A Spooky Mystery for You to Solve!

This is the real ghost story that I promised earlier this week. I apologize for the lack of my usual  writing flair. The three-day migraine that I’m in the midst of seems to have stripped me of all creativity!

The following creepy occurrence kept me out of our basement for pretty much the rest of my teenaged years. What do you think it might have been?

Picture via trueghosttales.com

This mist is very similar to what I saw! What could it be?

As a teenager, I had an obsessive love-hate relationship with all things otherworldly. On one hand, I adored talking about and reading tales of poltergeist, demons, and monsters; but on the other hand, they scared the living crap out of me and forced me to sleep with the lights on whilst I pathetically begged my mother, in much the style of a three year-old, to sleep with me. By the time I’d turned 15, I’d read every ghost story that my small town’s library had to offer, and I’d listened in awe to every creepy story that my friends had to tell, but despite my burning interest, I had no personal ghost stories of my own to share. With my easy spookability, I’d certainly imagined ghoulish hands reaching from beneath my bed to snatch any limb or appendage that accidentally exited my covers during the night. I’d additionally witnessed demonic profiles and ghostly pictures haunting the shadows on my walls as I’d attempted to fall asleep. However, these spooks were merely figments of my very active imagination, and it wasn’t until January 1, 1980 that I had my first, and thankfully only, supernatural experience.

I remember the exact date because it was the last day of my winter break from school, and like most 15 year-olds, I’d put off doing any homework until the last possible moment. I’d gathered my books and headed downstairs to my usual study spot, our basement rec room. I’d just spread my school stuff out on half of the ping-pong table and settled into a chair swiped from the card table when I felt a swift, icy breeze sweep across my back and neck. Adrenaline shot through me and the hair on my arms instantly rose. I scanned the room for the source. The basement was completely underground making a wind of any temperature impossible. Our house was still decorated for the holidays, and I watched in terror as the wind that touched my neck ruffled the Christmas cards arranged atop a bookshelf on the opposite wall. From the shelf my eyes were instantly drawn to the slightly swaying branches of the Christmas tree situated in the corner directly beneath my bedroom. A cold, horror filled me as a foggy mist began surrounding the tree. The mist weaved and moved through the branches, and condensed around the nativity scene arranged on the tree’s skirt. My mother had long ago painted the figures for this crèche in a ceramics class, and my father had crafted the wooden stable that housed Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. Atop the stable’s entrance was an angel. I stared in disbelief as the ethereal fog thickened around it. I tried to call out to my mother, but no words would escape my lips as I watched the tiny cherub shake and rock from side-to-side. I remained frozen, feeling an overwhelming sense of evil, as its quaking and quivering continued. Finally, the angel dropped from the nail that it had once securely held it and hit the carpeted floor. It was then that I was released from my stiffness; then that I could scream and run breathlessly up the stairs to the security of my family.

At first, my parents naturally blamed my experience on my overactive imagination and my above average desire to put off schoolwork, but I think my mom eventually began to believe my tale after several sleepless weeks of being called to my room in the middle of the night. My friends thought my encounter was awesome and all had their theories about what I had seen. Was it a ghost? A demon? What do you think?

Have you ever had a ghostly encounter? Tell me about it.

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My Mother’s Daughter

 

It's not nagging; it's love!

Early in the morning, on the day my mother left this earth, she called me. It was not to tell me the secret of life, or ooze with gushy words over my greatness at being her daughter; it was to remind me to go to the financial aid office to make sure my paperwork for my student loan had been processed for the next semester. While she certainly remembered to end the conversation with an “I love you,” her call was a purposeful prompt for me to get things done. This wasn’t because she found me too incompetent to take care of my own shizz, because thanks to her, I’d been handling my own shizz for quite some time. Her final reminder was an example of who she was; a woman who endlessly worried about her children. I am SO my mother’s daughter.

On a daily basis you can hear me say such phrases as: “Did you eat lunch; what did you have?” “You have that paper due on the 11th; are you making note cards?” “Be careful at that blind turn on your way to school!” Do I think my daughters wouldn’t eat lunch, turn assignments in on time, or crash their cars without my input? Certainly not! I know, from my own experience, that after my mother’s death, I turned in papers in a timely manner, unplugged the coffee maker before leaving the house, and that I always remembered to not buy cheap bras, “because they’ll make your boobs sag!” Oh, but I missed her unnecessary input, and I still hear her voice at the crux of any decision I make.

Yes, I’m a serious nag, and during my daughter’s teen years, my advice and questioning was often met with eye rolls. Now my ceaseless guidance, in most cases, evokes a smile, because they know. They know that my badgering is one of the ways that I stay enmeshed in their lives. It’s one of the silly ways that I say “I love you,” and show that I care so deeply about them that I want even the most miniscule details of their lives to go smoothly. Even in my mother’s last hours, she was tangled up in the routines of my life. She was giving me orders that voiced her love and expectations of me. I am SO much my mother’s daughter.

Thanks, Mom!

Do you nag your children unnecessarily? Was, or is, your mom a nag?

 

Day 15: 31 Days of Blogging Honesty

 

 

 

 

Day# 15 Question: If I had to spend an entire day as the opposite sex, I would look like _______ and I would spend the day doing…

I thought we had a good thing going. I can't believe you're NOT choosing me!

This question took a great deal of contemplation. Should I spend the day as the beautiful, talented Hugh Jackman, or as the equally gorgeous and super-hot Alexander Skarsgard? Though both would be dreamy to “wear” for the day, I think the man that I would most like to spend 24 hours as, would be my own very wonderful and very loving husband. Something magical happens when you love, and are truly and absolutely loved by, another human being. My husband’s love and kindness has made me a better, softer, more genuine person and my wish, while spending the day as him, would be to make his life a little bit easier. So, here’s my “To Do” list for my day as my husband.

1. Take care of a few uncomfortable situations at work: My husband is usually very happy with his job as one of the division heads of an engineering firm, but one thing he would rather avoid at work is counseling his employees when they exhibit not-so-stellar personal behavior. Though he performs effectively, he’s totally uncomfortable dealing with issues of a personal nature. Having spent the past 16 years as an educator, I’ve taken care of my share of unusual issues, so dealing with the next two problems would be a piece of cake for me!

a. Tammy and Jack: Tammy and Jack are two of my husband’s married employees. The problem is they’re NOT married to one another, BUT they spend their work days carrying on like they are. Last Wednesday they took their affair to the “next level” The problem is, that level was level #3 of the public parking area where their unsavory union in a company truck was witnessed by a mom and her twin toddlers. She hastily reported them to upper administration. Guess who upper admin has asked to counsel with a letter of reprimand this very morning? Yep, my poor awkward husband. Don’t worry honey—I’m on it!

b. John’s nut sack: (John is my husband’s employee) John is a fabulous engineer, but clearly not a fashionista. It has come to the attention of many, that John enjoys a commando lifestyle sans underwear. This would be all well and good if John’s pants fit him properly, but because his slacks tend to be on the snug side, people are complaining about the old trouser snake and his two very large companions. I have no problem with delivering the news that he needs to wear larger pants in order to not offend. Heck, I’ll even offer him the Kohl’s coupon that I got in the mail yesterday so that he’s guaranteed 15% off some new khakis.

2. See an allergist: The Allegra isn’t cutting it. My husband has sniffed, snorted and sneezed since the onset of spring. After I go, as him, to my allergist, Dr. Matthews, he’ll be breathing better in no time.

3. Check out the ol’ poop shoot: My darling husband is 54. This means that he is past due for a colonoscopy by four years. No matter how much I prod him to just make an appointment and get it done, he doesn’t listen. So during my day as him, I’ll endure a scope up my ass out of pure love for my hubby.

4. Do hard math just for the fun of it: Okay, I’ll admit, this one isn’t for him, it’s for me. All my life I’ve struggled with all types of math beyond Algebra I. I’m going to get out my daughter’s calculus book and solve at least a chapters worth of problems, just to see how it feels to actually understand what I’m doing!

Well that’s my day as the fantastic Mr. Sprinkles! Readers, who would you choose?

Day 12: 31 Days of Blogging Honesty

 

 

 

 

Day 12 — I was just honored by my peers and family. I most likely I got the award because I…

This question is truly very coincidental because I actually was honored today by a member of my family. Today, my oldest daughter graduated from college with a BS in Biology and Chemistry. As you can imagine, I was bursting with pride and shedding a few tears as I watched my first born reach another milestone with great success. After a beautiful, but very long ceremony, my lovely blond daughter stood before me a college graduate. As we were about to leave the gym she hugged and kissed me and placed her gold, satin graduation stole across my shoulders. “Read the inside, Mom,” she said, with happy tears glistening in her green eyes. This is what the inside said:

Dear Mom,

I am presenting you with the stole of gratitude because you are the one person who has made the biggest impact on my life. You are the number one reason that I stand before you today as a college graduate, on my way to medical school. Because of all of your love and sacrifice, I am moving on to the next chapter of my life with confidence and the comfort of knowing that you’ll always be there for me. I cannot express the amount of thanks that I have for all that you have done. You are a wonderful mom and will always be my best friend!! I LOVE you so much!

Love,

Your Daughter

When I graduated from college, I was seven months pregnant with my youngest daughter, and my eldest, who penned this note, was only two. I was unaware of the tradition of presenting the stole of gratitude. Had my own mother been alive at the time of my college graduation, I would have certainly presented my stole to her, and written a similar note. My daughter’s presentation to me was an unexpected honor. It made me realize what an incredible gift today was.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend! I’m off to bed!

Day 2: 31 Days of Blogging Honesty

 

 

 

 

 

Question #2:  The most expensive item I have ever stolen is…

I wish I had a fabulously scandalous answer for this question, but I don’t. Unfortunately, for the sake of this topic, my life of crime is pretty limited. I’ve accidently put ink pens in my purse after I’ve signed credit card receipts. I once took a maxi-pad from a nearly full box that someone left in the cabinet of the ladies room at my old workplace (hey, it was an emergency), but I replaced it a week later. I’m typically a pretty honest person, and the only theft story I have is when I took a Tootsie Roll from a little mom-n-pop grocery store when I was five. It’s funny, I don’t actually remember the taking part of this tale, but I clearly remember the giving back part.

Chocolate Goodness!

The slow tearing sound of the waxed paper covering alerted my mother that I was up to something in the back seat of our old 1964 Buick Skylark. This was well before 5 year-olds were required to be strapped into pricey booster seats, or even fancy seatbelts, so I was probably sprawled out on my stomach across the seat as I tried to unwrap my secret acquisition as slowly as possible. I’d hoped to have my favorite chewy, chocolaty treat stuck between the crevices of my back teeth before my mother realized that I had clandestinely purloined it from the bottom shelf of the penny candy section of Mike’s Grocery. As I was about to peel off the last noisy bit of paper that confirmed my status as a Tootsie Roll thief, my mother, who was about to pull out of the parking lot, asked the familiar question, “What are you up to back there?” “Nothing,” I nervously assured her as I popped the candy into my mouth paper and all.

My mother never accepted “Nothing” as an answer from me. I was, after all, the kid who dug a muddy, four foot hole in the back of our perfectly landscaped yard while she was inside having tea with her friends from the garden club. I was the kid who, while at church last Sunday, had made a loud hooting sound, during silent prayer, just to hear it echo off of the endlessly high ceilings. I was also the kid who usually had a frowny face on the “Exhibits proper classroom behavior” section of my kindergarten progress report, so when I gave the answer of “Nothing,” my mother always investigated. Before I had time to swallow, she had turned around and pried the glommy goody from my mouth and wrapped it in a tissue from her purse. After a stern lecture on shoplifting, that included the threat of jail time, she placed the wet package in my small hand with a disappointed expression and quietly said, “You took this from Mike, now you have to return it, and apologize.” Mike, the store’s owner was a hulk of a man, whose white store apron usually had a bit of blood on it because he mostly worked behind the meat counter. I was scared of Mike and begged my mother to let me return the Tootsie Roll to his kindly wife Betty, but she wouldn’t budge.

I’ll never forget the fear jolting through my tiny body as my little legs trudged unwillingly back to the meat counter, nor will I disremember the humiliation of admitting my wrongdoing. I do remember Mike thanking me both for my honesty and for the penny, borrowed from my mother, which I handed over to him as compensation for my misdeed. I also recall that Mike didn’t seem as scary to me in subsequent visits to his store. In fact, he usually made a point of saying hello to me by name. I was never sure whether this was because he considered me a new found little friend, or because he wanted me to know that he was keeping an eye on me. So, as a reformed shoplifter, I’ll admit that the monetary value of the most expensive thing I’ve ever stolen was one penny; however the life lesson value was priceless!

You'd better keep your hands off of me, kids!

Hufflebergers and Snipes (or, How I got My Ass Kicked Each Easter)

As a child our family’s Easter traditions were nearly the same as the other families in our small West Virginia town. I would be roused before dawn for sunrise service, always slightly miffed at Jesus for rising so early that He interfered with my sleep schedule. After church, we would go home to diligently hunt for our Easter baskets that had been expertly hidden by the Easter Bunny. We never had to look very hard, as they were predictably in the dishwasher or toy cubby. We’d then gorge ourselves on chocolate rabbit heads, never making it past the necks, until our grandparents arrived for Easter brunch. After tucking away slivers of baked ham, pink pickled beet eggs, and homemade potato salad, my brother and I would drift back to our Easter baskets. As we rescued and ate stray jelly beans that were in danger of drilling their way down the mounds of plastic grass, lost to us unless we dumped our entire basket, the grown-ups would wash the dinner dishes and chat. One would think that this would give my brother and I a drowsy, homey feeling that would last the rest of the holiday, as our family pleasantly talked and we complacently browsed on the bounty of treats left to us, but this was not the case. Our tiny stomachs were in knots for the Easter activity that was to come. It was the event that the entirety of well fed, well groomed, and well-mannered children of our small town feared; the annual Chamber of Commerce Easter Egg Hunt.

This affair took place in the small park in the center of our town, and expectedly everyone turned out to participate. The chamber members had taken special care to hide hundreds of plastic eggs, filled with candy, small toys, and money, in every nook and cranny that our minuscule park possessed, including the coveted first prize golden egg that contained a fifty dollar bill. Because this was one of two major social events that my town had each year, our mother had taken special care to make sure my brother and I looked our absolute best. I can still see myself in my pink, hand-smocked dress with its stiff crinoline petticoat and my perfectly polished white Mary Jane’s with ruffled lace socks. My face was scrubbed to rosy perfection and my hair was in perfect blond ringlet curls. I looked just like type of little girl that nothing bad could happen to on such a perfect spring day, but I knew my appearance provided a sense of false promise. Pain was coming, and it was coming in the form of the Hufflebergers* and the Snipes*.

The Huffleberger and Snipe kids lived on Berry Hill, an area of our town near the only cemetery. As I grew older I suspected that the “Berry” must have once been “Bury” in reference to its location. Berry Hill was the roughest area in our town and home to a few families that could easy provide excellent case studies to any geneticist wishing to observe the outcome of interfamilial breeding. The Huffleberger and Snipe families kept to themselves, not even sending their multitude of unregistered children to our town’s two schools. There were scores of sordid stories about the criminal activity that occurred on Berry Hill and these tales were often confirmed in our local paper’s Magistrate Report section. At school the words Huffleberger and Snipe had become eponyms that we would often hurl at a classmate during a playground scuffle. In truth, we knew less about them than we proposed, as the only two times we ever saw them was when they left Berry Hill twice a year to attend the Fireman’s Carnival, and the annual Easter Egg Hunt.

So here I stood with my brother and our classmates in our best Easter finery, holding fast to the delicate handles of Easter baskets that our parents had lovingly intended for us to fill with plastic eggs, staring certain defeat in the eye. Our opponents, brought roughly down Berry Hill by a collection of sister-mothers and daddy-cousins, held a motley collection of pillowcases and buckets that were sure to be brimming with booty at the end of the battle. The mayor, dressed in a tired Peter Rabbit costume, blew the ceremonial whistle and the egg hunt began.

The beautiful thing about children is their eternal sense of hope even in times of certain despair. For even as I knew that I every egg I procured would bring a kick to the shins or a punch to the gut before a Huffleberger or Snipe purloined it, I still had scoped out several brightly colored ova to make a run for when the bunny blew the whistle. My predictions were soon validated as a Snipe, who appeared to have been born with an extra earlobe bent my fingers back to filch my first find. I quickly retreated to an area behind the bandstand where I found my brother nursing a bruised shin. From the corner of our refuge we spied our parents, happily conversing with the parents of our classmates. All of the adults seemed blissfully unaware that their tidy offspring were being bludgeoned by a group of mutant graveyard dwellers.

When the last egg had been found and the Mayor Bunny had heartily congratulated a skinny blonde boy in a dirty Dukes of Hazard t-shirt and torn jeans for finding the fifty dollar egg, we climbed into our Buick and drove to complete the last tradition of our Easter holiday; a visit to Dairy Queen. As I slowly licked the circumference of my dripping cone, my mother commented on how glad she was that the boy who won the fifty dollars had been from Berry Hill, because his family so needed the money. I quietly savored my ice cream, noticing only the well-scrubbed well-dressed members of my community in the booths surrounding us. I supposed she was right, as always. The Easter routine that I had taken so for granted hadn’t happened on Berry Hill. The egg hunt was the only thing those kids had, and even then they had to fight for it.

Ideally, I’d like to end this story by saying that I never ever again called a boy, picking on me on the playground, a dirty old Huffleberger, or that the following year I made a trek up Berry Hill to donate my own Easter goodies, but I can’t. I was subject to the same peer pressures, egocentricities and lack of introspection that most kids possess. However, in the years of my youth that followed, I smiled inwardly while rubbing a sore shoulder or shin, as the mayor held up victorious the small, scruffy hand of a Huffleberger or Snipe grasping the golden, fifty dollar egg.

Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate!

*names have been changed to protect my ass

What Comes Next

I’ve been busy having my midlife crisis. The times a certainly are a changin’ at my house. My oldest daughter, to whom I have been attached cord, breast, and always heart, is graduating from our state’s university in less than a month. In July, she’ll move five hours away to attend medical school. My purely sweet youngest daughter, who needed me so much when she was ill, is now a thriving university student who is making her natural break from home and talking marriage with her long-time boyfriend. While I’m sad that the hands-on mothering stage of my life is coming to a close, I’m not complaining. In fact, I’m in complete awe of both of them, and in total wonderment of the natural progression of something that I didn’t experience. They are easing gently into adulthood without skipping any steps.

My entrance into adulthood felt abrupt. Its evolution seemed to move from my mother being sick, to my mother dying, to my father selling our family home and moving in with his girlfriend. The fact that I was a junior in college without a place to go home to on weekends, holidays and summers didn’t faze my father who was of the old school mindset of “18 and out.” While my life certainly wasn’t as difficult as the lives of some, I found myself thrust into adulthood with an incomplete copy of life’s survival manual.

Now as my daughters grow past the age when I became motherless, I marvel at what comes next. I experience with them, and through them, what my mother and I didn’t. I will see them walk across stages to get diplomas and possibly down aisles to get married. I will be privy to their life plans, listen to their worries, and guide them in solving their problems. They will never wonder where they will spend a holiday, or feel a mournful longing when a coworker speaks of “going back home” for the weekend.

As I write this I am sad, sad for my mother who so wanted me, and sad for the girl I was when I lost her. Yet, in my gloom I feel the distinct joy than one can only feel when they have been given a gift most though-out and meaningful. It is the gift of watching my daughters reach adulthood whole and prepared. The gift of watching the apron strings between us gently thin from love and wear, and dangle as ties between mother and child eventually must. It is the gift of watching them stand on the precipice of adulthood confident that their first steps won’t be into a swirling abyss of the unknown. But mostly, it’s the gift of knowing that if a page is missing from their life’s survival manual, they have the skills to rewrite it, and if they are unsure of the correct words, I’m just a phone call away.