Ghost Story

Dana and I are running in twelve different directions this week. So here’s a spooky post from two years ago…and last year…but who doesn’t love a ghost story?

Happy Halloween!

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Growing up, we had a ghost in the house. I’ll put that on my mom. And if my mom was writing this, she’d tell you the same.

We’d lived in the house probably ten years before we put it all together. We sat down as a family and told each other all the weird things that had happened that we thought were just weird coincidence or the creakings and squeakings of a 40 year old house. That night, I named her Dorothy.

Dorothy was the source of the knocking on my bedroom wall, the reason that the dog sat up and begged from no one. She whispered in everyone’s ear, waking us up in the dark of night. Up to that point, none of it was scary. Just weird.

But that dinner was like her coming out party. Once we acknowledged her presence, she got busy.

One night Teresa was playing with my mom’s music box, a masquerade clown that played “Music of the Night” from Phantom. As if that in itself was not creepy enough, two hours after she left, I was watching TV by myself when I heard the box play about six slow notes in the dining room. It did that sometimes, like it hadn’t quite wound all the way down.

Thirty seconds later though, that thing started playing loud and fast like someone had wound it all the way up.

I screamed for my brother, who yelled back “I’m not coming out there!” My mom came running up the hallway and grabbed the box, which had indeed been wound all the way up.

Dorothy.

My dad hired a painter to paint the family room. After six hours they wanted out. The paint fell over, the brushes moved from where they had been left, the TV switched on and off. “You got a ghost, boss” the painter told my dad.

Dorothy.

At Christmas, the stockings my mom made when we were all babies, that hung on the mantle every year, and were packed away in the same place, were gone. My mom turned the house upside down. Nothing.

When we dragged the decorations out for the next Christmas, there they were, right on top.

Dorothy.

I lost a pair of jean shorts, my favorites. I looked for them everywhere, even in my brothers’ drawers. Then I forgot about them. One day in the middle of winter, I pulled a load of whites out of the dryer and mixed up among them—my blue jean shorts.

Dorothy.

My brother used to surf early in the morning. The kid never remembered his house key. He’d tap on my bedroom window so I could get up and let him in the back door. One Saturday morning, he  called my name and tapped, and I got up and opened the back door. Which set off the house alarm. Which brought everyone running, including my brother who’d been asleep in his bed.

Dorothy.

It got to be a thing. My mom, standing over the tv, turning it off only to have it turn right back on. “Dorothy, cut it out!” she yelled finally, and that time the tv stayed off.

One night I was doing the dishes. It was just my brother and me in the house. He came into the kitchen to get a drink, but then he bolted for the back door and locked it. “I just saw someone outside!” he said.

“Blond hair?” I asked him.

“Yes!”

“I’ve seen that. I think it’s Dorothy” I told him.

And then this night. I was doing the dishes. It was dark. The rest of the family was watching tv in the other room. I looked up from the sink, into the window, which was like a giant mirror, reflecting the room behind me. And I saw a woman with blond hair, in a long black dress, walk into the room towards me. I froze, and watched as she turned and walked out.

When I ran out into the family room to tell my parents, my brother said “I thought I saw someone walk into the dining room just a second ago”.

Dorothy.

The mystery was solved one afternoon at my grandparent’s home. I was telling Dorothy stories and my grandmother, a few Canadian Clubs into the afternoon, said “We had a ghost here too. Bessie.” She then launched into a list of Bessie stories that sounded a lot like Dorothy. My grandmother thought she haunted a painting they used to have.

“Is she gone?” my dad asked.

“Oh sure, since we got rid of the painting” my grandmother said.

“Where did it go?” he asked.

“We gave it to you years ago! The one in the living room.”

And I knew exactly the painting she was talking about. A delicate, Romantic style portrait of a young girl, her face glowing against the background, even in the dark.

The girl in the painting was not a blond. And she was not dressed the way that Dorothy was dressed the night I saw her. But since the day my dad took that painting off the wall and sent it to Goodwill, there has never been another Dorothy incident in the house.

I know. Spooooooky.

Happy Halloween!

Boo Fail

I’ve written about Boo Baskets before. But I have an update.

For the first time in 5 years, we got caught.

Boo Baskets are not a thing in Southern Oregon. When I texted the moms of the four families we picked to tell them we would come a’booing, I found myself explaining the entire concept, four times.

My friend Leah—and she’s six months pregnant so I’m going to cut her some slack—didn’t tell her husband. Which led to this:

Leah’s house has enormous front windows. They also own a huge English Bulldog named Ozzy. The house sits a block from the town football stadium–I’ll take responsibility for choosing a Friday night when their street was packed with cars, mostly driven by mostly sober teenagers.

We had a strategy session in the car after we cruised the house. It was decided Shea would man the getaway car, the girls and I would hide behind Leah’s minivan and Gabe would do the real sneaking.

We neglected to notice the fence around the front yard to keep Ozzy in. And the screen door that swings instead of shuts so that he can get in and out.

Gabe made it to the door and back the first time, no problem, except that nothing happened.

“Did you ring the doorbell?” I whispered. He smacked his forehead and went back. I remembered too late that Leah told me the doorbell doesn’t work so I had to send him back a third time. “Knock loud!” I told him over the minivan.

And he did.

He barely made it back to the minivan before we heard the door squeak open and closed. Usually this is followed by “Hey, look what we got!” but this time there was nothing. Dead silence. So Gabe peeked. I wish I had a picture of the terror in his eyes when he came back down. He pointed, mouthed “A MAN” and then made himself into a tiny ball.

Well, dang. Sure enough when I looked around the corner,  I saw a man who I hoped to God was Leah’s husband crouched around the other side of the minivan, preparing to launch himself right where Annie was hiding.

He wasn’t wearing his Welcome to my house face either.

So first I got big and then I got loud:  “Hi! I’m Jen. You must be Jason! Did Leah tell you we were coming?”

He shook his head no, and you best believe I noticed that he didn’t actually speak to me. So I shoved Annie out where he could see her and pulled Kate–who, bless my smart girl, was already talking as fast as she could about her “great friend Ella”.

It took thirty seconds of explaining before his jaw relaxed, but then he was all in.

“Knock again” he told Gabe. “I’ll make sure the girls answer the door.”

Down we crouched and off Gabe went, for the fifth time in case you’re keeping score at home.

We heard the girls answer the door and find the basket. Squeals of excitement. The it got quiet. Gabe peeked, nodded that the coast was clear and I grabbed Annie’s hand and stood up.

To a chorus of screaming.

Ella and Anna came around the corner just as I moved and caught us stone cold.

Ozzy came out the gate and peed on my foot, he was so excited to see me.

(Later I told Gabe he was lucky that Ozzy must have been somewhere else, or we would have gotten caught the first time.

“He was right there, mom. He saw me. He wagged his tail like he was excited.”

#Guarddogfail.)

At this point we had been gone so long that Shea came up the street to find out what the heck was going on, and that is how we met Jason, Leah’s husband.

Leah was not at home.

Best laid plans and all that.

For a reminder of how Booing works go here. Or Google it. There’s lots of cute ideas out there.

The Ghost in Our House~ Jen

My phone turned everyone on the edge of the lake into a ghost at dusk a few months ago. Weird.

My phone turned everyone on the edge of the lake into a ghost at dusk a few months ago. Weird.

She’s baaaaaack!

Growing up, we had a ghost in the house. I’ll put that on my mom. And if my mom was writing this, she’d tell you the same.

We’d lived in the house probably ten years before we put it all together. We sat down as a family and told each other all the weird things that had happened that we thought were just weird coincidence or the creakings and squeakings of a 40 year old house. That night, I named her Dorothy.

Dorothy was the source of the knocking on my bedroom wall, the reason that the dog sat up and begged from no one. She whispered in everyone’s ear, waking us up in the dark of night. Up to that point, none of it was scary. Just weird.

But that dinner was like her coming out party. Once we acknowledged her presence, she got busy.

One night Teresa was playing with my mom’s music box, a masquerade clown that played “Music of the Night” from Phantom. As if that in itself was not creepy enough, two hours after she left, I was watching TV by myself when I heard the box play about six slow notes in the dining room. It did that sometimes, like it hadn’t quite wound all the way down.

Thirty seconds later though, that thing started playing loud and fast like someone had wound it all the way up.

I screamed for my brother, who yelled back “I’m not coming out there!” My mom came running up the hallway and grabbed the box, which had indeed been wound all the way up.

Dorothy.

My dad hired a painter to paint the family room. After six hours they wanted out. The paint fell over, the brushes moved from where they had been left, the TV switched on and off. “You got a ghost, boss” the painter told my dad.

Dorothy.

At Christmas, the stockings my mom made when we were all babies, that hung on the mantle every year, and were packed away in the same place, were gone. My mom turned the house upside down. Nothing.

When we dragged the decorations out for the next Christmas, there they were, right on top.

Dorothy.

I lost a pair of jean shorts, my favorites. I looked for them everywhere, even in my brothers’ drawers. Then I forgot about them. One day in the middle of winter, I pulled a load of whites out of the dryer and mixed up among them—my blue jean shorts.

Dorothy.

My brother used to surf early in the morning. The kid never remembered his house key. He’d tap on my bedroom window so I could get up and let him in the back door. One Saturday morning, he  called my name and tapped, and I got up and opened the back door. Which set off the house alarm. Which brought everyone running, including my brother who’d been asleep in his bed.

Dorothy.

It got to be a thing. My mom, standing over the tv, turning it off only to have it turn right back on. “Dorothy, cut it out!” she yelled finally, and that time the tv stayed off.

One night I was doing the dishes. It was just my brother and me in the house. He came into the kitchen to get a drink, but then he bolted for the back door and locked it. “I just saw someone outside!” he said.

“Blond hair?” I asked him.

“Yes!”

“I’ve seen that. I think it’s Dorothy” I told him.

And then this night. I was doing the dishes. It was dark. The rest of the family was watching tv in the other room. I looked up from the sink, into the window, which was like a giant mirror, reflecting the room behind me. And I saw a woman with blond hair, in a long black dress, walk into the room towards me. I froze, and watched as she turned and walked out.

When I ran out into the family room to tell my parents, my brother said “I thought I saw someone walk into the dining room just a second ago”.

Dorothy.

The mystery was solved one afternoon at my grandparent’s home. I was telling Dorothy stories and my grandmother, a few Canadian Clubs into the afternoon, said “We had a ghost here too. Bessie.” She then launched into a list of Bessie stories that sounded a lot like Dorothy. My grandmother thought she haunted a painting they used to have.

“Is she gone?” my dad asked.

“Oh sure, since we got rid of the painting” my grandmother said.

“Where did it go?” he asked.

“We gave it to you years ago! The one in the living room.”

And I knew exactly the painting she was talking about. A delicate, Romantic style portrait of a young girl, her face glowing against the background, even in the dark.

The girl in the painting was not a blond. And she was not dressed the way that Dorothy was dressed the night I saw her. But since the day my dad took that painting off the wall and sent it to Goodwill, there has never been another Dorothy incident in the house.

Happy Halloween!

BOO!

Annie, ready to BOO!

Annie, ready to BOO!

Something about this time of year lends itself to skulking in the shadows and making mischief. And I come from a long line of folks who do their best work at night.

We like things that go bump in the night. We like mystery and intrigue and we like to surprise and be surprised.

So the first time we got Boo’d, I knew this was a tradition we were going to make all our own.

If your neighborhood doesn’t Boo, fear not. You can get the party started.

All you have to do is this: get a bucket (or two or three or five); fill it with candies and fun treats from the dollar section at Target or your favorite dollar store. It doesn’t have to be much. I spent $20 and did five buckets. Michael’s has plastic jack-o-lantern buckets for $1.04.

Go to this website and print out the sign and the instructions: www.boobaskets.com. Place them in the bucket. Then put on your running shoes, wait for darkness and sneak up to your friend’s and neighbor’s doors, drop the basket, ring the doorbell for all it’s worth and run for your life.

Over the last five years, we have perfected our Boo’ing. While some people ring and run, we are a ring and hide family, piled up behind bushes and cars (and Sunday night, the very skinny Edison power box in the front yard) to listen as people discover our buckets. Then we sneak back down the street or to the car, giggling with glee.

You can see why we don’t just do one. It’s too much stinking fun.

Our hope is that our Boo-ees become Boo-ers, and spread the mischievous love. Sometimes we get Boo’d back and sometimes we don’t. But I am proud to tell you that my kids don’t care. For them, the fun is in the Boo-ing!

Logistics: The instructions tell the Boo-ee that they’ve been tagged and invite them to Boo someone else. They hang the “We’ve been boo’d!” sign in their front window so they don’t get boo’d again. Then they assemble their own basket(s) and pass it on. I’ve heard of neighborhoods where this spreads like wildfire. But even if it doesn’t, I guarantee that you will bring some loving fun into the nights of your boo-ees.

PS: We were boo-ed by Amy and her girls in return. Except they came in the daylight and got caught by my girls and my dogs before they got to the front door. We all ended up laughing in the front yard while Gabe provided a quick seminar on proper boo-ing technique.

 

 

Roasting

I hate the summers Inland California. Hate is a strong word, I know, but I mean it with every fiber of my being. Sometime in early June, the thermometer hits 97 and it doesn’t dip below that number for the next four months. In other places, summer lasts 75-90 days. Here: 120.

Our summer is like winter in Wisconsin or Maine. The kids cannot go outside for days at a time. We usually have at least one round of over 100 degree temps that lasts for more than 14 days. California homes are not built for this. We have no basements and I was dumb enough to make Shea buy the house without a loft. “Why on earth would we need that open empty space?” I asked him.

Short. Sighted.

Don’t even get me started on the Edison bill. Tier 5? Tier 5 is a common occurrence during July and August. At dusk, when it’s cooled down to 90 and we turn the kids loose in the streets, the moms huddle up and compare bills. We have a house fan, which helps us keep our July and August bills under $400. My neighbors either pay upwards of $600 a month or set the thermostat at 82.

The winters usually calm me down, with a few weeks of frosty, heater required weather in December and January. Not this year. This year it never got cold. Which I think explains why, for the first time since we moved here, we are seeing mosquitos and fleas. And ants. The ants are everywhere, assaulting us from the front door and the garage and up from the slab through the middle of the house and back down the staircase.

Blech.

It was 89 degrees on Halloween, 85 degrees on Thanksgiving and 80 degrees on Christmas. We got a grand total of 4.9 inches of rain. Our average is 7.6 inches. We haven’t hit the average since 2010.

It’s enough to make me want to throw my shoe at any fool who still insists that climate change is a liberal media myth.

Did I mention that I hate to be hot? More than anything? It’s why we got married at the end of November. It’s why we’re moving to Oregon. I picked the town based on the average high temps in July (89) and December (45). That’s blissful compared to the average temps here in July (100, with some days at the end of the month averaging 103) and December (69).

We’re going up there next week to look for a house. Of course, they’re having a heat wave and the temps are going to be in the 100s all week.

Sigh.

To fend off Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder, I count it down.

From July 1 to October 1 is the 90 days of summer, of which we have 79 left.

School starts in 38 days.

Halloween is in 111 days.

Our projected moving date is in 119 days.

Thanksgiving—which this year falls on our tenth wedding anniversary—is in 138 days.

And attention shoppers, there are only 166 days left until Christmas.

Yeah, I went there.

I’m telling you, it’s the only way to stay sane when it’s 103 at noon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ghost in Our House~ Jen

My phone turned everyone on the edge of the lake into a ghost at dusk a few months ago. Weird.

My phone turned everyone on the edge of the lake into a ghost at dusk a few months ago. Weird.

Growing up, we had a ghost in the house. I’ll put that on my mom. And if my mom was writing this, she’d tell you the same.

We’d lived in the house probably ten years before we put it all together. We sat down as a family and told each other all the weird things that had happened that we thought were just weird coincidence or the creakings and squeakings of a 40 year old house. That night, I named her Dorothy.

Dorothy was the source of the knocking on my bedroom wall, the reason that the dog sat up and begged from no one. She whispered in everyone’s ear, waking us up in the dark of night. Up to that point, none of it was scary. Just weird.

But that dinner was like her coming out party. Once we acknowledged her presence, she got busy.

One night Teresa was playing with my mom’s music box, a masquerade clown that played “Music of the Night” from Phantom. As if that in itself was not creepy enough, two hours after she left, I was watching TV by myself when I heard the box play about six slow notes in the dining room. It did that sometimes, like it hadn’t quite wound all the way down.

Thirty seconds later though, that thing started playing loud and fast like someone had wound it all the way up.

I screamed for my brother, who yelled back “I’m not coming out there!” My mom came running up the hallway and grabbed the box, which had indeed been wound all the way up.

Dorothy.

My dad hired a painter to paint the family room. After six hours they wanted out. The paint fell over, the brushes moved from where they had been left, the TV switched on and off. “You got a ghost, boss” the painter told my dad.

Dorothy.

At Christmas, the stockings my mom made when we were all babies, that hung on the mantle every year, and were packed away in the same place, were gone. My mom turned the house upside down. Nothing.

When we dragged the decorations out for the next Christmas, there they were, right on top.

Dorothy.

I lost a pair of jean shorts, my favorites. I looked for them everywhere, even in my brothers’ drawers. Then I forgot about them. One day in the middle of winter, I pulled a load of whites out of the dryer and mixed up among them—my blue jean shorts.

Dorothy.

My brother used to surf early in the morning. The kid never remembered his house key. He’d tap on my bedroom window so I could get up and let him in the back door. One Saturday morning, he  called my name and tapped, and I got up and opened the back door. Which set off the house alarm. Which brought everyone running, including my brother who’d been asleep in his bed.

Dorothy.

It got to be a thing. My mom, standing over the tv, turning it off only to have it turn right back on. “Dorothy, cut it out!” she yelled finally, and that time the tv stayed off.

One night I was doing the dishes. It was just my brother and me in the house. He came into the kitchen to get a drink, but then he bolted for the back door and locked it. “I just saw someone outside!” he said.

“Blond hair?” I asked him.

“Yes!”

“I’ve seen that. I think it’s Dorothy” I told him.

And then this night. I was doing the dishes. It was dark. The rest of the family was watching tv in the other room. I looked up from the sink, into the window, which was like a giant mirror, reflecting the room behind me. And I saw a woman with blond hair, in a long black dress, walk into the room towards me. I froze, and watched as she turned and walked out.

When I ran out into the family room to tell my parents, my brother said “I thought I saw someone walk into the dining room just a second ago”.

Dorothy.

The mystery was solved one afternoon at my grandparent’s home. I was telling Dorothy stories and my grandmother, a few Canadian Clubs into the afternoon, said “We had a ghost here too. Bessie.” She then launched into a list of Bessie stories that sounded a lot like Dorothy. My grandmother thought she haunted a painting they used to have.

“Is she gone?” my dad asked.

“Oh sure, since we got rid of the painting” my grandmother said.

“Where did it go?” he asked.

“We gave it to you years ago! The one in the living room.”

And I knew exactly the painting she was talking about. A delicate, Romantic style portrait of a young girl, her face glowing against the background, even in the dark.

The girl in the painting was not a blond. And she was not dressed the way that Dorothy was dressed the night I saw her. But since the day my dad took that painting off the wall and sent it to Goodwill, there has never been another Dorothy incident in the house.

I know. Spooooooky.

Happy Halloween!

Halloween Time! ~ Dana

Spiders on windows and pumpkins on porches… Can’t you just imagine Julie Andrews singing a Halloween remix of this song?!  Ok, maybe it’s just me, lost in my Sound of Music world, but that’s ok.

I think that one of the reasons that Jen and I are such good friends is that Halloween is one of our favorite things.  Like most Americans, my love of Halloween started when I was little, but not because I collected copious amounts of candy and spent the next week in an imbalance of sugar highs and hard crashes.  In fact, my mother used to make me throw out the previous year’s candy before I was allowed to go Trick-or-Treating again.  No, what I loved was the dressing up part of Halloween.  The first costume I have vivid memories of was a handmade costume that my mom sewed:  a beautiful blue Little House on the Prairie dress, complete with puff sleeves and matching bonnet.  It was awesome.  And that year was a particularly hot Halloween and I remember sweating like a stuck pig in that thing, but I wore it and loved it, nonetheless. (I wish that I had a picture of it to share with you.)

I also had the more traditional costumes (pirate) and some non-traditional costumes (skunk?!).  My college years were great.  One year my roommate and I dressed up as an old couple and no one knew our identities while several members of the men’s volleyball team dressed as the Spice Girls.  So much fun!!

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One year I bought an old wedding dress from a thrift store in downtown Long Beach and went to parties as the Bride of Frankenstein.

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That dress was revived several years during my teaching career as well when I would stalk the halls of the school as La Llorona (a scary legend out of Mexican folklore)… that is, until I caught my heel on the 4 ft train and went down the stairs, ass-over-tea-kettle, and ended up at the bottom a bruised and bloodied mess (which probably made the costume even scarier)!

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What I don’t like is when people make Halloween out to be a glorification of evil.  Halloween was born out of religious traditions that take time out of the year to honor and remember those who have died.   Ancient Celtic folk believed that this is the night when the veil between the spirit world and physical world was the thinnest.  They built bonfires and dressed in costume to ward off evil spirits, but also believed that their loved ones who had died would come home again.  They lit candles and set an extra place at their tables, inviting their loved ones’ spirits to break bread once again, a tradition that I began keeping many years ago as well.

This year, I will have a Princess Jasmine and a butterfly fairy to take Trick-or-Treating.  Jen is excited that one of her kids is finally old enough to don a scary costume; Gabe is dressing as a vampire.  Both of our homes are decorated with Jack O’ Lanterns and witches.  And as Jen put it, what holiday could be more Christian? We open our doors freely and willingly, welcoming complete strangers with a smile.  Then we give those strangers sweets and treats that we have spent our hard earned money on.  What a wonderful perspective on a fun time of year!

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