The Days of REAL Halloween

Oh, the dark and scary Halloween evenings when we kids walked through our neighborhoods together (no parents allowed)! If we were lucky, it would be a clear night, not too cool (if the weather was cold, our moms made us wear jackets over our costumes and that was a real bummer), and if the moon was full, well; that was just a Halloween gift.

We knew our neighborhoods well, and only stopped at the neighbors’ homes that we knew. (It was considered rude to knock on the doors of people we didn’t know.) We carried our goody bags close and giggled with each other as we travelled through the neighborhood. Back then, you were more likely to be given candy bars, and homemade popcorn balls, brownies and cookies. Often we were given apples which we hated (who wants fruit on Halloween?) But we politely thanked the givers just the same; to do less would have been downright rude.

When we returned home, it was the house rule to dump all of our candy into a bowl in the kitchen. (It never occured to me to sneak some of my loot in my pockets; besides, Mom would have frisked me anyway.) I put my candy into Mom’s big wooden salad bowl, and she and Dad would pick out what they wanted. I always got a small handful of candy myself, and then the bowl would be put up on top of the refrigerator. All during the week, it would be parceled out in small amounts. I always harbored some resentment about that; after all, I was the one who walked for hours collecting those goodies!

But one of the most fun things about Halloween back then was the scary stories, especially the “classics.” Those included “The Hairy Hand,” “The Floating Coffin,” and others. Here’s a good one I found online; the babysitter story. Enjoy!

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“The babysitter story is an unforgettable urban legend, often told at slumber parties.

The tale has different variations but the spooky and downright terrifying elements remain the same. As the story goes, a teenage girl is hired by a young couple to baby-sit their two small children. They go out to a dinner party and leave the girl to tend to the kids in a somewhat isolated, large house at the end of the block.

 

When the hour gets late, she puts the children to bed and sits down to watch some late-night TV. The phone starts ringing and startles the half-asleep teenager. When she answers it, she hears heavy breathing and a man tells her he is “coming to get her”. While she is somewhat scared, she dismisses it as a prank phone call.

About 15 minutes later, the phone rings again. When she answers it, the man starts laughing and tells her that he is closer. The baby sitter is truly frightened now and calls the police.

They tell her that it’s probably just a prank phone call, but they will try to trace the call, so she must keep him on the line as long as possible if he calls another time. She once again settles down on the couch, not sleepy at all.

The phone rings a third time and the man tells her he has come for her and it’s only a matter of time. He continues with some heavy breathing until the babysitter is so terrified that she hangs up the phone again.

She quickly decides to get the children and flee the house when the phone rings again. This time it is a policeman on the other end and he tells her frantically “GET OUT OF THE HOUSE NOW!” THE MAN IS INSIDE THE HOUSE AND IS CALLING FROM THE UPSTAIRS EXTENSION!”

She runs from the house as the police arrive. The madman escapes but they find the children upstairs dead and a bloody axe laying on the bedroom floor next to an open window.

Note: The baby-sitter urban legend is as old as the hills. In this story, the man is always calling from the “upstairs extension” (in the days of the landline), but it’s unlikely that he would be able ring the phone from an extension. In most instances, he would have to be calling from a separate phone line upstairs.

Notice how the perpetrator gets away, leaving him “on the loose” to prey on other innocent teenage girls? It makes for some great storytelling, particularly when the crime is not solved.”

Happy Halloween everyone!

What’s With the Grabbing and the No Probleming?

I am noticing more and more that servers at restaurants are asking people “can I GRAB that for you?” “I’ll just GRAB your check for you” and “can I GRAB you something else?” Why can’t they just say, “can I get that for you?” or “I’ll go get your check for you,” or “can I bring you something else?” It’s beyond annoying.

And then there is the “no problem” to nearly everything, which is like this: say a nice person opens the door for you when your arms are full of groceries, and you thank them. And do they say “you’re welcome,” or “my pleasure,” or “I’m glad to help?” No. No, they do not. They say “no problem.” Here’s the thing: “no problem” does NOT act as a “you’re welcome.”

As a dear friend of mine recently said (because the “no problem” bugs her just as much as it bugs me), “THERE IS NO PROBLEM!” And she’s correct: ‘no problem’ does not, will not and never will be a subsitute for “you’re welcome.”

And as a little sidecar to this rant, there is also the over-use of the ubiquitous “like.” As our good old pals, William Strunk. Jr. and E.B. White, who wrote “The Elements of Style,” say this about “like:”

“Not to be used for the conjunctions as. Like governs nouns and pronouns; before phrases and clauses the equivalent word is as. Good example: “We spent the evening as in the old days.” Bad example: “We spent the evening like in the old days.”

I swear that, should I ever be a teacher again, I would warn my students that the over-use of “like” will mean the following:

  • Points will be removed from the student on any and all tests, essays, and compositions.
  • Students who continue to say “like” in class will have to sit on an uncomfortable chair in front of the class and wear a tall pointed hat with the word “IDIOT” on it, and a sign that reads “I Said “Like” WAY Too Many Times!” Parents will be notified.
  • Students who refuse to stop saying “like” will be turned into speed bumps.

Yup, you got it—it’s all part of my secret evil plan <insert a string of moo-hahahas here>.

 

Come One, Come All—We Feed Them All!

If you read my blog on a regular basis (and if you do, thank you!), you will know that the Crankee Yankee and I are owned by six indoor cats. We also feed and shelter the stray cats, or the “outoorsies” as I like to call them. Some of them may have homes, some may be on their own, but at least they know that they have food and water in our back yard, and clean, dry shelters under our porch and in our garage.

Of course, the resident raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, skunks and birds enjoy the bounty as well. But that’s fine with us; we hate to see anything go hungry. Even in the winter time, we stamp down trails so that they don’t have to slog up to their arm pits; or I guess you could call them “leg pits.” Frankly, I think that most of them have homes; they just like to have a meal at our house now and then.

This past summer we put up a birdfeeder on one part of the garden. I also toss out bread and muffin bits, as well as baby carrots for the occasional rabbit. The squirrels enjoy the bird feeder nearly as much as the birds do. During the winter months, we put up suet pans; in the cold weather, they need all the fat and protein they can get.

Not only do the strays get food, water and shelter, but they provide endless entertainment for our indoor cats. Also, our cats like to sit on the window sills and watch the birds and squirrels on and near the birdfeeder. For them, it’s Cat TV, or as we call it, “savage amusement.”

To each his own.

 

 

 

When the Universe Trips Us Up

Ever had a day when everything you planned to do either didn’t work out or turned into a pain in the butt? My feeling is that this happens when we start to go off course; maybe even into dangerous courses. Sometimes the universe is telling us something; perhaps just a “don’t go there” message. I can’t count how many times something I planned to do has gone sideways. After years of being frustrated about it, I finally learned that there is a reason that things go all flooby for a reason we cannot see in the moment. 

Often I’ll be driving somewhere and for no real reason I take a different route. Later on I will find out that there was a major accident or that there was a fun run on the road I didn’t know about that would have set me back for hours. Then again the universe can reward you for no special reason. I once was walking somewhere and decided to take another route than my usual one. As I walked along, I could see something flapping in the wind ahead of me. It turned out that it was a $20 bill!

When my mother was dying of metastatic breast cancer, I would drive up to Wolfeboro where Mom and Dad lived as often as I could. Some days I would stay overnight to help out. Weeks later, the Crankee Yankee and I were driving up there and I got a call from Dad; he said that Mom’s breathing was harsh and that she was starting to go. We drove as fast as we could and there was another phone call: Dad said she was gone.

While I wished that I could have been there with her as she passed, I knew that Mom was on her way to where she wanted to go. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t there; it was enough that Dad was there. Looking back, she passed on with Dad right there with her; the love of her life, and that it was the way she would have wanted it. Even now, four years later, I still think that things happened as they were supposed to happen. For me, it was a sign that the universe was answering her wishes.

When something unexpected happens, usually something we don’t like; our first reaction is “why ME?” And the universe answers “why not you?” Things do happen for a reason. We may not see that reason right away, but I do believe that the universe is always steering us in the right direction for our best and highest good, whether or not we believe it.

Besides, even if you don’t believe it, the universe would probably say, “it couldn’t hurt.”

Love is Love is Love

Love is love in whatever form it manifests. You can have love for your family, your friends, your pets; you can even love some foods more than other foods. When we fall in love, it’s a glorious thing.

A man can be in love with another man; a woman can be in love with another woman, a man can be in love with a woman, and a woman can be in love with a man. Also there can be polyamorous relationships as well. Love is love.

I grew up knowing about my “uncles,” Bob and Ray, who lived in my town for quite a while. When they retired and moved to Florida, Mom used to go visit them. I once went with her, and we had a wonderful time.

Here’s the thing: we love who we love. We can’t help it; love is love. Years ago I sat with the Crankee Yankee at an outdoor wedding of two of our favorite guys. They adored each other and are living a beautiful life together.

When I lived in Texas, I joined a light opera company. We put on wonderful Gilbert and Sullivan operarettas, and it was so much fun. I got to meet some great people there, especially a family of two men and two women who lived in a beautiful house together. They all had decided to adopt a child. They went to China and found a darling little girl who had been left on a train. They adopted her and brought her home to Texas. They all adored the little girl and gave her a life she never would have had without them.

We can’t help it; we love who we love and there’s no way around it. Love is love, and thank Heaven that it is. If we can just go beyond the “rights and wrongs” we may have grown up with, our minds and hearts will expand and allow in more love and understanding. Love is love is love.

 

 

The Growing Up Years

Generally every morning, the Crankee Yankee and I grab our cups of coffee and sit on the front porch. It’s a lovely way to start the day and to enjoy the sunrise. We often see the neighborhood kids trudging off to the bus stop to go to school. Generally they are pretty quiet and still look sleepy.

There is one lone girl I always notice. She is a bit on the heavy side, and I never see her with other girls. She walks with her head down and I have never seen her smile. I could be very wrong, but she looks as though she needs a friend.

Heaven knows how hard it is to grow up; everything, including kids’ bodies; are changing. Today’s technology is no help either; there are so many ways to hurt and humiliate each other via social media. Not only that, but just imagine a shy person in the gym class, taking a shower. All it takes is one mean person with a cell phone to snap a picture and then send it off to everyone. It’s an extreme bullying tactic and can cause a lifetime of shame. Often someone who is bullied in this way may take their own lives.

When I was in grade school, the worst thing that anyone ever did to me was to stuff my brand-new suede shoes down the toilet. Of course they were ruined, and the gym teacher told me to tell the principal’s secretary to call my parents. I was terrified that they would think that somehow the ruined shoes were my fault. It was bad enough to have to wear my gym sneakers to class for the rest of the day, but worst of all was the feeling that someone hated me.

At the time, money was pretty tight at home, and somehow my mother found out who did the deed; the daughter of the garbage man who picked up our trash. Long story short, the daughter was punished, and the garbage man picked up our trash for free for a month.

So these days when I watch that lonely girl walking to the bus stop, my heart goes out to her. Her growing years are far different than mine, but just being a kid in school can be pretty rough. The growing up years can be a trial by fire, and my wish for kids today is that they have all the love, support, kindness and help they need. A bit of kindness and understanding can make a world of difference.

Remember the song by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, “Teach Your Children?” It still bears wisdom today:

“You, who are on the road,
Must have a code
That you can live by.
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a goodbye.

Teach your children well.
Their father’s hell
Did slowly go by.
And feed them on your dreams.
The one they pick’s the one you’ll know by.

Don’t you ever ask them, “Why?”
If they told you, you would cry.
So, just look at them and sigh,
And know they love you.

Can you hear and do you care
And can’t you see
We must be free
To teach your children
What you believe in,
Make a world that we can live in?

And you, of tender years,
Can’t know the fears
That your elders grew by.
And so please help them with your youth.
They seek the truth
Before they can die.

Teach your parents well.
Their children’s hell
Will slowly go by.
And feed them on your dreams.
The one they pick’s the one you’ll know by.

Don’t you ever ask them, “Why?”
If they told you, you would cry.
So, just look at them and sigh
And know they love you.”