A Great Tale for Halloween – The Hand by Guy de Maupassant

Happy Halloween, everyone! My spooky gift to you today is a classic horror tale by the brilliant Guy de Maupassant. It could well be the springboard story from which all those campfire “Hairy Hand” stories began.

Enjoy….and keep your doors and windows locked tonight!


The Hand is a gruesome and creepy story about the mystery surrounding the death of an enigmatic Englishman named Sir John Rowell. The good sir, it seems, was fond of hunting. Quite fond. And Maupassant drops a solitary creepy line on the reader to emphasize the point, ‘I have also frequently been man-hunting.’ I find this story rather unnerving. If scary campfire stories are your thing, you are going to enjoy this popular “horror” story.

All were crowding around M. Bermutier, the judge, who was giving his opinion about the Saint-Cloud mystery. For a month this inexplicable crime had been the talk of Paris. Nobody could make head or tail of it.

Bermutier, standing with his back to the fireplace, was talking, citing the evidence, discussing the various theories, but arriving at no conclusion.

Some women had risen, in order to get nearer to him, and were standing with their eyes fastened on the clean-shaven face of the judge, who was saying such weighty things. They, were shaking and trembling, moved by fear and curiosity, and by the eager and insatiable desire for the horrible, which haunts the soul of every woman. One of them, paler than the others, said during a pause:

“It’s terrible. It verges on the supernatural. The truth will never be known.”

The judge turned to her:

“True, madame, it is likely that the actual facts will never be discovered. As for the word ‘supernatural’ which you have just used, it has nothing to do with the matter. We are in the presence of a very cleverly conceived and executed crime, so well enshrouded in mystery that we cannot disentangle it from the involved circumstances which surround it. But once I had to take charge of an affair in which the uncanny seemed to play a part. In fact, the case became so confused that it had to be given up.”

Several women exclaimed at once:

“Oh! Tell us about it!”

Bermutier smiled in a dignified manner, as a judge should, and went on:

“Do not think, however, that I, for one minute, ascribed anything in the case to supernatural influences. I believe only in normal causes. But if, instead of using the word ‘supernatural’ to express what we do not understand, we were simply to make use of the word ‘inexplicable,’ it would be much better. At any rate, in the affair of which I am about to tell you, it is especially the surrounding, preliminary circumstances which impressed me. Here are the facts:

“I was, at that time, a judge at Ajaccio, a little white city on the edge of a bay which is surrounded by high mountains.

“The majority of the cases which came up before me concerned vendettas. There are some that are superb, dramatic, ferocious, heroic. We find there the most beautiful causes for revenge of which one could dream, enmities hundreds of years old, quieted for a time but never extinguished; abominable stratagems, murders becoming massacres and almost deeds of glory. For two years I heard of nothing but the price of blood, of this terrible Corsican prejudice which compels revenge for insults meted out to the offending person and all his descendants and relatives. I had seen old men, children, cousins murdered; my head was full of these stories.

“One day I learned that an Englishman had just hired a little villa at the end of the bay for several years. He had brought with him a French servant, whom he had engaged on the way at Marseilles.

“Soon this peculiar person, living alone, only going out to hunt and fish, aroused a widespread interest. He never spoke to any one, never went to the town, and every morning he would practice for an hour or so with his revolver and rifle.

“Legends were built up around him. It was said that he was some high personage, fleeing from his fatherland for political reasons; then it was affirmed that he was in hiding after having committed some abominable crime. Some particularly horrible circumstances were even mentioned.

“In my judicial position I thought it necessary to get some information about this man, but it was impossible to learn anything. He called himself Sir John Rowell.

“I therefore had to be satisfied with watching him as closely as I could, but I could see nothing suspicious about his actions.

“However, as rumors about him were growing and becoming more widespread, I decided to try to see this stranger myself, and I began to hunt regularly in the neighborhood of his grounds.

“For a long time I watched without finding an opportunity. At last it came to me in the shape of a partridge which I shot and killed right in front of the Englishman. My dog fetched it for me, but, taking the bird, I went at once to Sir John Rowell and, begging his pardon, asked him to accept it.

“He was a big man, with red hair and beard, very tall, very broad, a kind of calm and polite Hercules. He had nothing of the so-called British stiffness, and in a broad English accent he thanked me warmly for my attention. At the end of a month we had had five or six conversations.

“One night, at last, as I was passing before his door, I saw him in the garden, seated astride a chair, smoking his pipe. I bowed and he invited me to come in and have a glass of beer. I needed no urging.

“He received me with the most punctilious English courtesy, sang the praises of France and of Corsica, and declared that he was quite in love with this country.

“Then, with great caution and under the guise of a vivid interest, I asked him a few questions about his life and his plans. He answered without embarrassment, telling me that he had travelled a great deal in Africa, in the Indies, in America. He added, laughing:

“‘I have had many adventures.’

“Then I turned the conversation on hunting, and he gave me the most curious details on hunting the hippopotamus, the tiger, the elephant and even the gorilla.

“I said:

“‘Are all these animals dangerous?’

“He smiled:

“‘Oh, no! Man is the worst.’

“And he laughed a good broad laugh, the wholesome laugh of a contented Englishman.

“‘I have also frequently been man-hunting.’

“Then he began to talk about weapons, and he invited me to come in and see different makes of guns.

“His parlor was draped in black, black silk embroidered in gold. Big yellow flowers, as brilliant as fire, were worked on the dark material.

“He said:

“‘It is a Japanese material.’

“But in the middle of the widest panel a strange thing attracted my attention. A black object stood out against a square of red velvet. I went up to it; it was a hand, a human hand. Not the clean white hand of a skeleton, but a dried black hand, with yellow nails, the muscles exposed and traces of old blood on the bones, which were cut off as clean as though it had been chopped off with an axe, near the middle of the forearm.

“Around the wrist, an enormous iron chain, riveted and soldered to this unclean member, fastened it to the wall by a ring, strong enough to hold an elephant in leash.

“I asked:

“‘What is that?’

“The Englishman answered quietly:

“‘That is my best enemy. It comes from America, too. The bones were severed by a sword and the skin cut off with a sharp stone and dried in the sun for a week.’

“I touched these human remains, which must have belonged to a giant. The uncommonly long fingers were attached by enormous tendons which still had pieces of skin hanging to them in places. This hand was terrible to see; it made one think of some savage vengeance.

“I said:

“‘This man must have been very strong.’

“The Englishman answered quietly:

“‘Yes, but I was stronger than he. I put on this chain to hold him.’

“I thought that he was joking. I said:

“‘This chain is useless now, the hand won’t run away.’

“Sir John Rowell answered seriously:

“‘It always wants to go away. This chain is needed.’

“I glanced at him quickly, questioning his face, and I asked myself:

“‘Is he an insane man or a practical joker?’

“But his face remained inscrutable, calm and friendly. I turned to other subjects, and admired his rifles.

“However, I noticed that he kept three loaded revolvers in the room, as though constantly in fear of some attack.

“I paid him several calls. Then I did not go any more. People had become used to his presence; everybody had lost interest in him.

“A whole year rolled by. One morning, toward the end of November, my servant awoke me and announced that Sir John Rowell had been murdered during the night.

“Half an hour later I entered the Englishman’s house, together with the police commissioner and the captain of the gendarmes. The servant, bewildered and in despair, was crying before the door. At first I suspected this man, but he was innocent.

“The guilty party could never be found.

“On entering Sir John’s parlor, I noticed the body, stretched out on its back, in the middle of the room.

“His vest was torn, the sleeve of his jacket had been pulled off, everything pointed to, a violent struggle.

“The Englishman had been strangled! His face was black, swollen and frightful, and seemed to express a terrible fear. He held something between his teeth, and his neck, pierced by five or six holes which looked as though they had been made by some iron instrument, was covered with blood.

“A physician joined us. He examined the finger marks on the neck for a long time and then made this strange announcement:

“‘It looks as though he had been strangled by a skeleton.’

“A cold chill seemed to run down my back, and I looked over to where I had formerly seen the terrible hand. It was no longer there. The chain was hanging down, broken.

“I bent over the dead man and, in his contracted mouth, I found one of the fingers of this vanished hand, cut–or rather sawed off by the teeth down to the second knuckle.

“Then the investigation began. Nothing could be discovered. No door, window or piece of furniture had been forced. The two watch dogs had not been aroused from their sleep.

“Here, in a few words, is the testimony of the servant:

“For a month his master had seemed excited. He had received many letters, which he would immediately burn.

“Often, in a fit of passion which approached madness, he had taken a switch and struck wildly at this dried hand riveted to the wall, and which had disappeared, no one knows how, at the very hour of the crime.

“He would go to bed very late and carefully lock himself in. He always kept weapons within reach. Often at night he would talk loudly, as though he were quarrelling with some one.

“That night, somehow, he had made no noise, and it was only on going to open the windows that the servant had found Sir John murdered. He suspected no one.

“I communicated what I knew of the dead man to the judges and public officials. Throughout the whole island a minute investigation was carried on. Nothing could be found out.

“One night, about three months after the crime, I had a terrible nightmare. I seemed to see the horrible hand running over my curtains and walls like an immense scorpion or spider. Three times I awoke, three times I went to sleep again; three times I saw the hideous object galloping round my room and moving its fingers like legs.

“The following day the hand was brought me, found in the cemetery, on the grave of Sir John Rowell, who had been buried there because we had been unable to find his family. The first finger was missing.

“Ladies, there is my story. I know nothing more.”

The women, deeply stirred, were pale and trembling. One of them exclaimed:

“But that is neither a climax nor an explanation! We will be unable to sleep unless you give us your opinion of what had occurred.”

The judge smiled severely:

“Oh! Ladies, I shall certainly spoil your terrible dreams. I simply believe that the legitimate owner of the hand was not dead, that he came to get it with his remaining one. But I don’t know how. It was a kind of vendetta.”

One of the women murmured:

“No, it can’t be that.”

And the judge, still smiling, said:

“Didn’t I tell you that my explanation would not satisfy you?”


Four Rituals That Will Make You Happier – Part One

The following was sent to me by my amazing teacher, *Noreen McDonald. This article came from Eric Barker, a neuroscience researcher, and author of “Barking Up the Wrong Tree.” Since this is a pretty long article, I’m only going to post the first two “rituals” this morning. I’ll post the last two on other day.

I hope you enjoy this and get as much out of it as I did.

“A neuroscience researcher reveals four rituals that will make you happier.

You get all kinds of happiness advice on the internet from people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Don’t trust them.

Actually, don’t trust me either. Trust neuroscientists. They study that gray blob in your head all day and have learned a lot about what truly will make you happy.

UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb has some insights that can create an upward spiral of happiness in your life.

Here’s what you and I can learn from the people who really have answers:

  1. The most important question to ask when you feel down

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like your brain wants you to be happy. You may feel guilty or shameful. Why?

Believe it or not, guilt and shame activate the brain’s reward center.

Despite their differences, pride, shame, and guilt all activate similar neural circuits, including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and the nucleus accumbens. Interestingly, pride is the most powerful of these emotions at triggering activity in these regions — except in the nucleus accumbens, where guilt and shame win out. This explains why it can be so appealing to heap guilt and shame on ourselves — they’re activating the brain’s reward center. And you worry a lot, too. Why? In the short term, worrying makes your brain feel a little better — at least you’re doing something about your problems.

In fact, worrying can help calm the limbic system by increasing activity in the medial prefrontal cortex and decreasing activity in the amygdala. That might seem counterintuitive, but it just goes to show that if you’re feeling anxiety, doing something about it — even worrying — is better than doing nothing.

But guilt, shame, and worry are horrible, long-term solutions. So what do neuroscientists say you should do? Ask yourself this question: What am I grateful for?

Yeah, gratitude is awesome … but does it really affect your brain at the biological level? Yup.

You know what the antidepressant Wellbutrin does? Boosts the neurotransmitter dopamine. So does gratitude.

The benefits of gratitude start with the dopamine system, because feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine. Additionally, gratitude toward others increases activity in social dopamine circuits, which makes social interactions more enjoyable.

Know what Prozac does? Boosts the neurotransmitter serotonin. So does gratitude.

One powerful effect of gratitude is that it can boost serotonin. Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex.

I know, sometimes life lands a really mean punch in the gut and it feels like there’s nothing to be grateful for. Guess what?

Doesn’t matter. You don’t have to find anything. It’s the searching that counts.

It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place. Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence. One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.

And gratitude doesn’t just make your brain happy — it can also create a positive feedback loop in your relationships. So express that gratitude to the people you care about.

But what happens when bad feelings completely overtake you? When you’re really in the dumps and don’t even know how to deal with it? There’s an easy answer: point out the things that upset you.

  1. Label negative feelings

You feel awful. OK, give that awfulness a name. Sad? Anxious? Angry? Boom. It’s that simple. Sound stupid? Your noggin disagrees.

In one MRI study, appropriately titled “Putting Feelings into Words” participants viewed pictures of people with emotional facial expressions. Predictably, each participant’s amygdala activated to the emotions in the picture. But when they were asked to name the emotion, the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activated and reduced the emotional amygdala reactivity. In other words, consciously recognizing the emotions reduced their impact.

Suppressing emotions doesn’t work and can backfire on you.

It was discovered that people who tried to suppress a negative emotional experience failed to do so. While they thought they looked fine outwardly, inwardly their limbic system was just as aroused as without suppression, and in some cases, even more aroused. Kevin Ochsner, at Columbia, repeated these findings using an MRI. Trying not to feel something doesn’t work, and in some cases even backfires.

But labeling, on the other hand, makes a big difference.

To reduce arousal, you need to use just a few words to describe an emotion, and ideally use symbolic language, which means using indirect metaphors, metrics, and simplifications of your experience. This requires you to activate your prefrontal cortex, which reduces the arousal in the limbic system. Here’s the bottom line: describe an emotion in just a word or two, and it helps reduce the emotion.

Ancient methods were way ahead of us on this one. Meditation has employed this for centuries. Labeling is a fundamental tool of mindfulness.

In fact, labeling affects the brain so powerfully it works with other people, too. Labeling emotions is one of the primary tools used by FBI hostage negotiators.

Okay, hopefully you’re not reading this and labeling your current emotional state as bored. Maybe you’re not feeling awful but you probably have things going on in your life that are causing you some stress. Here’s a simple way to beat them.   Make decisions to do things you enjoy.”


It’s About Time for Some Jokes

I think it’s about time we had a few laughs. I found these on www.rd.com/jokes/animal, and am still laughing my head off. Enjoy!

Cats Are Smarter

Cats are smarter than dogs. You can’t get eight cats to pull a sled through snow. —Jeff Valdez

Why Does Moisture Destroy…

Why does moisture destroy leather? When it’s raining, cows don’t go up to the farmhouse yelling, “Let us in! We’re all wearing leather! We’re going to ruin the whole outfit here!” Jerry Seinfeld

The Reader, The Writer, And The Lion

A lion comes across two 
men, one reading and the other 
writing. The beast pounces on and devours the reader but ignores the writer. Why? Because, as everyone knows, a writer cramps while a reader digests.

A Grizzly Conversion

A priest, a minister, and a rabbi want to see who’s best at his job. So they each go into the woods, find a bear, and attempt to convert it.

Later they get together. The priest begins: “When I found the bear, I read to him from the Catechism and sprinkled him with holy water. Next week is his First Communion.”

“I found a bear by the stream,” says the minister, “and preached God’s holy word. The bear was so mesmerized that he let me baptize him.”

They both look down at the rabbi, who is lying on a gurney in a body cast. “Looking back,” he says, “maybe I shouldn’t have started with the circumcision.” Submitted by Mitchell Hauser

Bear-ittos, Anyone?

People in sleeping bags are the soft tacos of the bear world. @longwall26

Cat Appetites

They make cat food out of cow, fish, turkey, chicken & lamb meat—but not mouse meat, which is probably all cats want. @JohnFugelsang

The Impatient Flea

Tired of waiting in the back of the line to get on Noah’s Ark, a flea jumps from one animal to another as she moves closer to the front. She leaps and leaps until she lands on the back of an elephant. The pachyderm turns to its mate and says testily, “I knew it! Here they go with the pushing and shoving!” —Source: Funny in Brazil Survey

The Anxious Poodle

Poodle: “My life is a mess. My owner is mean, my girlfriend is leaving me for a German shepherd, and I’m nervous as a cat.”
Collie: “Why don’t you go see a psychiatrist?”
Poodle: “I can’t. I’m not allowed on the couch.”

 NASA Cow Launch

Did you hear that NASA has launched several cows into orbit?

It was the herd shot around the world.

Missing Dog

An old farmer is inconsolable after his dog goes missing. He takes out an ad in the newspaper, but two weeks later, there’s still no sign of the mutt. “What did you write in the ad?” his wife asks. “ ‘Here, boy,’ ” he replies.

A Penguin Walks Into…

A penguin walks into a bar, goes to the counter, and asks the bartender, “Have you seen my brother?”

The bartender says, “I don’t know. What does he look like?”

A Panda Walks Into…

A panda walks into a bar and gobbles some beer nuts. Then he pulls out a gun, fires it in the air, and heads for the door. “Hey!” shouts the bartender, but the panda yells back, “I’m a panda. Google me!” Sure enough, panda: “A tree-climbing mammal with distinct black-and-white coloring. Eats shoots and leaves.”

A Bear Walks Into…

A bear walks into a bar and says, “I’d like a beer ……………. and some of those peanuts.”

The bartender says, “Sure, but why the big paws?”

A Grasshopper Hops Into…

A grasshopper hops into a bar. The bartender says, “You’re quite a celebrity around here. We’ve even got a drink named after you.”

The grasshopper says, “You’ve got a drink named Steve?”

A Dog Goes Into…

A dog goes into a bar and orders a martini. The bartender says, “You don’t see a dog in here drinking a martini very often.”

The dog says, “At these prices, I’m not surprised.”

Humming Birds

Why do hummingbirds hum?

Because they can’t remember the words.

A Bird Named Moses

A burglar breaks into a house. He starts shining his light around looking for valuables. Some nice things catch his eye, and as he reaches for them, he hears, “Jesus is watching you.” Startled, the burglar looks for the speaker. Seeing no one, he keeps putting things in his bag, again, he hears, “Jesus is watching you.” This time, he sees a parrot.

“Who are you?” the burglar asks.

“Moses,” the bird replied.

“Who the heck would name a bird Moses?” the man laughed.

“I dunno,” Moses answered, “I guess the same kind of people that would name a Rottweiler Jesus.”

A Pig Walks Into a Bar…

A pig walks into a bar, orders 15 beers, and drinks them. The bartender asks, “Would you like to know where the bathroom is?” “No,” says the pig. “I’m the little piggy that goes wee-wee-wee all the way home.”

Going to the Dogs

When our client’s dog lapped up anti-freeze, the veterinarian I work for ordered a unique treatment: an IV drip mixing fluids with vodka. “Go buy the cheapest bottle you can find,” he told me.

At the liquor store, I was uneasy buying cheap booze so early in the day, and I felt compelled to explain things to the clerk.

“Believe it or not,” I said, “this is for a sick dog.”

As I was leaving, the next customer plunked down two bottles of muscatel and announced, “These are for my cats.”

Lunch Break

When a squirrel slipped into my house, I did the logical thing: I panicked and called my father.

“How do you get a squirrel out of a basement?” I shrieked.

Dad advised me to leave a trail of peanut butter and crackers from the basement to the outside. It worked—the squirrel ate his way out of the house. Unfortunately, he passed another squirrel eating his way in.

Security System

When a neighbor’s home was burglarized, I decided to be more safety conscious. But my measly front-door lock wasn’t going to stop anyone, so I hung this sign outside: “Nancy, don’t come in. The snake is loose. Mom.”

Rockstar Life

The band Kings of Leon cut short a concert after pigeons bombarded them with poop. Bass player Jared Followill couldn’t say how many birds there were. “The last thing I was going to do was look up,” he told CNN.

Dog Halloween Costume to Avoid

I dressed up my dog as a mailman for Halloween. He bit himself.

Funny Pet Names

Does kitty dream of slinking down the catwalk? If so, give her a name that screams “I’m a star!” Like these actual pet names …

Bing Clawsby
Chairman Meow
Alexander the Grey

Mary-Louise Barker
Bettie Poops
Virginia Woof
Iggy Pup

Flying Problems

A businessman flying first class is sitting next to a parrot. The plane takes off, and the parrot orders a Glenlivet, neat. The businessman asks for a Coke. After a few minutes, the bird yells, “Where’s my scotch? Give me my scotch!” The flight attendant rushes over with their drinks.

Later, they order another round. Again, the bird gives the crew grief for being slow, and the businessman joins in: “Yeah, the service stinks!”

Just then, the flight attendant grabs the pair, opens the hatch, and throws them out of the plane. As they hurtle toward the ground, the parrot says to the terrified man, “Wow, that took a lot of guts for a guy with no wings.”


Steve, a lonely bachelor, wants some company, so he buys a centipede and a small box for it to live in. That evening, he decides to go out.

“Want to grab a drink?” he asks the centipede. But there’s no answer from the box. A few minutes later, he asks again—still no reply. Finally, he hollers, “Hey! Do you want to get a drink?”

“I heard you the first time!” says a small, irritated voice. “I’m putting on my shoes!”

Identity Crisis

A gnome is in the garden busily destroying some bushes when a house cat appears. “What are you?” asks the cat.

“A gnome,” comes the reply. “I steal food from humans, I kill their plants, I make annoying music at night to drive them crazy, and I love mischief. And what, may I ask, are you?”

The cat replies, “Um, I’m a gnome.”

Guessing Game

Once I’d finished reviewing my daughter’s homework, I gave her an impromptu quiz. “What is a group of whales called?” I asked. “I’ll give you a hint—it sounds like something you use to listen to music.”

“An iPod?” she guessed.

“Close,” I said. “But what I’m thinking of is a little smaller.”

“A Shuffle!”

Dog Owners

A couple of dog owners are arguing about whose pet is smarter.

“My dog is so smart,” says the first owner, “that every morning he waits for the paperboy to come around. He tips the kid and then brings the newspaper to me, along with my morning coffee.”

“I know,” says the second owner.

“How do you know?”

“My dog told me.”


What do you call a pig that does karate?

A pork chop.


The week we got our puppy, I caught a stomach bug and stayed home from work one day. That afternoon, my wife called to check up on me.

“I’m okay,” I said. “But guess who pooped in the dining room.”

My wife’s response: “Who?”

A Camel’s Life

Max the little camel walks into his parents’ room at 3 a.m. and asks for a glass of water. “Another one?” says his father. “That’s the second glass this month.”

Pulling Together

A guy drives into a ditch, but luckily, a farmer is there to help. He hitches his horse, Buddy, up to the car and yells, “Pull, Nellie, pull!” Buddy doesn’t move.

“Pull, Buster, pull!” Buddy doesn’t budge.

“Pull, Coco, pull!” Nothing.

Then the farmer says, “Pull, Buddy, pull!” And the horse drags the car out of the ditch.

Curious, the motorist asks the farmer why he kept calling his horse by the wrong name. “Buddy’s blind,” said the farmer. “And if he thought he was the only one pulling, he wouldn’t even try.”

The Clothes Make The Cat

I dressed my dog up as a cat for Halloween. Now he won’t come when I call him. —Comedian Reid Faylor (@reidfaylor )


BOOM! Another Life Change!

Just when you think that things are on an even keel, whammo! Then the world as you know it shakes us up with a new change; usually something we didn’t see coming. I’m the first one to say that change is ultimately good, but when it first happens, it doesn’t always seem that way.

Life Change 1: In June of last year, I discovered I had breast cancer (DCIS) and had a lumpectomy. Everything was clear in the next mammogram. It was a scare, and certainly something to keep watch on, but most of all, it was a major life change.

Life Change 2: I planned on working until I decided to retire, say, in a year so; but that didn’t happen. The company I worked for was cutting back and I was let go. It turned out to be for the best as my mother was dying of metastatic breast cancer and had recently gone into home Hospice.

I could never have kept that job and helped my mom and dad, so it was a change that needed to happen. I don’t regret a second of all the time I was privileged to have with my mom during those last months.

Not only that, but I grew even closer to my dad. We became a partnership of two dedicated to Mom’s well-being, comfort and happiness. It was a bittersweet time, and we were so grateful for the time we had together.

Life Change 3: Three and a half months later, my mom died peacefully in her own home. The Crankee Yankee and I were on our way, but she went before we got there. Dad of course was with her, and I often think of her last minutes of life. She was ready in every way to go, was peaceful in mind and body. I imagine how comforting it was for her to know that Dad, the love of her life, her best and dearest friend, was nearby.

After everything was over, I realized that I really didn’t want to work any more. I had people calling me to see if I was interested in this or that job, but as each day, week and month went by I felt that my working days were over.

At the beginning of this month, I had a knee replacement, and I am healing beautifully. My range of motion is better each day, and I keep up with the exercises and will start outpatient physical therapy next week. This of course meant I was out of commission for most of the month, and had to depend on the Crankee Yankee for so many little things. He rose to the challenge, and as of this day, I am walking well and improving.

I wouldn’t really call this a life change, as it was something I needed and wanted to have. My right knee had been painful for nearly three years, and I’m grateful to have been able to have the knee replacement.

It was only a day or so ago that I realized just how much change I have experienced in just one year. Now that the dust has settled (until the next life change shows up!), I have to wonder what is in store next. I still feel a little strange, not working, but I suppose that that will go away in time. While I am back to making jewelry again, I am still not ready to open my next Etsy store (I’ll let you know when I do).

These days when I am not doing knee flexion exercises or walking with two canes, I am reading and writing, watching some TV, and doing more sleeping than I have in months. Perhaps I am catching up with all the changes.

I will admit to a bit of fear and trepidation about the future; what will I be doing, what do I want to do, should I try to volunteer somewhere, join a book club, etc.? Right now my world seems a little large to me as I am still rattling around in all that has happened in this past year.

I’ll admit to some times of depression when I think of Peggy Lee’s famous song, “Is That All There Is?” While my mind knows that certainly there is more to my life that was has been, it’s often hard to shake old habits. When this happens, I keep saying to myself, ‘don’t worry, this will pass. It is all POP (Part Of the Process).

Let me say again that change is ultimately for our good, and I am slowly coming to embrace it.


Halloween is Coming Again

Note: This post is actually one I wrote in 2013, but now that Halloween is creeping up on us again, it’s fun to remember how it used to be back in the “olden days” when my friends and I went trick-or-treating out in the moonlit night of Halloweens long ago.

I grew up in the ’50s when there were no bike helmets, no designer kid clothes, no expensive family vacations, and no computers/iPods/iPhones/tablets/Kindles, etc. The only blackberries we knew about were the ones growing wild that we picked and ate during high summer.

Halloween was as sacred a holiday to us kids as Thanksgiving and Christmas. I didn’t know anyone who wore a “store-bought” costume; most of us dressed up as hobos, fortune-tellers, witches and ghosts, using borrowed clothes and imagination.

The best costume I ever had was my black cat outfit. Mom and Dad made a giant *papier mache cat head, painted it black and pink, with big green eyes and eyelashes. I wore it with black tights, a black sweater, black shoes and pinned on a black tail (one of Mom’s dark stockings stuffed with rags). It was great.

Almost as much fun as actual trick or treating was the costume parade. After a cookies-and-punch party at school (back then, no one knew or cared about peanut allergies, gluten, fats, sugar, or germs), we were allowed to get in costume and parade down Main Street. We all laughed and showed off, and people clapped and cheered.

Official trick or treating started right after supper. It was a struggle to sit still and eat the meatloaf and mashed potatoes Mom made when all I wanted to do was get out of the house and collect all the candy I could. I went out with my best friend, and we roamed the streets with our bags and flashlights, collecting candy from our neighbors.

Back then a lot of people made homemade goodies such as cookies and popcorn balls wrapped in plastic wrap, as well as store-bought candy. Others gave out apples, which we politely accepted but seldom ate. It was a small town, and we only went to houses we knew—it was considered rude to knock on someone’s door you didn’t know and ask for treats. Once you got your treat, you always said thank you.

Mischief happened, of course–windows got soaped, cars got egged, and trees got TP’d. It was understood that, if you did any of this, you showed up in the morning to clean it up. I never took part in it; it was more of a boy thing, and also because  I was told not to. Back then, you listened to your parents, and no meant no.

When it was all over, we’d trudge home, tired and dirty, but happy and full of licorice whips, Milky Way bars, squirrel nut zippers, mint juleps, chocolate drops, Hershey bars, Bonomo taffy, molasses kisses, M &Ms, french nougats, peanut butter cups, coconut marshmallows, pixie stix, Junior Mints, jelly beans and the aforementioned homemade treats. But it wasn’t over just yet.

The finale of the evening happened after we  came home, and Dad drove us up to Mirror Lake where my grandparents lived. My grandmother always made “treat bundles” — homemade cookies and candy wrapped in large holiday napkins and tied with ribbons. She would make a tray of them, with two enormous ones in the middle for my best friend and me.

After we were admired for our costumes, she gave us each one of those huge bundles, then pressed the rest on us. It was the real bonanza of the evening.

Post-Halloween in our house meant unloading all the treats into my mom’s biggest wooden salad bowl. After Mom and Dad picked out what they liked, they let me have a few pieces of candy, then the bowl went up on the refrigerator. It would slowly be eaten during the next few weeks.

Usually I would sneak in and grab a few pieces to squirrel away under my pillow for later. Why I never thought to hide some of the candy BEFORE I brought it home is beyond me.

Halloween was always the official start to the holiday season. I loved it for the treats, of course, but most of all for the fun and mystery of dressing up as someone else for one night. Scuffling through mounds of fallen leaves in the dark, it was easy to imagine great black bats circling overhead, witches cackling as they rode their broomsticks in the light of the moon, scarecrows come to life for a night, and ghosts sneaking up behind you and wrapping you in their cold, clammy embrace. It was exciting and just a little bit scary.

As much as I hated for it all to end, I was always happy to be home in bed, cleaned up, full of candy and memories, drifting off to sleep as witches chased, but never caught me.

*Blow up a big balloon, cover it lightly with Vasoline, then strips of wet newspaper and let it dry. When dry, pop the balloon and pull it out. Paint it, then cut out eye and mouth holes and you’re good to go.

Sometimes the Clothes are at Fault, Not You

How many times have we filled our shopping cart with “hopefuls;” beautiful tops, snazzy slacks, cute skirts and darling dresses—only to dump them all back in the cart after trying them on?

‘It’s my stupid body!’ we wail. “If only I were <thinner, taller, etc.> then I could wear whatever I wanted. I hate my body!” Please—I’ve been down that road and trust me; it is rarely your body that’s at fault, often it really is the clothing that are at fault.

Oh, and please don’t make that classic mistake of saying, ‘when I was <insert favorite age here>, I could wear this and look GREAT!’ I know how it is; I look at some of the drop-dead cute stuff that’s currently in style and think, ‘oh, when I was 16, I would have looked GREAT in that!’

But I am no longer 16, and you know what? That’s ok. Over the years I’ve developed my own style, and I often tailor my clothes to fit my shape.

Example: if I wear a top that ends below my butt, it accentuates my hips, making me look twice as wide as I already am. So any top I wear gets tailored to end at mid-hip, which gives the impression that I am thinner than I actually am.

When you buy an article of clothing, there’s no law that says that you must wear this article of clothing “as is.” (Same with those scary tags on pillows; once you buy ’em, rip those tags right off. They’re yours now.)

You are absolutely free to tailor that new top, pants, hoodie, etc. any way you want to. You can make these simple alterations yourself either on a sewing machine or hand-stitch them, or take them to a tailor; it’s well worth it.

Then there is the whole “size whatever” issue, depending on the manufacturer. A size 12 for one shirt maybe an actual size 14 in another shirt. If so, take a couple different sizes into the dressing room and see which one looks best on you.

And please, please, PUH-LEEZE: do not let a tiny little size tag intimidate you. You may be a size 10 for most of your clothes, but a size 12 in other clothes made by another maker. So what? There’s no sense in saying, “I have NEVER been a size <insert number here>!”

The size tag doesn’t care. Your family doesn’t care. The manufacturer sure doesn’t care. So why should you?

Just try on different sizes of the article of clothing, find one that works for you, then call it good. Remember, WE are in charge here, not the clothes, and certainly not the size tag. Just keep remembering that you’re the boss of the clothes, not the other way around.

One more thing: if you have shopped your brains out and couldn’t find one thing you liked, then call it a day. Take yourself out for a nice lunch, a great movie, or a walk in the sunshine. Trust me, if today was not your day to find new clothes, another day will be the one.


The Joy of Doodling

I’ve doodled all my life. Nearly all my school papers from grade school on up were seldom doodle-free. Any shopping list I make nearly always has some “doodle-age” on it.

Has anyone ever taken a “Zentangles” course? I know of them, but haven’t actually participated in a class, but it looks like fun. Basically, you learn different methods of doodling and design, and anyone can do it.

However, just plain doodling is relaxing and fun. I’m sure that there is some study somewhere that tells you what your particular doodles mean, but frankly, I don’t care. Doodling for me is just fun for fun’s sake.

But if you’re going to doodle, you have to have a great doodling instrument. Years ago I bought myself a gorgeous Mont Blanc pen. It’s a beautiful thing; well-made, impressive looking, and feels good in the hand. It even has its own leather case. Neat, huh? But it’s a crap doodling pen.

For me, a black Sharpie fine-point pen is the ultimate doodling instrument—it makes great cartoons, doodles, and it’s the only one I use for addressing packages and snail mail.

My mom once found what was touted as “the premiere doodling pen” from Japan; the Uni-ball Signo. It comes in black and blue of course, but also delicious colors such as purple and emerald green. Mom fell hard for them, so I ordered them for her.

Well, they were not the glittering success she thought they would be, so I inherited them all. While they are pretty nice pens and do make an acceptable doodle, I’ll take the Sharpie fine-point pen, thank you very much.

So once you have “the” pen that works for you, start doodling. Why? Why not? Doodling is fun, relaxing and, in its way, sort of meditative (hence, the “Zen” in Zentangles).

There are even coloring books for adults now; everything from mandalas to exotic fish, flowers and animals. I have one that I occasionally work on, and it’s surprisingly relaxing.

In fact, if I’m having a bad day, just a few minutes of doodling is good therapy. Before you know it, the “bad” seeps away, leaving only the adventure of creating swirls, leaves, scrolls, cones and bubbles, cat faces and Egyptian eyes.

And it’s far from a waste of time. Anything at all that can calm you, relax you, put you in a better frame of mind and allow you a few minutes of sheer unsupervised fun—that’s a good thing.

So here’s my free prescription today: one great doodling pen and a big pad of paper. Directions: put pen on paper and go nuts.