurate. We asked stupid stuff--what did I have for dinner last night?  What color socks did I wear yesterday?  What number am I thinking of?  And it kept giving us the answers. I don't remember exactly how it started, but I remember that we noticed the planchette was moving very quickly.  Swaying back and forth, occasionally going around in circles.  It started stopping on letters, and a dialogue began.  We were no longer asking questions of each other, but of the board. Over the course of the next few hours, we got virtually no customers at the garage sale.  Or maybe they came and just took stuff, I don't know.  We were so enthralled with the board that we wouldn't have noticed. She told us her name, how she died, and who had killed her.  The answers didn't come out in complete grammatically correct sentences, so we got a yellow legal pad and began writing down the letters.  When she stopped, we could go back and put the letters together and sort out words.  It was kind of like doing hooked on phonics with a ghost. This was all fun and fascinating.  I don't think we put too much thought in whether or not it was evil or wrong.  I think it was just really cool that we were having a conversation with . . . something. The BFF acknowledged she had always sort of thought there was a presence in the house, and little things had happened with hair brushes and lights.   We were convinced we were speaking with her ghost, and we were wierded out but totally engaged. We took a break to have a snack and talk about the mind-blowing events.  This was not your average boring garage sale! When we reconvened with the board, we asked if she was still there, and the planchette went nuts.  It circled; it zigged; it zagged.  It went so fast that it was hard to keep our fingertips on it.  The fun unknown took a dark little turn when the board announced that it was no longer the lovely lady we had been speaking with.  We asked who it was, and the board spelled out the initials she had given us as her killer. Time to put the board up, right?  Naaah, we weren't that smart or paranoid.  He ranted, he raved, he threatened.  He told us he knew where we were and that he could see us.  And we finally got spooked enough to quit and put the board away.  For good. I called a friend of mine who had dabbled in studying black magic during a dark time in high school.  She completely freaked out that we had played with a Ouija board.   She believed that in the hands of a non-believer, the board is harmless.  But when you believe in something, you give it energy.  And when you give energy and belief to the spiritual world, you open a door. Now I can't explain to you what happened under that carport with the Ouija board.  I can tell you I have never touched one again, and that I never will.  People from all walks of life say they have seen ghosts, that they feel cold drafts and hear voices.  Some people say they can communicate with the dead.  I don't know about all that.  I don't know who is fake and what is real. I do know that I believe in a spiritual world.  I believe in angels, and I believe in a life after this one.  And I know there is good and there is evil.  So while I don't buy into every ghost story or every paranormal encounter, I do believe it happens.  And I do believe we encountered something that day. So, you can believe or not believe, but either way.......Have a Happy Halloween!!!  Share this with your friends, and share your spooky memories with me! P.S. I took these photos on a cemetery tour at Greenwood Cemetery in Orlando.  They have nothing to do with Ouija boards, garage sales, or even Halloween, but they were kind of spooky so I thought you might enjoy them!  All my pictures and stories are copyrighted. 

Balloons and Other Things Filled With Hot Air

I started to title this: “Nice people really bug me,” but that didn’t sound too . . . nice.  I mean, I’m a fan of nice people.   I am, really.  And I do strive to be a nice person.  But aren’t there times when you’re really just not in the mood for people to be nice?  Or is that just me?Hot air balloon A few months ago, one of my BFFs visited us for her birthday.  I wanted it to be really special for her, so I booked a hot air balloon excursion. For our journey skyward, we would need to be up very early, like un-Godly early.  This was kind of a down-side to the birthday gift as she is a soul after my own heart who derives great joy from sleeping late on vacation.  But I reasoned that we would get to see the sun rise, and how often have either of us ever witnessed that miraculous (really early) event? We needed to be there at 5:30am, which means we would need to leave my house no later than 5:10am.  I thought perhaps I should be considerate of My Knight and not wake him up by showering and getting ready before the crack of dawn in our room.  So I told her I would plan on getting in the guest bedroom shower at 4:30am.  (Even as I type this, I shudder at that thought.  Really?  4:30am?  My lungs don’t even function properly to get my brain oxygen at that hour.  Are the roosters even awake at 4:30am???)  She said she would be done in the guest shower by 4:15 so I could get in. (like there was some danger of me being there earlier than 4:30am?) Before bed, I continued my consideration of My Knight by not setting our normal alarm clock and relying on my iPad alarm instead.  I figured it would be quieter and closer to my head, so I could turn it off quicker.  I carefully laid out all my toiletries, hair dryer, clothes, etc. on the couch in the living room so I wouldn’t even disturb him getting all my things together in the morning.  Aren’t I sweet??? Somewhere in the deep sleep that followed, I awoke with the terrible feeling that something was wrong.  I sat straight up in bed to see a brightly lit alarm clock on the dresser reading 5:35am.  Yes, 5:35.    Yes, the iPad was supposed to wake me at 4:30.  And we were supposed to be at the meeting place no later than 5:30. So I levitated straight up in the air and off the bed.  I turned on every light and started screaming, “Oh, no! Oh, no!” at the top of my lungs.  Any consideration for My Knight and his sleep was completely non-existent.  I couldn’t even think, much less be considerate.  I ran around the floor in a couple of circles screaming "Oh, no!", which did nothing to help the situation, but it was all my brain could convince my body to do at that moment. My Knight, although very rudely and abruptly awakened, nicely got up and began consoling me.  “You’ll be fine.  Just calm down.  I’m sure they never leave on time.  This must happen all the time.  Just call them.  And calm down.”  He calmly handed me my toothbrush with toothpaste on it.  I looked at him like he was crazy and resisted the urge to stab him with it.  How could he be so calm?  Adrenaline was coursing through my body and sending misfires throughout my brain.

“It is NOT fine!  We have to be there by 5:30 or they will leave us and even if I leave right now, we won’t be there until 6:00 probably & this is all your fault because I didn’t want to set the alarm & wake you up!"   (Okay.  Not the best response to him being nice and getting up to help me.  I realize that now, but did I mention how early it was??  It was still dark out for goodness sake.  Cut me some slack.)

Then I panicked more.  I think somehow my sleep-deprived brain in its panic mode thought that through some cosmic glitch, my friend’s alarm clock had failed to go off as well.  So I sprinted to the other side of the house and flung open her door to scream, “Get up!”  But that wasn’t necessary.  There she sat, on the bed, (which was neatly made by the way) fully dressed, make-up and hair done, reading a magazine. She looked up at the completely crazy woman standing in her doorway in pajamas, eyes ablaze, mouth covered in toothpaste foam, and said quietly, “I wondered when you were going to get up; don’t we have to be there right now?” I almost killed her.  I almost lunged at my friend of over 20 years and stabbed her with my dripping toothbrush.  “Why didn’t you wake me up?” I screamed. “Because I knew you didn’t want to wake him up, and I knew the dogs would bark if I knocked on your bedroom door.  I tried to text you.” My brain was entirely too muddled to even comprehend what she was saying.  I turned and ran back across the house to find My Knight calmly standing by my closet door. “She is AWAKE!” I screamed at him, yanking jeans out of the closet and pulling them on.  “She is completely awake and ready to go, and she did not even wake me up!” “Why didn’t she wake you up?” he asked calmly. “Because she didn’t want to wake YOU up!” (as though this was somehow HIS fault???) “Well, that was nice of her.  Don’t be mad at her because your alarm didn’t go off.  It’s not her fault.  Just calm down.  It’s gonna be okay.  There’s nothing you can do other than get ready and get there as soon as you can.  It will be fine.” All I could think was:  'Why do I have to be surrounded by nice people?  She doesn’t want to wake up the dogs or the hubby; he’s being all calm and helpful.  Can no one other than me see how terrible this situation is?  Do they not understand the absolute catastrophe that has happened?  How are they so calm?  Why are they being so nice that it makes them difficult to deal with?' We were in the car by 5:43, which I think has to be some sort of record for me in terms of time from wake-up to drive-away.  I was shaking all over, so mad and embarrassed and disappointed and sleepy that I just wanted to cry. (So I did.) I squealed the tires getting onto the interstate, and she calmly said, “Don’t worry.  It will be okay.”  What is with these people????? I looked at her as though she had three heads.  “The next time we have to be somewhere and I tell you that I need to be in the shower at 4:30 and we need to leave by 5:10 and be there by 5:30 and you haven’t seen me at all and all my things to get ready are on the couch, you have my permission to wake up the dogs, my husband, the entire neighborhood to make sure I am awake, okay?  Especially if we have to be somewhere to do something that we will not get a refund or reschedule if we are late!” “Don’t worry.  If we miss it, I will just pay for it.” AAARRRGGGHHH.  More niceties!  I can’t stand it. Really, people? “That’s not the point!  The point is I wanted to do something for your birthday that would be nice, and this is not nice!  I wanted you to have an incredible experience.  We are probably going to miss your entire birthday present, and I wanted you to see the sky and how blue it is and how far you can see and now we are late and my hair is not even combed and I had a ponytail last night so there’s a hump on the back of my hair and I have no make-up on and my shirt doesn’t match my pants and this is definitely not how I thought this would turn out.”  (My sentences tend to run together dramatically when I am hysterical.  Hope you could keep up.) “It’s okay.” She said again calmly. “Stop saying that!!  It’s not okay!!  I am ruining your birthday, and it’s not okay!”  Yeah, I realize now that perhaps my behavior was a bit dramatic and self-absorbed.  And that my screaming at her was probably worse than missing the balloon ride, but seriously, who sits on their bed completely ready to go until after the time you’re supposed to be there?????? “I tried to text you,” she said quietly. “My phone was in the kitchen.  If you didn’t see me, and you didn’t hear me, and there were no lights on, and I never showed up in the bathroom…you know what, never mind.  Obviously, the whole day is ruined.” We pulled into the parking lot to see nine vans of people already fully loaded with balloons on trailers behind them.  I rolled down the window and motioned to one of the guys, who told me they were pulling out and I needed to park quickly. In the van, I could feel the cold stares of the other passengers.  Whether they were staring at my unkempt, uncombed hair and unmatched outfit or just staring because we had delayed their perfect day, I was not sure.  But then the driver got in and said, “Okay, maybe we can still see the sunrise.  Not likely, but maybe.”  At that point,  I was pretty sure it was the delay causing the stares. We ended up making a flawless take-off with an incredible view of the sun coming up over the trees through tendrils of fog.  It was breathtaking.  I have always said that God made sunsets because he knew all of us wouldn’t be up to see it rise, but this was a beautiful sight.

We flew over a lush, green swamp with trees stretching to reach the sun.

  We floated over ponds that reflected us like mirrors and over wildlife that scampered away from the occasional sound of the helium flames.  It was so peaceful.  So quiet.  So calming.  And we seemed so small in the sky gazing over the immense expanse of Earth.            

           The balloon moved slowly, quietly, pulled this way and that by a gentle breeze.  There is no way to steer a hot air balloon other than to climb or descend until you find the horizontal elevator of wind that will take you where you’d like to go.  We went higher and lower as we navigated the changing directions.

As I gazed over the beautiful landscape, I turned to see her smile as she basked in the sunlight warm on her face.  I realized then that it really didn’t matter.  It didn’t matter if my hair wasn’t combed, I had no make-up on, and my clothes didn’t match. (Although those pictures will NEVER see Facebook.)  It didn’t matter that we were late. (Some of the other guests may beg to differ, but we won’t ask them.)  It didn’t matter that the day started out so sourly. At any point in any day, we have a choice to enjoy the day from that moment forward.  We have a choice to embrace whatever joy we can find in that day.  I had pictured Trixie and I getting up together, laughing about how early it was, yawning as we waited for the balloons to be filled, and then having an incredible experience flying high in the clouds.  It didn’t happen that way.  And that’s okay.  It was a beautiful, breathtaking flight.  We landed safely.  And Trixie was happy.  And that was what really mattered. (Love ya, Trixie!) God, thank you for putting nice people in my life that love me, understand me  when I’m being a B, and allow me a little extra wiggle room to be dramatic before sunrise.    Please grant me patience and understanding to be a little more nice back to them.  A lot more actually, but maybe we should start small.  P.S.  And I forgot my camera.  So these lovely pics were snapped with Trixie's new phone and edited by me.  (But still copyrighted!) Thanks, Trixie!  Love ya bunches!  Sorry for being a B, and I hope you had a happy birthday!!

Penguin Eggs and Chewing Gum: Why I Quit Teaching

When people ask me why I stopped teaching, I think I am just going to say "Penguin Eggs and Chewing Gum".  After all, I haven’t figured out how to wrap up five years of frustrations, tears, joys, triumphs, defeats, red tape, and nightmares into a quick, easy answer.  It doesn’t really fit into one sentence all neat and cheery with a bow. I left teaching for many reasons.  First and foremost, to follow my dreams.  That being said, it is a scary economic proposition to leave a full-time job to pursue the unknown.  So it would have been better to have a job I could love, enjoy, tolerate, or not slit my wrists over to substantiate our income while I become the me I've always wanted to be. I did not leave teaching because I hated teaching.  I actually enjoyed teaching.  I loved the “light bulb” moment, the "click" and the eyes lighting up when students actually got it.  To be able to help them understand something, or to help them see it in a new way, was incredible. Continue reading "Penguin Eggs and Chewing Gum: Why I Quit Teaching"

Not a Happy Camper

I am not a camper.  We camped quite often when I was a child, but I am not a camper.  I do love the outdoors.  I can hike all day, go whitewater rafting, horseback riding--I even did a midnight rainforest hike in Costa Rica with poisonous snakes, spiders, and creepy crawlies.  But I am not a camper.  At the end of my outdoor adventures, I want a bed, a toilet and a shower.  I want the bed off the ground, and I want the toilet and the shower within steps of the bed.  And not steps that require me to go through woods, gravel, or dirt to reach them. Continue reading "Not a Happy Camper"