Halloween Revisited

This is my second Halloween to be back on my old haunting ground.

I can remember my first, as well as my last Halloween as a trick or treater (thanks mostly to Kodak moments).

Halloween was anticipated with slightly lower energy than Christmas and much higher than Easter on the HMS (Holiday Magnitude Scale which is similar to the earthquake MMS and the RMS).

Christmas was about gifts and candy. Dressing up was optional unless one was (un)fortunate enough to be drafted for a Christmas program at school or church.

Halloween and Easter were about candy. And, both required dressing up.

Easter required new, itchy, stiff clothes that pinched and bunched in all the wrong places. And, before having ANY fun, or eating ANY candy, a change of clothing was required.

While Easter and Halloween both began with strong religious overtones and spiritual significance, Halloween, compared to Easter, was laid back and made for fun.

Yes, dressing up was required.  And, yes, sometimes the apparel pinched, poked, sweated, itched and would have made life miserable had it not been for the payout:

  1. no one knew who we were
  2. and everyone gave us a treat!

On Easter, everyone could tell who we were even though we were dressed up.  We looked…normal, just better. We looked more polished – and acted that way, too.

On Halloween, NO ONE knew who we were unless they lived with us. We prowled the dark streets incognito. Masked behind sweaty faux faces we approached the world (and strange doors) with spunk – fearing only the older boys who stole candy from younger children because they were too embarrassed to ask it for themselves.

Halloween meant we could be whatever we wanted. Angels were out. NO ONE wanted to be angelic on Halloween – that was required 364 days of the year, especially just before Christmas and on Easter.

Halloween was a night of witches, zombies, ghosts, ax murderers, supermen and wonderwomen, cartoon characters, and hobos. The only limits were our imagination and our parent’s resources.

It was an opportunity to dance on the edge of the dark side as we let loose our inhibitions and ran from house to house demanding in a singsong voice “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!”

We explored our inner selves and I let that bad girl surface in a night of revelry…of gluttony…of forbidden pleasures.

Hidden.  Our identity hidden meant we were free to act out and act on whatever our hearts desired.

And, we did.

  • We visited the houses that gave out “good candy” more than once.
  • We compared our haul with what others had and coveted a little more.
  • We ate candy from our stash before we got home – yes, before our parents had checked it.
  • We devoured homemade popcorn balls while standing under streetlights and wiped sticky hands on our clothes.
  • We lived for the moment and in the moment.
  • We rushed from one pleasure to the next with little regard for personal safety.
  • Our only thought was obtaining more.
  • And, we lied to neighbors and friends when they offered us candy in exchange for our identity.
  • And, lied again when asked “haven’t you already been to my door?”

Yes, Halloween was an opportunity to embrace self in a way every other day of the year prohibited.

Halloween allowed me to dance on the edge of disobedience and see who I really was.

Yes, I pushed boundaries and I found that some boundaries pushed back. But, I rarely crossed them.

Perhaps it was because for many years my dad stood at the edge of the road and watched over us.  Perhaps it was because there was a still, small voice residing within that governed me.

Whatever the reason, Halloween taught me several things.  The most important was this.

I am who I am and must be true to that identity – even when no one knows or recognizes me. I must follow what I know to be true and right.

The first time I went out incognito, I was shocked to discover that underneath my disguise I was still…ME.

And, each time I dressed up as a child for Halloween – or do so as an adult (for whatever reasons adults “disguise” themselves with makeup and fashionable attire) – I felt a mingling of disappointment and relief.

You see, as great as it is to dress up and “be someone else” for a while, when the costume is removed and I look in the mirror – I see “me.”  And, “me” is all I am.

Halloween.  It was a time of imagination and invention, of tasting the forbidden, of sugar rushes and extended bedtimes, of dancing in the identity of someone/something else, of broadening horizons and pushing boundaries…a time of facing fear and laughing in its face.

Halloween. It was a time of self discovery – of trying on a different identity and finding your own fit you best…of finding contentment in what you are…how you are…who you are and why.

Halloween. My neighborhood rocks it!  It’s a fun time – a family time – a safe time. And, it’s an opportunity to revisit the past and enjoy life once again through the eyes of a child.

Now…where did Daughter hide those huge bags of candy she bought for the trick or treaters??

Autumn Means…

We know why we call fall…Fall.

It’s the season when things…fall.

  • leaves fall
  • temperature falls
  • night falls earlier
  • blooms fall
  • seeds fall
  • shadows fall
  • rain falls
  • sap falls
  • snow falls
  • summer wear falls into disuse

But, why do we call Fall…Autumn?

It would seem that no one knows for certain!

Autumn appears to have fallen from the Latin word auctumnus, which refers to increase…or perhaps even harvest.

Harvest – now there’s a fitting word for the season that falls after Summer.

And that’s exactly what I did last Thursday, the day before the first killing freeze of this season struck. I harvested EVERYTHING edible in the garden.

It’s hard to look at the fallen garden.  Tomato plants, now dead black, lie withered on the ground. Burnt and blackened peas and bean plants stand ready to fall.  Okra…my beloved okra…my fallen okra….

When I saw the garden two days after the killing freeze, my heart joined the fallen.

“Fall is fitting,” I think as I scuff my feet through fallen leaves that will soon bury the fallen of the garden.

Yes…Fall fits especially well – “fall back” Sunday is this weekend.

Don’t forget to fall back from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time. 😉

Centering on Home

It’s 6:45 a.m. and here I sit squinting at the screen of a new laptop.  It’s dark in the house – unexpectedly dark outside this morning.  Cloud cover prevents early morning light and I’ve not turned on any lights in the house apart from the one emanating from my laptop screen.

The keys on the laptop are not lit and the characters on them are barely visible in the light of day and invisible in this early morning darkness.  So, add to that the glare from the screen and the reflections in my glasses, and I find myself typing blind.

Typing blind shouldn’t be a difficult thing for me. I’ve been at home on a typewriter / keyboard since my teen years and until recently most computer keyboards were set up similar.  All it took was slight modifications to my typing skills and I was off and running.

Not so with this new lap top.

I’m in the dark in more ways than one this morning as I struggle to type what I wish to say on an unfamiliar keyboard, on an unruly computer, on keys I can’t see, with hands unaccustomed to the touch of even the home keys.

The home keys….

I’d not thought of them.

Yes!  I can feel the little bump on the F and J.

With fingers so placed by feel alone, I reach out to touch keys that now feel familiar to me.  All I need to remember is that “delete” is not where it should be and I need to avoid the touchscreen at all costs to fingers, wrists, shoulders and arm muscles.  (If I don’t everything I’ve typed so far will be zapped by the cursed wandering cursor.

Wow!  What a difference it makes when I center self on the home keys.  All becomes clear even in the dark.  Confusion and frustration are no more and I’m free!

Home free!

Keep Your Work Area Clean

I knew better.  I just didn’t do better.

When Daughter purchased a new bed – smaller and more in step with the size of her room – she discarded her old.

I saved the foundation and tore it apart for various uses.

The tearing apart / breaking down process can be messy if one doesn’t follow certain rules consistently.

Rules like:

4. remove protruding nails / staples, or hammer them flat, OR turn the board so nail tips point DOWN and not UP

8. don’t step on boards / wood

10. don’t step on nails / staples, or on boards containing them

22. wear shoes

(Read more rules here.)

You see…I stepped on a piece of wood with small nails protruding from it. Yes, I was wearing shoes. But they were my old work shoes…yes, the ones with holes in the soles.

I didn’t realize I had a problem until I took another step forward and discovered the board was stuck to the bottom of my shoe.

When I sat to pull the board from my shoe, I discovered the nails had gone through the sole.

That explained why one of my toes stung.

I removed my shoe, then my sock. Yep, I had two little holes in the underside of my fourth toe.  Tiny dots of red marked them.

It’s not such a difficult thing to ignore rules.  In fact, it seems tremendously human to do so.  But, when we choose to ignore rules, we position ourselves squarely in harm’s way.

I ignored safety guidelines and blatantly broke rules.

And, in the process of doing my own thing, my own way, I suffered the consequences.

I’m just glad my dad wasn’t around to see.  He would have said, “Babe, why did you do that?  You knew better!”

Yep, I did.  I knew better because he taught me better.

Problem is, I didn’t do better.

See Stop Help

When our neighbor stopped last Sunday to see if she could help, one thing she said was, “When I saw you pushing the car I said to myself, ‘Hey!  I know those people! I’ve gotta stop and see what I can do to help!”

It was such a blessing to know that we weren’t alone in our plight. There was nothing our neighbor could do for us…apart from what she did. She cared. She saw, stopped and offered help.

See. Stop. Offer help.  Five cars passed us as we pushed our car.  Only one stopped.

One out of five.

If you had passed us broken down and pushing our load, would you have stopped to see if you could help in some way? Would you have acknowledged our situation?  seen our need?

Would you have been that ONE in five who stopped?  Or, would you have been in one of the four cars that passed us and went on?

You see…I recognized the four cars that drove past us.  I see and wave to the drivers of each every day on my walks through our neighborhood.

One in five stopped. There was nothing she could offer apart from making a phone call. She couldn’t fix the car and couldn’t help us push it. But, her care and concern strengthened us for the task and in our bond as neighbors.

Our neighbor offered what she could.  And, that was enough.

Often, we are reluctant to offer help because we are afraid.

Afraid? Yes – of getting involved…of becoming responsible…of being used and abused…of taking on troubles that aren’t ours…of coming off as unconcerned/uncaring because we can’t fix the problem…of disappointing the expectations of others….

See. Stop.  Help.

I can only do what I can do – I can do no more.  The same is true with you.  Our limitations shouldn’t stop us from acknowledging the situation and need of others – and offering, “What can I do to help?”

Asking the question doesn’t roll the problem onto our shoulders.  It just opens the door to the possibility of us contributing, perhaps in some small way, to the solution.

“I’ll do what I can.”  Often our ability to help is limited.

But, our limits shouldn’t be seen as inabilities – we do what we can, when we can with what we have.  Our resources and abilities may change with time and circumstance. What we can’t do today, may become can do tomorrow.

Remember this – a person’s inability to do for us what we want or need shouldn’t in any way have a bearing on how we feel about that individual or the relationship we have with them. I can only do what I can do.  The same is true with you.  My limitations ebb and flow with time and circumstance. So do yours.

If I’ve disappointed you by not meeting all the needs you have, that makes me sad but it’s not my problem or my bad. I can only do what I can do.  If I’ve known of your need and not offered to do what I can to help you, then I need to apologize to you and ask your forgiveness.

And, if I see you broken down by the side of the road, I’ll stop and offer what help I can, even if it’s only to sit with you until more substantial help arrives.

I hope you will do the same for me. 😉

Unexpected Blessings

Sunday evening, about dusk, Hubby and I journeyed home from our SC vs TN imposed payoff date at McDonald’s.  (The sweet tea was…SWEET and so was our time together.)

The McDonald’s we chose is about 4 miles from our house – a quick drive there and back.

…until the car quit running.

Yep.  We were half a mile from home when the car sputtered and flashed it’s warning lights at us as it died.

Of course, it didn’t quite make it to the top of the small rise as it coasted to a stop…or onto the side of the road, either.

I looked at Hubby with that “well…what now?” look.

I jumped out and ran around to the back of the car, yelled for him to take his foot off the brake and leaned hard against the car with the intent of pushing the old Geo Prizm forward.

The only direction it wanted to go was BACKWARDS.

“BRAKE! BRAKE!” I yelled, and Hubby did.

Weight loss is a good thing.  And, a bad thing, as well.  There was a time when I could move mountains (and cars) just by applying my weight and the force it generated to the problem at hand.  I no longer have the mass I once had and even a gust of wind can knock me off balance now.  There was no way I could push that car up the rise, especially not with Hubby in it.  What was I thinking?!?

Apparently I wasn’t. (There…I said it…I knew you were thinking it.)

Hubby climbed out and instructed me to get into the driver’s seat and guide the car as he pushed.

I did, he did, and the car began a slow forward climb up the rise.

“Sit in the car?” I thought.  “No way!”

So, out I climbed and threw my stubbornness against the door frame as I guided the steering wheel with my right hand.

It was decided that we would push the car the half mile home.  After we topped the rise, it would be a level stretch the remainder of the way home, and we would just park it in front of the house…easier for the tow truck to collect that way, anyhow.

Topping the rise was the issue at the moment and we both leaned into the task at hand.

Just as we topped the rise a familiar car passed us and then pulled onto the shoulder of the road ahead of us.  We stopped pushing.

A neighbor had stopped to see if she could help us or call someone to assist.

Ah…neighborly neighbors!  Ya gotta love ’em!  I know I do.

We assured her we were fine and thanked her for her offer.  (There was no one we knew of to call and the best thing we knew to do was to just get ‘er home.)

Back to pushing we went and up the rise the car rolled until it reached the top.

“Get in and see if you can pop the clutch and make it start as I push it down hill,” Hubby called to me.

In I jumped as I felt the car pick up a little speed, it’s weight beginning to pull it downhill.

“Pop the clutch?” I thought. “Why not turn the key and see what happens?”

So, I did and the engine roared to life.  Hubby called out, “Take it on home and I’ll be along as soon as I can get there.”

I’ll admit – I did consider heading home as fast as I could but as I saw Hubby becoming smaller and smaller in my rear view mirror, and darkness engulfing him, I knew I would not leave him beside the road.

The car was running.  If it stopped…it stopped. I would wait on Hubby.

With Hubby in the car, I drove like a crazed woman, up the street, down our road and into our driveway.  As soon as I turned in, I felt the life go out of the car.  It sputtered, choked and died halfway into the driveway.  I turned the key and again it coughed to life and I was able to pull it in fully before it died again.

Home – we were home.  At that moment, that was all that mattered. Sure, we had a lot to consider and most of it was unknown at the moment.  But, we were home.

As we thought back over the path Hubby had chosen to take on our way home from McDonald’s (He chose the scenic route – a favorite of ours…the “back way” that’s off the beaten path…narrow and hilly and lonely.) we were struck by what could have happened and where.

And, we felt blessed that it broke down where it did.  Had the car stopped anywhere else along our journey, we couldn’t have pushed it – probably not even out of the road.  And, we certainly would not have been able to get it home.  No way!

God blessed us – and kept us safe

God blessed us – and reminded us that we have neighbors who are concerned about us.

God blessed us – with strength.

God blessed us – with dry weather.

God blessed us – with each other

God blessed us – by letting it start several times even though the ignition coil was shot…and so was the distributor.

God blessed us – with the reminder that it’s not so much about what we can do. It’s more about offering what we have to give. (And, no – that’s not going to be enough for most people.)

God blessed me – with the reminder that my responsibility is to offer what I have…what I can do.

God also blessed me – with the understanding that I shouldn’t fret about what I can’t do, and that it’s okay to let go of the disappointment and misunderstanding that arises in others when their expectations don’t match my ability to help.

God blessed us – with the realization that we need others to see us – to stop, and inquire about us – to ask: “Is there anything I can do to help…you?”

And, God blessed me – with you, Dear Reader.

I wonder…. Is there anything I can do to help you?

Rules To Live By

I enjoy breaking things down so I can use the parts to build or build up something else.

One thing I’ve learned through personal experience – make sure there are no sharp points protruding or you’ll be sorry when you touch / pick it up / move it…step on it.

Ouch!  No matter how many times I remind Self, “Watch out for that board, it has a nail in it”, I invariably forget

  • and stick myself
  • poke myself
  • scratch myself
  • catch my clothes on it
  • or snag my skin with it….

That’s how it is when you tear things down – and when you build things up.  If you’re not careful, you will create an environment that can be injurious – to yourself and to others.

Be sure you take care of all the sharp points.

  • remove them
  • pound them flat
  • bend them
  • cover them
  • dispose of them

Those prickly, pointy things, that once served the purpose of holding together what you’re tearing down can inflict harm and work against you and your goal of recreating what was into what can be / could be / should be.

The same is true whether it’s tearing down a bed foundation or rebuilding a relationship.

Here are some rules that help me steer clear of pointy, sharp-edged things that can skewer me or the tender flesh (or emotions) of others. (Many apply equally to relationships.)

  1. Keep your work area neat. (Be neat.)
  2. Clean up after yourself as you work. (Be responsible)
  3. Stack things out of the way…off the floor if possible. (Don’t create stumbling blocks)
  4. Remove protruding nails / staples, hammer them flat, OR turn the board so nail tips point DOWN and not UP. (Don’t be prickly, take care not to hurt others.)
  5. Don’t leave anything on the floor to trip over. (Don’t be a stumbling block)
  6. Leave no room for accidents. (Care about how your actions affect others)
  7. Be safe, think it through. (Plan ahead)
  8. Measure twice – cut once. (Proceed with caution)
  9. Don’t step on boards / wood. (Watch your step when moving forward)
  10. Don’t mash your fingers or those of others. (Mind boundaries)
  11. Don’t step on nails / staples, or on boards containing them. (Watch your step)
  12. Don’t grab wood with nails / staples protruding. (Keep your hands where they belong)
  13. Just because you think you can doesn’t always mean you can – or should. (Boundaries again)
  14. Keep your mind on your work. (Stay focused on what’s important)
  15. Keep your eye on what you’re hammering. (Pay attention to your own actions)
  16. It will always take longer than you think and involve more resources than you presently have. But, it will be worth it. (Love…need I say more?)
  17. If the hammer head is loose…use a different one. Trust me. (Don’t fly off the handle)
  18. Anticipate the unexpected. (No one’s perfect)
  19. Keep bandaids and alcohol handy. And, pair of pliers. (You hurt others, they hurt you – it happens)
  20. Don’t use a screwdriver as a pry-bar. (Need help? Get the right kind of help)
  21. Remember – if it’s taller or higher than you, it can (and will) fall on you. (It takes two)
  22. Wear shoes. (Take preventative action)
  23. Wear protective eye-wear. (Be proactive)
  24. Check and double-check. (Be watchful)
  25. Always measure twice. Always. (Be cautious)
  26. Put things where they belong. (Be considerate)
  27. Pick it up, don’t lay it down to attend to later. (Deal with problems quickly, don’t let them fester)
  28. While it’s in your hand…deal with it. (Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath)
  29. Keep things handy. (Be available)
  30. Assemble what’s needed BEFORE beginning the task. (Be prepared)
  31. Remember, you only have two hands (Yes, you’re limited in what you can do alone – sometimes it takes two).
  32. Work neat, smart – eyes open and mind engaged – always watching for potential danger / problems. (Be proactive)
  33. You messed it up? That means you clean it up. (Be quick to forgive and to ask for forgiveness)
  34. Cleaning as you go keeps you safe and your work area uncluttered (Be thoughtful)
  35. Work with safety in mind. (Others first)
  36. Finish one project before beginning another. (Be reliable)
  37. Draw up a plan. (Be determined to do what’s necessary to make things work)
  38. Have a set goal in mind. (Be intentional)
  39. Be creative –  not crazy. (Think outside the box and don’t box others in)
  40. Be open to change. (Welcome change)

Common Ground

I’m familiar with holidays, events and traditions that involve and include my nationality / culture / history / world view / religion / belief system / whatever it is that makes me…me.

I’m coming to see that those of others hold just as much weight as my own do. And, my choice not to celebrate in no way negates the importance or significance of that which others embrace and practice.

My neighbor is not of my culture.  We are…different.  One is not better than the other, nor more important. Both are valid.  Both are of value. Both have worth.

My neighbor’s world view is not shared by me – but that doesn’t make it wrong.  It just means it’s different.

Today, my neighbor brought over two huge plates of food, piled high and deliciously fragrant.  Today was a celebration…a holiday that she and her family kept…a part of her culture.

She chose to share it with us.

What a delicious sharing it was.

What was on the plates?  The only things I recognized were potatoes, green beans, golden raisins and chicken.  The rest were wonderful mysteries that delighted our taste buds and satisfied our appetites.

While her food filled our bellies, her generosity and outreach to us warmed our hearts.

My neighbor and I share little in common – but we have found common ground. She is a good cook and I am a good eater.

What We Fear

“Want to see a snake?” asked my neighbor.

“Sure!” I answered and hurried over to where she stood.

My expectation was to see a live snake, but what I saw instead was a small snake that was gasping it’s last.  Blood dotted the driveway pavement.  It’s neck, just behind its head, was crushed.

My neighbor picked up the spade and stabbed the snake in the neck. Then, when it opened its mouth, she stabbed its lower lip and held it fast against the pavement.

“It’s a bad snake, yes?” she said, more than asked.

I shook my head, “Not bad…good. Eats mice and rats.”

“Eats mice? Rats?” she quizzed.

I nodded, “yes….”

“Not good snake for yard,” she said. “No, not good for snake to be in yard.”

I looked at the little snake and agreed, “no, not good for snake to be in yard.”

Poor baby snake.

Earlier I had been working in my front yard…not 8 feet from where the snake lay dying.

I wondered if the snake had been in my yard, hiding amongst the fallen leaves and had slipped into her yard to escape.

I was sad, so sad…for the snake and what it had suffered and for my neighbor and others like her who fear what they don’t understand and who strike out in response to that fear.

My neighbor and others like her…. Better include me in that. I’m as guilty as anyone else.

What about you?

Got Your Flu Shot Yet?

Mom chose to get her flu shot early – before flu season began.  A wise choice, I felt.

She “suggested” that it would be wise for Hubby and I (and Daughter, as well) to get our flu shots, too.

And, soon.

“If you get the flu, you can’t come see me. And, that wouldn’t be good.” I agreed with Mom.  That wouldn’t be good.

So, Hubby and I stopped in our local Kroger for our flu shots.  We get one every year and apart from the little stick and a bit of a sore muscle afterward, there’s nothing to it.

Except, this year, after the little stick, there was a horrible burn as the vaccine was injected into my muscle. It felt like liquid fire. I was shocked and said so.

Hubby and I compared notes after the fact.  His burned badly, too.

Two hours after getting the vaccine, I noticed a couple of “mosquito bites” on my arm just below the injection site.  And, the site itself was whelped up.

Unusual.

At 9 that evening I noticed a generalized itchiness and when I scratched the itchiest places I noticed groupings of what appeared to be more mosquito bites…on my arms and legs.

I took a Benedryl capsule and still I itched.  Was it a reaction to the flu vaccine?  Or, from the fresh tomatoes I ate for dinner?  I’ve never reacted from either. But, there’s always a first time.

For more about the flu shot, check the CDC’s site on Seasonal Influenza (Flu) and their Q&A site.