Monday, October 31, 2011

Something wicked this way comes: Scary tales 7

The house the tried to eat me.

My parents divorced when I was a week old. It was not a bad thing, quite the contrary, it was a very good thing. He was not a particularly nice human. Well he still isn't but that is a different sort of scary story for a different time. Despite the divorce he was still my father, and we were very young and my mother did not want to overly influence our opinion on the man, so we were allowed to see him on the odd holiday. One year, when I was about 10, for Thanksgiving he wanted to fly my brother and myself to Connecticut to spend time with him and his new family.

My mother was reluctant to send us, but we were old enough that if something bad happened we could probably get help on our own, so she packed us up and sent us off. For the most part she was right, we could take care of ourselves. We successfully navigated the dangerous waters of rich elitist step families, conned our step brother out of all of his allowance via a well played game of poker, and made our father pay way more than he should of for things we didn't actually want or need.

The first night we were there was awkward though. I had never met my stepmother or any of my step and half siblings. My step brother was the same age as my real brother, and then there was my 6 year old half brother, my 2 year old half brother, and my half sister who was about a year old at the time. It was a very strange situation to be thrown into, and I was sort of convinced that my step mother was going to be an evil witch like all step mothers tend to be in fairy tales.

We got to the house in Old Lyme, which was set back in the woods. It was a sprawling two story house of a design that was wholly foreign to a girl from the south. There was a plaque by the front door declaring the house was nearly 100 years old. It was dark and cold and late, so introductions were kept brief before we were hustled off to bed.

I was staying in my sisters room, which was by far the best room in the house. It was like a second master suite; it had its own bathroom, balcony, and sitting area. It was off the main hall way and there was a little tiny room across the hall from it, which was used as the live in nannies room. I am not certain the actual original purpose for a room like this would have been; guest room, inlaw room, servant room. All I know was it was big and kind of cool. It was also freezing cold, just over my bed. I was tired from the flight though, and I bundled my blankets around me and was soon asleep.

Now the problem with being in a strange house is that nothing is familiar. I awoke at some point in the night needing to pee, and had to sleepily find my way to the bathroom. As I said before it was in my room, so this should not have been a hard thing to do. I was still slightly asleep though, so when I stepped out of the bathroom and was in the main hallway instead of my bedroom, I was slightly confused, but easily convinced that I had just in my sleep riddled state, gone to the wrong bathroom.

I am a lifetime insomniac, so I have this weird need to know what time it is whenever I wake up. Being in a strange house doesn't change this need. Unfortunately there was no clock in my room, and I was not in the habit of wearing a watch. My best option was to go downstairs to see if there was a stove or microwave clock. I padded quietly down the long hallway past my brothers room, turned the corner heading towards the younger boys room and the stair landing, and made it to the top of the stairs before I recalled that they had a dog I had not met yet. I began to wonder if the dog was in my father and step mothers room or down stairs. I wondered if it was a friendly dog or not. The last thing I wanted was to go downstairs for the time and get mauled by some strange dog. After a minute of debate I decided it was best to go back to my room and go to sleep.

As I turned back towards the hallway I heard the sound of footsteps coming down the hall towards me. They were far enough away that they had to have been coming from the general area of my room, which meant that it had to be the nanny. I had only met her briefly, but the nanny creeped me out. She was Asian, spoke almost no english, and she always looked angry. I really did not want to run into her in the hallway in the middle of the night.

So I did what any rational 10 year old would do; I hid. Actually I pressed my back against the wall and hoped she wouldn't come to the end of the hall and see me. After a moment of sitting with my eyes squeezed closed I realized the footsteps had stopped. They had not gone back down the hall, they had just stopped. This was perplexing to say the least. Cautiously I peered around the corner hoping she was not standing there waiting to scare the hell out of me. To my relief, and eventual dismay, she was not.

What I did see confused the hell out of me. You see this was a long wide hallway, probably 15 ft long. About four feet from the start of the hallway, on the right, was my older step brothers room. At the very end of the hall facing the entry to the hallway was the bathroom door. On the left wall, just before the end of the hall was an opening. If you turned into the opening there was a nook with a door to the left and to the right; the left being the nannies room, the right being my room.

When I looked down the hall I should have seen my brothers door slightly ajar on the right and the bathroom door standing open at the end of the hallway. What I did see was my brothers door standing slightly ajar on the right, and then a solid wall running across the hallway about half a foot after my brothers room.

What the...?

Slowly I approached the wall that should not have been there. I began to wonder if I was still asleep or possibly hallucinating. I reached out and hesitantly touched it. The wall was solid. I pushed on it with all my little might, but it didn't budge, and remained quite real.

I had to be dreaming. I pinched myself hard, since that works in the movies, only I just managed to leave a little welt on my forearm. I seemed to be awake, and the wall seemed to be real.

Then there were the footsteps again coming from the far side of the wall. I was 10 so I did the only rational thing; I ran and hid. Well actually I ran back around the corner and pressed my back to the wall again. I was now convinced it was the nanny and she was the evil witch, not my step mother. After a moment the sound once again stopped. I was beginning to get really scared by now.

I looked down the hall again, now not knowing what to expect. The hall was the same as it had been before with its strange ghost wall. This was obviously a problem. I knew I was awake, and I knew the wall was real, but I didn't know what to do. I thought about waking up my father and step mother, but somehow I was afraid they wouldn't believe me or that the wall would disappear before they got there.

I was standing in front of the wall when I got the brilliant idea to wake my brothers instead. They were right there in the room by the new wall. I could actually look in and see them sleeping. If I just shouted at them from the door I could wake them up and watch to make sure the wall didn't disappear. It was a brilliant plan.

I looked in at the boys and then turned back to test the wall one more time to make sure it was real before I woke them up and possibly humiliated myself. Sure enough it was solid as ever. I wasn't insane. I left my hand on the wall and turned my head to call into the room and I stopped.

As I looked into the room, where I should have seen the guys asleep I instead was staring at my sisters crib and my own bed. It was no longer my brothers room. I might have gasped in shock, I might have let out a little shout, I can not remember now. I probably did both.

I looked back and the wall my hand was on was still real. I looked behind me to see if I could still see the stairs or if it would be the entry into the hallway, but instead I saw another wall. In fact as I spun around in place I discovered that there were now very solid walls on three sides of me, and my only escape was into my own room.

At this point if I had been thinking rationally I might have considered that going into the room the house seemed to be herding me into was probably unwise, but I was not thinking rationally. I was 10 and I was now officially terrified.

Without another thought, before the landscape could change on me again, I bolted into the room. I threw myself into my freezing cold bed and pulled the covers up over my head. Everything is better when you are hiding under the covers.

I sat awake for the rest of the night. I know I never went back to sleep. I was a professional insomniac at that young age, I knew when I was awake or not. I know I had not been asleep and dreaming. I know it was real.

The next morning when I was asked how I slept, I did not relate my story to my stepmother. I did however mention I did not sleep well and asked if perhaps the house was haunted. She told me that some people thought it was, and some weird things had happened in that room in the past.

I slept on the couch the rest of the week.

And the dog was an old golden retriever that would have sooner licked me than bite me.

In the 20 years since this incident I have often wondered if it was real or not. The memory is still fresh in my brain to this day. I can hear the footsteps, I can feel the welt on my arm (which was there the next morning), I can feel the wall under my hand. I was so certain at the time it was real, and even now I can't find a point in the memory where it could have been a dream. It is so vivid I can't imagine it was.

I have had many paranormal run ins since then, and I am certain I will have many more, but I am certain that this one will stand out for all times as the scariest moment ever. Ghosts I will take any day of the week. Possessed houses is something I will gladly take a pass on.

I do hope that you enjoyed my real life ghost stories and scary tales.
Have a happy Halloween, and remember there are things that go bump in the night, and just because you do not believe in them, does not mean that they do not believe in you.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Something wicked this way comes: Scary tales 6

Assorted personal happenings.

As I have mentioned through the last several posts I started seeing and hearing ghosts, that I recall, when I was about ten. I knew ghosts were not supposed to be real, but I also knew I was not completely insane. For me I had to decide if I was possibly mentally unstable or if things that go bump in the night are real. I chose to go with the latter. I refuse to believe that this was the wrong decision considering how many experiences I have had, as well as the number of eye witness accounts from others I have heard through the years. Lets just face it, there are some things that are rationally unexplainable, and ghosts are among them.

One of the earlier run ins with ghosts I can remember was when I was in 7th grade. My mother had remarried at the beginning of the summer and we had moved to Austin. I was going through a pretty good run of insomnia at the time, so not surprisingly I was awake and sitting on my bed reading at about 6 in the morning. It was a weekend so everyone else was assured to be asleep for several more hours, and I was trying to be as quiet as possible. Out of nowhere my brother rather suddenly appeared in my doorway looking both sleepy and angry. He wanted to know why I had woken him up, and I assured him I had not. He again insisted that I had to have, or mom had to have woken him up. I said again it wasn't me and mom was still in her room. He said a woman had grabbed his arm and shaken him telling him it was time to get up. I hadn't heard anything at all. Normally I would have said he had been dreaming, but the finger nail impressions on his arm clearly said he wasn't.

I was in college when I saw my first cemetery ghost. I have always been fascinated with cemeteries. When I was in Vicksburg a couple of years ago we spent hours getting lost in the state cemetery and I took hundreds of pictures. There was a cemetery in Nacogdoches that was particularly lovely. It was old and had a great deal of character to it. When you walked the trail at Pecan park, it ended at the back of the cemetery, so we would often take a break there before heading back. One day we were at the park just around sunset, sitting and taking a break and chatting some. At first I had thought we were alone, but then I noticed off in one of the far corners there was a woman standing over a grave, her head was bowed, and her shoulders shook as though she was weeping. Not wanting to be rude and stare at a mourning woman I turned my attention away. When I looked back she had moved and was wondering down the path towards the back fence. I mentioned her to someone else in the group, but when we looked back she was gone. There was no place she could have gone to from where I had last seen her.

We got up and went to examine the grave she had been crying over to see if there might be a clue. The grave was that of a childs, no more than seven when they died. The details were hard to make out without the aid of paper to take a rubbing as the grave was nearly 100 years old. A woman weeping over her childs grave is not uncommon, but when the woman has surely been dead herself for some time, it is a little odd.

I had an apartment in college that was really the coolest thing ever. It was two stories, it had these beautiful balconies, and was one of only 16 units, with a lovely central courtyard walk. It was also home to an entire fraternity, but the boys were mostly not a big problem, and always meant we got free beer. The apartment was quirky though. It had been built in the 60's and never really updated. There were some electrical issues, and some door issues when the building would shift, but nothing we couldn't handle.

There were however other odd things that were hard to overlook. We used to hear Donna Summer's being played in my roommates room when there was no one in there. My roommate didn't have a tv or stereo or really anything that could play music in her room. Also, every time we heard the music this overwhelming smell would come from her room. It smelled like Italian food that had been left sitting in the sun for three days. It was foul to say the least. When you opened the door to check on it, the music and the smell would disappear.

Her room was not the only one that was bothered. I had issues in my room constantly. I would often wake up to the feel of someone sitting on my bed. My roommate did have a habit of crawling into bed with me, but in these occasions there was no one there, although I could see the impression in the mattress of someone sitting with me. I had a dog for a short while and whenever this would happen she would freak out. She would back up to the far corner of the bed and growl at thin air with her hackles raised. It never did anything but sit on my bed that I know of, but it was still a little odd.

Ghosts taking an interest in me while I sleep is a recurring theme. I don't recall this next story personally, because I was actually asleep. I don't doubt the validity of the story despite my sleeping through it. We were at a friends farm outside Tyler Tx for a weekend when this event happened. We had spent the day traipsing through the woods, and the evening down by the lake talking. Upon coming back to the farm house we saw a light go off in the back bedroom and a figure move across the window. There was some mild panic and then a sweep of the house with shotguns to check for the intruder. In the end all the doors and windows had been locked and no one was in the house.

Needless to say we were all a little freaked out by this event. We drove into town for IHoP, but after four hours there we were no less freaked out, and now wired on caffeine. When we got back to the farm house we decided the best idea was to just go to bed. I was staying in a room with two double beds which I was sharing with my friend John. At one point during the night he got up to use the bathroom, and noticed that there was someone else in bed with me. He thought that our friend Sarah had gotten scared sleeping alone and had crawled into bed with me (This happens a lot to me). When he came back from the bathroom he said she was still in bed, cuddled up with me.

In the morning when we woke up I was alone in the bed. He asked when Sarah had left and I said I hadn't known she was in the bed with me. Honestly I barely fit into a double bed (at the time because I was so tall, now because I am so tall and chubby), I didn't see how Sarah could have gotten into bed with me at all, least of all without me noticing. Sarah was a really big girl. Still he swore she had been there.

So we went and asked Sarah. Sarah was still asleep and locked in her room. When we finally got her up she swore to us that she had not left the room. She had even put a chair in front of the door in case someone tried to get in. If she was sleep walking she did one hell of a job. I slept walked for years and moving and resetting a chair was definitely beyond the things I was capable of.

In the end we decided that it had to have been a ghost of some sort since Sarah hadn't moved and I hadn't felt anyone climb into bed with me. When you are left with only one answer, no matter how absurd it seems, that is usually the right answer.

Tomorrow there will be one last scary story in honor of Halloween. I have saved it for last, as it is the most frightening thing that has ever happened to me. Come back tomorrow to hear the tale of the house that tried to eat me.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Something wicked this way comes: Scary tales 5

The things children see.

I have often heard it said that children are more likely to see ghosts than adults are. Possibly it is because children are so innocent, or perhaps it is because children are not so jaded that they no longer believe in the unbelievable, or maybe they just work on a different level than adults; but any way you look at it you get more ghost stories out of children than adults. True a sighting from a child is a little less reliable because they are prone to over exaggeration,  but I find adults are just as bad about misdiagnosing what goes bump in the night.

The husbeast is originally from New Orleans. For anyone who is even slightly sensitive to spirits, New Orleans is a hot bed of activity. I can only imagine how much worse it would be for a child. He learned very early the virtue of burning white candles outside your bedroom door at night, and that a circle of stuffed animals can protect you if you believe in them hard enough.

One of his most vivid ghost experiences was a mischievous little spirit that just wanted to be his friend. The spirit tried very hard to make him feel comfortable, appearing to him in several forms that should have been friendly. Once it appeared to him as Tony the Tiger, who was his favorite cereal cartoon character. The husbeast was freaked out by this. The spirit also appeared as a tiny little skeleton. It danced around trying to show that it was not a threat, but again this only scared the boy. It was after that night that his mother discovered him sleeping in the center of a circle of stuffed animals for protection.

Also as a child, while staying in his grandmothers house, he awoke one night to the feel of someone sitting beside him on the edge of the bed. He saw an older man in a suit sitting there watching him sleep. Later when he described the man to his grandmother she retrieved a photograph and asked if that was the man. He told her it was and she informed him that it was his grandfather. The suit he described was the one he had been buried in.

My own experiences as a young child are actually few. Most of my run ins with ghosts and spooky things did not start until I was around ten, or at least that I remember. I am sure that just because I can not recall any incidents before then does not mean that they did not happen. I had a ridiculously over active imagination as a child, and I was likely to have written off certain things as just make believe as the adults would have said. There is one incident that happened to me when I was ten, which is by far the creepiest thing that ever happened to me, but I am saving that for Halloween.

So remember next time you hear a child say that they saw something, don't be so fast to disregard what they say as flights of fancy. They just might have actually seen something that you have just convinced yourself not to believe in.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Something wicked this way comes: Scary tales 4

SFA dorms

Now as I mentioned yesterday, my college campus was not exactly a quiet place when it came to paranormal activity. The theater was expected to be haunted, but the dormitories? I suppose one could reason that over the life of a dorm, especially an old dorm, that some spirits might attach themselves to the buildings. Thoughts of suicidal finals students, and frat boys ODing come to mind. Alas those fairly typical college scenarios are not the reason for the hauntings at SFA.

SFA was founded in 1923 as a teachers college. The original building for the school was in Nacogdoches but not on the current campus. The school bought three buildings that are where the current campus stands from the state. The buildings used to belong to Rusk hospital for the criminally insane. These three buildings ended up eventually being converted into dormitories.

This portion of the hospital closed prior to 1917 and the basement portion of the buildings remained sealed until 1998. The rest of the buildings were mostly converted. The bathrooms were updated, the actual furnace for the crematorium that was under one of the three buildings was removed, and the elevator shaft to the crematorium was bricked up. The crematorium stacks are still on top of the building.

In 1998 the college decided to take one of the three now dormitories, and turn it into the new admin office. The dorm had been empty and been used for storage for some years. The college decided to hire student crews to clean out the old building, but found almost immediately that keeping a crew was near impossible as strange things were scaring away the workers. At this point the college released the history of the buildings hoping to attract a crew or the morbidly curious that would not be easily scared off.

Several of my friends were on the crew. There were reports of hearing laughter and crying from the unoccupied rooms, doors were known to suddenly slam shut for no reason, the bars on the windows would shake violently even though there was no wind, and of course there were screams. The other building had housed the crematorium and the portion of the morgue where bodies were stored in wait of being disposed of. The portion of the morgue where autopsies were performed were in this buildings basement, which had been sealed for almost 100 years.

When the crew opened up the old morgue they found all sorts of crazy stuff. It was a scene out of a horror movie. Body parts floating in jars, old rusty surgical tools, extremely out dated medical charts, and all manner of macabre items. One of my friends found the bible that they had used to administer last rights.

So knowing all of this it was easy to see why the buildings were haunted. I had a friend who kept waking up to see an old black woman rocking by the window. Another friend who roomed in those dorms kept hearing maniacal laughter coming from his closet. The male dorm reported going into the bathrooms and having them look like the bathrooms would have when it was the hospital and not the remodeled version. One day while visiting a friend I noticed that the hallway looked like an asphalt road on a hot Texas summer day. Waves of heat were rising off the floor and radiating from the walls, but the hall was ice cold.

Sometimes at night when you passed by the building that my friends helped clean out you could hear the bars on one window shaking violently and hear fists banging on the window in the still empty building. I was never really certain if the low moans that were coming from the building was from the wind or not. More than once security was called to check for a break in because people saw someone looking out of the windows.

All in all I am glad I was never housed in those dorms. I can't imagine studying with the ghost of a crazy man reading over my shoulder.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Something wicked this way comes: Scary tales 3

Chester the SFA theater ghost

I have been doing theater since I was very young. I used to try and put on plays with my friends when I was barely able to read, and started being in plays at church around 4th grade. Middle school and high school were theater intensive for me. I sort of lived and breathed theater back then.

Now if you have ever worked in theater you will know that theater people are super superstitious. I think they rely on their superstitions more than just about anything else. I was once told by an old man who had been doing theater professionally for 60 years that a theater without a ghost was not a theater he would work in. He thought it was bad luck. That seems to be the consensus I have come across. Even if the ghost is not real, every theater I have been in has claimed to have a ghost.

Chester is the ghost at the SFA theater where I attended college. There were several theories to where the ghost came from. One was that the architect that designed the building died of a heart attack upon seeing the finished building and realizing it was facing the wrong direction leaving the beautiful front side facing another building and the loading dock facing the street. This is not true since the loading dock was designed to face the street. How else would we get trucks into it? The second theory, and I think most popular, is that a construction worker fell into the pit before it was installed* and died from the two story fall. The last theory was that a child actually got down into the cavernous basement storage area where the props live and was locked in over a holiday and died. It really could be anything though as our campus was not exactly quiet when it came to spirits (which I will discuss more tomorrow)

Wherever Chester came from, there is no doubt to the students and faculty that there is something there. Ms Nelda, the departmental secretary during my stay at SFA, was said to have and entire Chester file. We were not even allowed to ask one of the tech theater profs about Chester because he had had such a bad experience, and almost every long term student had a run in with him. We even had ghost hunters come in to document Chester. There is actually a theory that Chester is two different ghosts, one good and one evil considering his presence and mischief has been anywhere from chills to attempted murder.

So here are a few Chester stories from my time at SFA and before.

There were several bits of photographic evidence to Chester's existence. The most notable was from a production of the Scottish play. In the scene where the line of ghosts of the house of Banquo appear there is an extra ghost in the photograph.

When I was in high school I attended a summer theater workshop for high school students at SFA. On the last evening of camp, during our final performances there was a campus wide blackout. Something happened to the power grid and there was no power anywhere in the area for about 9 hours. We were on stage at the time when the lights went out. Only the lights did not just go out as is normal in a sudden blackout. Instead the stage went from lit to being completely bathed in bright red light as though every light in the place had red gels on them. After a few moments the red went out and we were left in darkness. I am told that none of the lights had red gels in that shade. Once the lights came back on it was discovered that all of the pictures that hung on the walls in the props rooms had fallen off the walls.

There is a story that one night during a load in for a production a hammer that had been left unattended on top of a ladder suddenly flew off and nearly hit a prof who was walking by. No one was near the ladder at the time and it did not simply drop straight down. It was more like it had been flung at the prof.

I got a phone call one night during my first summer rep program. We were doing a show that required a phone on stage. The sound guy and his best friend were close to me and my roommate at the time. The boys were working on rigging the phone to ring, and we had gone home to get cleaned up after a day of shop work and a night of rehearsals. The game plan had been for us to go back to the theater and meet them if they had not shown up at our apartment by the time we were done getting ready. I answered the phone to an incredibly irritated sound guy telling me in no uncertain terms that we were not funny. I told him I had no idea what he was talking about. He insisted to speak to my roommate. I had to pull her out of the shower to convince him that she was actually with me. It seems that while they were working on the ringer some weird things had started happening. The phone was ringing even when it was disconnected from the device, they could hear giggling and whispering of their names, and that sort of thing. They thought it was us playing a joke on them. The thing was we were at our apartment showering and couldn't have made it back in the time since they heard things. The building was locked and since it was summer there were not many people to hang around.

That same summer rep I was working wardrobe for another show. The show was fairly low maintenance so during the actual run I was alone on my side of the stage most of the night. I was on headset one night and I started hearing whispering over the headset. I thought it was the guys in the booth screwing with me so I told them to cut it out. They swore they were not doing it. I of course didn't believe them. After about the third time of me telling them to shut up I got a rather concerned response from my stage manager asking me if I was alone. When I said I was she sent someone down to come backstage and sit with me. I thought they were screwing with me still so I took the headset off and told the person on stage right to put their headset on as I was tired of their games. After I had switched the headset off I started hearing the whispers again, this time coming from nowhere in particular.

Considering that some shows were more plagued by Chester appearances than others, some of our profs have made attempts to get rid of him. I am told that there was once an attempted exorcism happening at the theater. On that particular day and alumni had stopped by to say hello. The prof she wanted to speak to was involved in the cleansing and asked her to wait down in the greenroom while he attended to some business, not telling her what was happening. She went down and took advantage of the time to pull out some reports she needed to work on. She had not been there but a few minutes before the prof showed up and told her she could come upstairs. She told him she would be up in a minute as she needed to finish what she was doing. He got angry and told her to come upstairs immediately, and she politely told him to piss off. He wasn't her teacher anymore and she wasn't going to be bullied. He stormed off in a fit. A few minutes later the prof came in and told her they were done and she could come upstairs. She snapped at him that she had meant it when she said she would come up when she was done. The prof looked at her confused as it was the first time he had come down to get her. He had been working upstairs the entire time.

When the ghost hunters came to try and document Chester things went pretty well for them. They did at one point think that they had caught major activity but it turned out to be a wardrobe person who had been there late doing hand washing. She had been locked in the laundry room and had no idea what was going on. We still aren't sure who was scared more, her or the camera man. While that was happening in the basement a camera had been set up in the balcony facing the stage. What the camera ended up catching was two orbs coming down from the bell tower and flitting about on the dark stage. The orbs danced around for a minute until they seemed to notice the camera. One orb went back up into the bell tower while the other made a straight line for the camera as though it could knock it over.

*The stage had an automatic lift apron that could be lowered to basement level for easy movement of large props, lowered to create and orchestra pit, or raised to stage level to make the stage larger, or anywhere between for whatever the director needed. It was very cool but without the actual lift there it is a little over a two story drop from stage level to the ground.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Something wicked this way comes: Scary tales 2

The Manchaca house.

Shortly after I left for college my parents decided to pursue a business venture and dream, which was owning a driving range. The range was just the start to reaching some long term dreams including a little restaurant for my mom. They looked around and found a perfect property in a great location in south Austin. Making the property even better was the fact that there was an 8 bedroom 3 bath house and a barn sized garage on the back of the property. The house was valued at $0 because it was in poor shape, but it was not so bad that it couldn't be fairly easily made livable.

My parents found out in short order that the aesthetic maladies of the house were not the biggest problems that they would face in living there.

The property had an intriguing history. In the beginning the land belonged to Stephen F Austin (considered the founding father of Texas). At one point he freed his slaves and this portion of his land was given to one of the slaves families. We were later informed that there was most likely an old slave cemetery somewhere on the property. Much later the house was built, originally 4 bedrooms and a bath with an office. Later the office was converted to a bedroom and an addition was put on the house with three more bedrooms and a bath. The last legitimate tenants of the house had been crack whores. No really, they were running a psuedo brothel/crack house out of the residence. They also had children in the house as the nursery, if you could call it that, was still intact. After those tenants were all thrown in jail or died of ODs, the house remained empty for the most part. Some of the old tenants clientele squatted there for a period of time, but no other actual residents.

Now the house was in terrible shape. Structurally it was sound, but that was about it. The shag carpeting had been ruined when they locked two mastiffs inside for days on end, all of the interior doors had been kicked or punched in, the toilets had to be replaced, the ceiling in the living room had to be replaced from a flood upstairs, and all the walls and cabinets had to be repainted and repaired from holes. There was no end of disgusting things found in the house including feces (both animal and human), used condoms, used feminine hygiene products, used needles, and drugs.

Sadly that is not the scary part of this story.

It took about 6 months of work for my parents and siblings to make the house livable, but they managed to do it. It was actually a really nice house once it was done, even if it seemed a little quirky at times. Then the strange things began. During the time in the house three ghosts were identified, though we are certain there were more.

The first was in the master bedroom. My dad has a sweet tooth. His particular weakness is Hershey Nuggets with almonds in them. He always has a bag in his bedside table and all of the children are well aware that you never touch dad's chocolate. The drawer is very secure considering they had two dogs that got left locked in the bedroom a lot of the time.

One day my parents came home and in the bedroom they found on the bed the empty chocolate bag. The bag had been turned inside out (corners pulled neatly so the bag looked perfect) and all of the wrappers were neatly folded in a stack next to the bag. It was obvious the dogs had not done this, in fact the dogs were hiding in the  bathroom. If any of the kids living in the house had been dumb enough to steal some chocolate they certainly would have not eaten it all or left any evidence.

My mom also reported sightings of a large man or bear looming at the windows late at night. She said she might have been dreaming, but she wasn't for sure. She said she didn't think it was someone trespassing as she could see their eyes glow.

The next trouble spot was my sisters room upstairs. At night when you slept you could hear a child giggling, and when she would leave and come back small objects were moved around the room. I slept in there when I visited and I heard the child clear as day. While the laughter sounded like a little girl we think it was actually a very little boy. Every time someone would call the ghost a girl something would be very violently tossed at a wall.

The final trouble spot was the upstairs bathroom, and by far this was the most disturbing of all of the ghosts in the house. The upstairs bathroom was a bizarre design. When you walked in the door (which actually was a curtain because the door had been kicked in and the frame busted) the sink and mirror were immediately to the right. To the left was a door way that led into a small room that had shelves and a vanity table to the right. Opposite the entrance door into the vanity area was another door which led into a dark room. From the main bathroom door, directly opposite was the door into the tub and toilet area. The tub was just to the right of the door and just to the left was a small linen shelf. Here was where the design got really weird. After the linen shelf there was a hard left turn and then a 8ft shotgun hallway with a toilet at the very end. Also the wall was covered in full sized windows. The space was just barely wide enough for the toilet to fit down there.

The bathroom was always a bit creepy because of all the large windows and weird shape, but there was much more to it. The first person to find this out was my brothers girlfriend. Now we really hated this girl, I mean seriously hated her, but my brother loved her and we couldn't get rid of her. One day she was taking a shower and suddenly started screaming. She came running downstairs in her towel and swore that there had been a man in the bathroom by the toilet when she got out of the shower. A thorough search showed that no one was in the house. After that point she saw the man nearly every time she showered. He was almost always advancing on her when she spotted him.

I saw him only once. I was taking a bath with the shower curtain closed (because there were big windows and no doors), and I leaned my head back and just could see through the small opening between the curtain and the wall. He was standing on the back of the toilet. His pants were dark and it looked like he was wearing a black hoodie with the hood up. His face was in shadows, but I am fairly certain there was no face there to be seen. I was terrified remembering the stories my brothers girlfriend had told and how malicious the ghost had been towards her, but after a moment I realized he was just standing there. He didn't even seem to be watching me in some sort of perverted way, he was just there. Like that was just his place. Still having a ghost watch you bathe is weird.

I never saw him again after that day, and I never felt ill at ease in that bathroom again. I honestly think he knew how much we hated the girlfriend and was acting out on our misgivings for her, and just leaving the rest of us alone.

My parents ended up losing the property after some personal issues arose. The house and land was bought by a real estate developer and it was turned into a pretty little suburban neighborhood. All I can think is that there are houses with some very angry displaced spirits roaming around haunting their toilets, eating their chocolate, and giggling at them in their sleep.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Something wicked this way comes: Scary tales 1

Halloween is by far my favorite time of year. I have always simply adored every facets of this time of year; from getting to dress up as a character, to the sweets and foods, to the decor, to all the scary and spooky things that go on. 

I love haunted houses and scary movies, what can I say I like to be scared. Well that might not be perfectly accurate. I like to be scared in perfectly safe environments, which I feel haunted houses and scary movies are. I am lucky in the fact that a good majority of my friends are haunters, so should I like I have no end of choices of excellent haunts to go to.

Sometimes I think I have become a little desensitized to all of it though. It takes one hell of a haunted house or scary movie to actually scare me these days. I wonder if this is because I have seen so many scary movies and been through so many haunted houses that I know what to expect. Possibly I am analyzing them all to no end. Or maybe it is something more.

My original love of all things scary comes from ghost stories. Not just the spooky tales told around the campfire, but the actual stories of  hauntings. I have had more than my fair share of actual ghostly and paranormal encounters. Perhaps all of this real life hands on experience has jaded me somewhat to scares. Or perhaps it has just fed my desire for more.

I was inspired by Sarah to share some real ghost stories. So for the rest of the week leading up to Halloween I will be sharing a ghost story with you. Some of them will be my own experiences, some will be experiences from friends, but they will all be true stories, whether you believe them or not.
And I would love to hear your stories as well if you have any.

Today's story will be a short one* since I have already rambled on a bit.

The girl in the mirror

When I was a junior and senior in high school I used to spend a lot of time over at my best friends house. She lived in a nice house with her parents and sister and grandmother about halfway between my house and school. I think we mostly hung out there because my house was always filled with my brother and his friends.

I spent many a night sleeping on her couch, and in general bumming around her house. The bathroom that my friend shared with her sister and grandmother was rather small and right beside the kitchen. If you stood in the doorway to the bathroom facing out you could turn to your right and see into the kitchen, to your left was a short narrow hallway to the front entryway, and straight ahead was another short narrow hall with the girls bedrooms at the end of it. The hall between the front door and kitchen was used a lot as it was the shortest path through the house. Since the bathroom sink and mirror were opposite the door, you could always see who was coming and going from the kitchen if the door was open.

I had stayed over at the house for months and had never noticed anything strange. It was a typical sort of house. Then one evening I was brushing my teeth with the door open, and as I was bending down to spit I caught a glimpse of something in the mirror that made me stop. A girl with black hair had just walked from the kitchen towards the front door. My best friend and her mother were redheads, her sister was a blond, and her grandmother was bed bound. I was the only person in the house with dark hair.

I decided I had been seeing things and went on about my evening. I never said anything about it. A few more visits passed and I saw nothing else strange. I was convinced I had just imagined seeing something. Then one day I was getting cleaned up for breakfast and I saw her again. This time she was standing at the end of the hall near the bedroom doors staring at me. She was young and pale with very dark hair, but I for the life of me can not tell you anything else about her. I am pretty sure she was more than just a head but it was hard tot ell because she was at the end of the hall and over my shoulder in the reflection. When I turned to look there was no one there.

I mentioned it that time to the family. I shouldn't have been surprised that no one seemed terribly shocked. They all mentioned having caught glimpses of someone walking past in the mirror when no one should have been there. I was just the first one to see her clearly.

I saw her about a dozen more times in the next year or so, but never more than just a glimpse. It never stopped being incredibly creepy and it got to the point where I would shut the bathroom door no matter what so that I would not have to see her anymore.

*Ok so that wasn't as short as I thought it was, but compared to the rest of my haunting stories it is short.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Follow me

Years ago my mother in some weird effort to keep contact with her children encouraged us all to get Twitter accounts. Twitter at the time was relatively new, or at least new to me. I had heard of it, sort of. It was before Tweet had become a household phrase like Google. So to humor my mother I  signed up and I followed my friends who were currently all a-twitter. Then I proceeded to forget all about it.

My mother never tweeted anything, and oddly neither did the majority of my friends I was following. Now I must admit I managed to remember to check my account once a week so I might have been missing something there. Even though Twitter kept getting more and more popular, I never bothered to go back. I actually went and deleted my account because I saw no point in keeping it around.

Perhaps it makes me a bit of a ludite, but I have never been able to find myself wanting to do the whole Twitter thing. I am certain it is incredibly useful tool and a good means of social networking, but I have often felt I have more than my fair share of social networking. Of course I used to say the same thing about Facebook.

So out of sheer curiosity today, I set up a twitter account again. I have no good reason for doing it, I was simply bored and decided to try again to see what all the hype is about. So I opened the account, filled in my profile, and selected some people to follow. I found a few friends I know Tweet and a handful of celebrities I thought might be interesting to follow. I have only recently discovered the joy of following famous people on G+, so this is sort of a more novel idea to me than it probably should be.

I got everything set up, went to the home page, and realized I have no idea what the hell is going on. It is almost like reading status updates on FB, but at the same time it seems a lot more like listening to one end of a phone conversation. It is a little unsettling in that. Also I was almost immediately followed by half a dozen people who look like porn stars. Could someone explain to me how the hell that happened? I think there is some sort of privacy setting somewhere I might be missing and need to look into.

I haven't tweeted anything yet since no one is following me (other than porn stars) and I also am not really certain how to do it. I feel like a complete moron to be quite honest. I mean I know how to do it, I just don't know how, if that makes any sense at all. I mean I get what the @ is used for I think, but what is the # for exactly? I don't speak the language is what I suppose I am getting at.

So for now I am going to quietly lurk about and watch and try and figure out what the hell is happening. I am not even certain how to tell you to follow me if you want to, or how to follow you if you wanted me to. I mean the user name is beylit, so do I say follow me @beylit on Twitter? That sounds right and wrong all at the same time.

I think I might be hopeless. I think I am going to need a tutorial. Please feel free to share with me your sage Twitter advice. Please. Please?

Friday, October 21, 2011

A happy institution

Sunday is my wedding anniversary. As of two days from now we will have been married for 7 years. It also marks 11 years of us being together. That is roughly 1/3 of my life. When I think about it that way it seems like a lot longer. As it is I can barely remember a time without him in my life. I mean sure we started dating my sophomore year of college, so there really was not a lot of time before him, but still that seems like an odd statement to make.

I really am just as much in love with him now as I was back then as a dumb 19 year old kid who really desperately wanted a boyfriend. I would go so far as to say I am more in love with him now because we have been through so very much together already. I will not say that I always like him, because that would be a flat out lie. There are days I don't like him much at all, but I always love him. The times he makes me smile far out weigh the times I want to smother him in his sleep with a pillow. That counts as a win in my book.

He most likely will not remember that Sunday is our anniversary until I remind him Sunday morning when I wake him up. That is alright with me as I am not one of those women who get fixated on anniversaries. I've tried to celebrate in the past and it is often more of an inconvenience than anything else. When we go to New Orleans in a few weeks for his birthday we will call that our anniversary trip as well. It is close enough to count.

Looking back now on the last 7 (11) years I am really amazed at some of the things we have been through, and the things I have learned. If I could go back and tell myself a few things I think it would be this:

- Yes you will get used to his snoring shaking the walls. Then he will stop snoring. Don't question it, just enjoy it.

- No you will probably never stop being bitter and angry about the fiasco that your wedding was. You will however accept the good from the day.

- Sometimes you have to let him walk away. He will always come back.

- He hates sandwiches, don't waste your time packing his lunch.

- Trust him when he says you will like something. He knows you so much better than you think he does.

- "In a minute" will never actually mean that.

- The little white duck song makes everything better.

- Breath. Even in a moment of complete crisis you still have each other and everything will work out in the end.

- Silliness makes everything more bearable.

- He is stubborn. Be more stubborn than he is.

- That 'for better or worse' thing means just that. The worse is bad, but the better is better. It is so worth it.

- Never try and share a double bed. You will never fit comfortably.

- He really is oblivious when other women hit on him. Don't let it get to you.

I am sure there is more I would tell myself, mostly about saving money and taking better care of myself, but knowing me I wouldn't listen. Of course I could be wrong.

Any way you look at it these last seven years have been what they were because he is by my side. There have been good times and bad times, but I wouldn't trade a minute of it. He makes me be a better person, and he makes me smile. Even in our worst moments I still couldn't imagine not having him by my side. I love him and that is all that matters.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

To NaNo or not to NaNo, that is the question

For years now, every November, I have heard no end of people who are participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo. At first, as I do with many things, I did not pay it much attention. I love to write and all but I am not a novelist so what do I care? Of course then my curiosity got the best of me and I started to look into it.

Basically it is a project where you attempt to write a novel in a month. Yes that sounds more than a little insane to me, and it should. Do you realize how much writing that is? In a month? Yea I am not that sort of masochist, or at least that is what I have been telling myself.

Up until last year I never knew anyone personally that participated in NaNo, and I had certainly never read the efforts of the project before. So when I was presented with the opportunity to see what someone accomplished in that month, I was a little floored. It was impressive to say the least. I mean the work I read was very raw and needed a lot of work, but functionally it was a novel that was written in 30 days.

Still, was this something I wanted to attempt to do? I have been getting more serious about my writing in the last few years, and this would certainly be a large step in the direction I am wanting to go in. I work amazingly well under pressure, and considering I loath missing a deadline I would get something written. If I could do it this time, even if it turned out clunky and raw, why couldn't I do it again? Why couldn't I do it better next time? Why couldn't I turn this raw thing into something brilliant? Why not?

Honestly I am liking this idea more and more. The only thing holding me back is the fact that I can not devote the full 30 days to writing. For one thing I have my commitment to faire. Every Saturday and Sunday as well as the Friday after Thanksgiving I will be at faire working, and I promise you there is no time to write. By the time the faire day is done and dinner has been had, I am lucky if I don't pass out right away. The other issue is that we are taking a four day trip to New Orleans to celebrate the husbeasts birthday and our anniversary. There is no way I will do any writing during that week.

So pretty much I would be saying that I am going to write a novel in 15 days, half the time of everyone else. That is a little crazy. Now I could work on a project that I have already put a little leg work into. I have a piece that I would love to write that I already have roughly 50k words written for. Is that cheating?

I am not sure what to do. It is something to think about. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

But why?

We were rather unexpectedly visited last night by some friends who were in town for a doctors appointment for their two month old daughter. Now it was the husbeasts best friend, who might as well be his brother, and his girls are our god daughters, so we are always happy to see them.

Sweet sleeping baby girl.
Jorja is only two months old, so seeing her was rather uneventful. Poor little thing had been at the hospital all day being poked and prodded and having tests run on her. She was out cold for the majority of the visit. I still took advantage of the moment and snapped a couple of pictures of her while she slept. Much like the husbeast, she is easier to photograph while sleeping. Go figure.

Now Jorja's older sister is Miss Emma Grace. Emma will be 4 next Tuesday. She is a very sweet and polite little girl. She is very loving although she is frightened of men. She loves the husbeast, don't get me wrong, she is just terrified of him. When he is on the phone she will talk to him forever. I am told she takes the phone to her room and sets it on the table and talks at it while she plays with her dolls. It doesn't matter that she can't hear him, it is more about him hearing her.

When she gets in the same room with him though it is a different story. She won't get within two feet of him, even when he tries to bribe her with sweets. He will ask for a hug and she will hide behind someone else and say she doesn't want to hug him. She will tell him she loves him, but only if he is on the other side of the room. I am certain it is a phase she will eventually grow out of, but for now it is very cute.

She is poised to ask another question.
She has no problem with me whatsoever. She came in and immediately crawled onto the couch next to me and started asking me questions. I am informed this is the question stage that most children go through. I do have to say that at least the majority of her questions are more than your typical "But why?". She puts a lot of thought into the questions she asks. Now granted most of her questions are about the color of things, and are questions she has already asked at least a dozen times, but she thinks about them every time. The funny thing is she doesn't always think and then ask. Often she will start to ask the question and not know what she will ask, so she sort of thinks out loud. "Aunt Megan? What...err...why it...what kind of...umm...what...umm...does the...why...umm...what...color is your two cats?" This process is on going.

It was a good visit, and I do wish I got to see the girls more. Emma is growing up fast and I am sure I will miss a lot of her growing up which is sad. I do not think though that I will miss missing more of the question phase.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Babies babies everywhere...

...But none for me, yet.
No I am not pregnant, lets just start this off right. Someday, Gods willing and the creek don't rise, I will be. Today is not that day. A number of my friends however, are currently pregnant. Several of them have been trying very hard for a very long time, and I am so overwhelmingly happy for them. Several other of my friends have just delivered a baby in the last month or so, and again I am overwhelmingly happy for them. Babies are a very happy thing.

All this good baby fortune however does make one start to think about such things. I have always wanted children and so has the husbeast. In fact he would have been happier if we had started having children before he turned 30, which was five years ago. I was so incredibly not ready to have children at 25. I was entirely too selfish five years ago to have children, and I knew it then.

Children require a lot of attention and quite a bit of sacrifice. I have seen it with my friends with children. They have to pass on a lot of things because they have children, and the children are the priority. I am not saying had I had children at that point I wouldn't have loved them and sacrificed for them. I am simply saying I wasn't mentally ready to do that. I wanted a little time alone with my husband to enjoy being a married couple before we became a full on family.

Am I ready now? Five years later just having turned 30 myself, am I now ready to not be so selfish? I can't really say that. I want to think I am. I want to think that I am ready for such a step in my life, but how can I really know that? I mean really I am not certain anyone is ever really ready to be a parent. You can think you are all you want, but in the end I think it is always a shock. How could it not be?

So am I ready to be a parent? I don't know. Am I willing to be a parent? Yes very much so. Am I rushing to be a parent? Not in the least. All things happen when they should, and I am certain babies are no different. So when the eventuality of a baby does happen for me, I might not be prepared per se, but I will be ready to take on whatever comes my way.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tales from the E.R.

Saturday was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and there was not a cloud in the sky. It was warm but not oppressively hot as it can easily get to be in Texas. In all it was really a perfect day for the faire. After the disastrous opening weekend weather, we all decided to pretend that last weekend was simply practice and this was the real opening. The crowds were large and they all seemed to be in a pleasant and buying mood.

I was standing at my jewelry counter, finishing a sale with a nice woman, while also talking with the boss, when the husbeast walks over. His right hand is in the air and his left hand is tightly gripped over his index finger. All I can hear as I am talking to my customer is him say the word 'stitches' before disappearing through the back door. Not precisely the words I wanted to hear. In my head I was hoping that he was exaggerating. I was hoping that this was a wound that could be fixed with a bandage or some super glue. I should know better than that.

I make it up to the apartment and find him with his hand in the sink as one of the other workers is running back and forth from the bathroom trying to get his finger bandaged. I ask how bad it is and he removes the pressure so I can see. At first I was not sure what I was seeing. There was a long bleeding cut on one side of his finger, and all the flesh around it was turning purple already. I thought to myself it was bad, but probably could be solved with a little super glue. Then I noticed there was a cut on the other side of his finger as well. I asked him, confused, if the blade had gone straight through, creating a sort of tunnel with an entrance and exit wound. It was at that point he showed me that the side of his finger had been sliced through as though cut by a pair of scissors and he actually had a triangular chunk of flesh hanging off.

I was proud I neither screamed not threw up, though I was tempted on both counts.

It was quite apparent though that we needed to go to the E.R. I hate, and hate might be too mild of a word, the E.R. I have some pretty horrible nightmare stories from visits to the E.R. Also the fact that faire is in Todd Mission Tx, which is outside of Houston, meant that the nearest E.R. was going to be a small town hospital. I am always leery of such places. Also the fact that I am not from this area meant I had no idea where the hell I was going.

I got some fast and dirty directions, grabbed my keys, threw him into the passenger seat and headed out. We got stuck in faire traffic, and had to roll down the windows and ask for directions from people standing at gas stations more than once, but after about half an hour we pulled into the Tomball E.R.

Now at this point I should mention we are still in full garb. When one is injured and bleeding there is no time to change. I was still in my bodice and skirt, I didn't even drop my belt, so I was covered in gypsy bells. The husbeast wears a kilt at this particular faire. Again this is a small East Texas town hospital. It is the closest hospital to the faire so they had to have seen people like us before, but we were certainly not normal to them. The security guard at the door watched us walk in with a very baffled expression.

Now came the time that he had to explain himself to the triage nurse. Sheepishly he began to explain that he works in a sword shop and handles blades all day long, and has for a decade now. She looked a little impressed asking what sort of sword he cut himself on. At this point he had to admit that it was not a sword or even a knife that had got him, but a screwdriver. It was actually a multi tool with a serrated saws-all blade on the screwdriver attachment. For some reason the blade does not lock on this tool, and while he was using it, it snapped shut on his finger. He was terribly embarrassed.

The nurse looked him over, planted her hands on her hips and cocked her head to the side.
"Let me get this straight." she said looking quite skeptical.
"You are embarrassed you cut off a chunk of your finger with a screwdriver, but you are not embarrassed you are wearing a dress?"

At least the ER staff had a good sense of humor.

There was no one else there so we were taken right back. The PA we saw was very sweet and very good. They put some sort of nerve blocker in his finger to numb it so she could put in four stitches. Unfortunately his body metabolizes pain killers and anesthesia very quickly, and his finger was not numb for the last two stitches. She offered another shot, but he just wanted it over with at this point.

In all we were in the ER only 30 minutes, and it was probably one of the most pleasant trips to the hospital ever. The staff both pleasant and competent which is a huge bonus. I think it took us longer to get his prescriptions filled than to get the stitches in.

We pulled back into faire in a little over two hours, and were back to work as though nothing had happened. Of course now when someone asks him if the swords he sells are sharp, he has proof that yes they are.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Ants and the Grasshopper

I am going to break one of my cardinal rules. I am going to discuss politics. This probably won't be pretty. I mean I am not going to get ugly and hateful and spew vitriol all over the internets, because honestly I am not that sort of person. No it will be ugly because I am not a political person and therefor I am certain someone will have less than stellar reviews on what I have to say.

So it seems like you can not swing a dead cat lately without hitting something on the internet talking about "I am <fill in the blank>%". At first I diligently ignored it, as I do most things of a political nature*. Only you can only ignore things for so long, and honestly I was starting to become curious as to what everyone was getting so worked up about. What was it about these "99%" people sitting in protest that these "53%" people are so damned pissed off about?

From what I understand, and I will admit I could be missing something, the "99%" people are sitting on Wall street, and elsewhere in the country, to protest greed among other things. I was unable to find a comprehensive list of grievances since they don't seem to have one. What it boils down to though is a bunch of citizens who are frustrated and fed up with the current state of economic BS we live in, and are exercising their right to let people know that they are pissed off and it needs to change.

The other people, the "53%" people, seem to be pissed off at the protesters because they seem to think that the people holding "99%" signs are a bunch of lazy people who don't want to work hard and are looking for a free ride. I have also gotten a very strong idea that they view protesting as highly un-American.

So what do I think about it? Well mostly I think that both sides have the right to do or think whatever they like, though I am leaning more towards the second group being woefully underinformed or misguided towards the intentions of the first group.

There is nothing wrong with protesting. In fact I think there is a lot right with protesting. This protest seems to have started in a more organic fashion and might be a little disorganized and hazy in their goals, but it is still not a bad thing. It shows that the American people are frustrated and coming to a breaking point. I do not think that these are a bunch of shiftless layabouts, or radical hippies (or is that an oxymoron?), or crazed liberal/communist/socialists looking for the end of the American way.

I think these are probably all hard working, tax paying, voters who have reached the end of their rope. Just because you got laid off and found a new job in a few months does not mean everyone is that lucky. My husband has been through five or six jobs in the last three years due to constant lay offs, and we are just damn lucky that sales is a field where you can find new jobs. I know hard working, brilliant, college educated people who are going on three or four years of being unemployed despite constant job searching. A lot of people have hit a place where what they are qualified for has no jobs, but their qualifications make them over qualified for anything more menial to pay the bills.

The "53%" people keep saying they live under their means and work multiple jobs with crazy hours just to get by and they are not complaining. They say that they are alright having no cable, no internet, no smart phones, no modern luxuries. They say they are alright with that because they have no debt and have savings for the future. On one hand, good for you for being that diligent and that focused and that responsible.  On the other hand, shame on you for your complacency. Shame on you for not wanting more than a cheap apartment and a case of Naty Lite on a Friday night while watching a Red Box movie.

The whole point of America and the elusive American Dream is to want more. It is to want to have a nicer more comfortable life. Yes it is a totally capitalist thing, but face it people, we are capitalists. We are a nation of consumers, and there is nothing wrong with that. We should be able to afford a few little luxuries. We should be able to spend $100 a month and have cable and internet if we want them, or save a little and have a cool phone, or even be able to take a nice week long trip to Vegas once a year. We should be able to work hard and yet still enjoy our lives, because what is the point otherwise?

The problem comes down to the fact that so many of us are working ourselves to death just to get by and we have become complacent and accepted that this is our lot in life. We accept paying $4 for gas, we accept crappy 1 bedroom apartments in a not so great neighborhood, we accept that two people working two jobs each at 70 hours a week with no benefits or vacation is the norm, we accept substandard schooling for our children, we accept that execs of major corporations are going to get 6 figure bonuses even if they caused an environmental disaster, and we accept that major corporations will pay no taxes but still get millions in tax refunds.

That is what is wrong with this country right now. We accept all of that. As far as I can see the "99%" are tired of accepting that. I say good for them. Someone has to do it.

Yes I agree voting is important. You have to get out there and vote for people you think will make the choices that will represent us, but in the end you have to remember that once elected those people will not always do what is best for us. By standing up and showing that we are fed up we send a message to the lawmakers that are in office that we are pissed off. 

I leave you with the tale of the ants and the grasshopper. The ants toil all year long in order to live comfortably through the winter, while the grasshopper plays all day. When the winter comes the ants have plenty to eat while the grasshopper is starving.

The American people are the ants. We work hard all day long to have something nice in the end, only when winter came we had nothing to eat. The major corporations are the grasshoppers and they have been playing all day long and are still living fat and happy despite the cold winter. Always remember though that ants are many and grasshoppers are few, and once organized, the ants can be devastating.

*I have my reasons for ignoring politics, and maybe someday I will go into them, but not today. Keep your judgements on the matter to yourself.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I am my own worst enemy

I have no idea what my problem is here lately, but I certainly seem to have one. The last three weeks or so I have been in a cycle of self sabotage. I have been skipping the gym, I have been skipping my supplemental workouts, I have been making horrendous food choices, and I have generally been a lazy useless beast falling behind on all of my chores and obligations.

Part of me wants to blame it on faire starting. I want to say that with losing my weekends and all of the prep that goes into faire, I simply have misplaced my spare time and energy. Only I know that is a total lie. Yes losing my weekends does make things a little tighter during the week, but not to the point that I can't get anything else done. It simply means I lose one night to prep, and even that I don't lose so much. It is more of an altering of priorities.

I just can't explain it. I feel like I am failing miserably at my self control and my determination. I am actively choosing to do this to myself, and I know what the consequences will be. I just don't seem to care. Suddenly an ice cream and time watching TV sounds like a totally valid option as opposed to a fresh salad and an hour at the gym. It is not like I can't get in my TV time after the gym, and I like salad more than ice cream, but it is not stopping me from making these choices.

Every day I look back at my actions from the day before and I cringe. I tell myself every morning that I am stopping such poor behavior today. Today I will make good choices. Today I will do responsible things. Today I will get back on track. Then by 3:30 I am at the vending machine buying a Twix, and at 5 I turn right out of the parking lot and head home instead of driving across the street to the gym.

I told myself this morning that today will be different. Today I will be better.
Only time will tell.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

When I was your age...

I realized that my past few posts sound decidedly anti social networking. I would say that would be an overstatement. I like social networking, I love the idea of it actually, and always have. I am very frustrated with it at this exact moment (as evident by yesterdays post).

You see the thing is I feel like the entire point of social networking, Facebook, Google +, blogging, all of it, is to share information and stay connected. When I was introduced to Livejournal nearly a decade ago I thought it was brilliant. I had this place where I could put down my thoughts and ideas or simply what was happening in my day to day life, and all of my friends could see it. This was especially appealing to me because I was stuck in my college town of Nacogdoches and most of my friends were 4 hours away in Dallas. Being able to share with people through LJ made me feel less disconnected from the people I cared about. Sure there were good healthy doses of memes going around, but there was still content there.

I was reluctant to join Facebook. I found it a bit frivolous actually. The main status messages seemed too limiting to say anything useful, and the notes system was not exactly clear. I found often I would write a note and no one ever saw them. Heck unless I actively went and looked for notes I missed almost all of my friends notes. Still all of my friends were now on Facebook and if I wanted to keep this connection then I was going to have to move over.

Of course like most people I adapted to the format of Facebook, and grew comfortable with it. I have never played the games on there, and once I figured out how to hide certain things I was happy with it for the most part. I still have LJ and my blog, so the shortened content doesn't bother me so much.

Only thing is I can't find the content anymore. Once I filter out the LOL Cat pictures (which I do not actually find amusing), news articles with no input or comments from the person sharing the article, and pictures of inspirational quotes, I find my feed is pretty darn empty. I have no idea what anyone is doing anymore or how they are. I have a vague idea of how they feel about some politics and sports but that really is not saying much.

I suppose I am just disappointed in all of it. What started out as a way to keep connected, a way to stay informed about others lives, a way to share thoughts and ideas, seems to have degraded into just an endless stream of nonsense.

I think I might have just regurgitated yesterdays post to a point. I guess that shows that this is really bothering me.
Am I crazy for letting this get to me? Am I the only person that feels this way?
What do you think about the state of social media today? Is it still an effective communication tool or has it turned into something else?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A semi rhetorical question

I posted today on my Facebook and G+ accounts what was meant to be a rhetorical question: We have all gotten very good at quoting and re-quoting other people. When are we going to start saying something ourselves?

It has me thinking though, we really do not say much anymore while at the same time being consumed by endless chatter. The things we say through social media is almost a constant flow of information, but so little of it is original thought. Certainly some very profound things are put forth, but they are other mens ideas and words simply being parroted back. Have we reached a point where we are unable to come up with our own profound statements? It is as though we as a society turned into Hollywood; simply remaking the same old classics over and over again, rarely meeting up to the genius of the original.

All of the Twitter feeds, all of the Facebook and G+ statuses, all of the social media outlets are turning into a sort of digital thought white noise. It never stops but there is no content there. What passes for intelligent thought is drowned out by a flood of LOL Cat pictures, inane youtube videos, spotify updates, games requests, and location check ins. The mundaneness of our lives have been brought forward and showcased through our status updates to the point that we are little more than meme's and the things that happened at the grocery store.

It seems that we are squandering the potential of communication and watering down the experience of life. We are no longer expressing ourselves and sharing our lives because we are repeating what other people say and having a vicarious life through internet media.

I have things to say.
I have words, that turn into thoughts, that turn into extraordinary things.
I have a life. I do not want to be confined to a character count. I do not want to be reduced to a re-post of a famous quote. I want to use the tools we have to expand my thoughts and my ideas.

When is the last time you truly said something?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Professionalism in a snarky social media filled world

I would dearly love to be incredibly snarky right now. I mean I really would love it. I have all sorts of scathingly unpleasant and catty comments to let loose on the world (with photographic support for said comments). Alas I must keep my snark contained to myself and my close personal associates.

Why you may ask am I not sharing with you my snark? I will tell you dear readers, I am holding my tongue because I have a sense of professionalism, and a good healthy dose of reality when it comes to how the world works. You see my snark of the day is one that is very dear and close to me, but at the same time ties in very closely with aspects of my professional life.

While I would love to share with you certain things that I am certain would amuse you to some extent, and at least make me fell better for having said them, I have to recall that you are the vast internet, and with you nothing is truly sacred. Everything I say here is one Google search away from potential disaster.

In our world now everyone is online, and potential employers and customers are not beyond Googling you to find out who you really are. It is funny that social media and blogs are supposed to be a place where you can be you online. The thing is most of us really don't want our bosses to know who we really are, and honestly they don't want to know it either. They want to know the us that comes to work and does a good job. They do not want to know the us who goes to anime cons, titty bars, ornithological retreats, or swingers clubs*. Really it shouldn't matter what we do in our off time, but the internet has made it so easy for people to see what we do, that it becomes almost impossible to keep those lives separate.

We have to be smart and go to great lengths to secure our everything so that someone doesn't accidentally stumble across our controversial hobbies, politics, or religious beliefs. I once worked at a company where I was terrified that if they found out I was not Christian I would be shopping for a new job. I have been places where while they loved the work I was doing, if they knew my political view points, I would suddenly be less of a golden child. Texas is a right to work state. They don't have to say they are firing me because I don't live up to their personal moral standards, but they can damn well do it.

This blog though is in no way locked down. If someone were to stumble across it, anything I have written could be used against me. While I always stand behind anything I say, most of what I say is not going to get me in trouble as it is not terribly controversial or inflammatory (or at least I don't think it is). My snark however is a direct dig at something, and though I feel it is well founded, it is deeply unprofessional.

So, in the age of Googling, in the interest of being a professional, I will not be snarky. I will simply say this; Standards, you should have some.

* I am not saying I go to any of those things, because I don't. Not that there is anything wrong with any of those places, they are simply not my cup of tea.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Heart of stone

I once had my palm read by this fabulous old psychic man. He had a kind face that reminded me of someones grandfather the type with so many laugh lines playing at the corner of his eyes, which always twinkled with a sense of mischief. He had this strange habit of stopping mid word and staring off into space for an indeterminate amount of time, and then suddenly starting again as though nothing had happened. Everyone said that in those moments he was having a vision of some sort. I tended to believe them because the things that came out of his mouth tended to be terrifyingly accurate.

One day I asked him to read my palm. Palmistry is such an interesting art, and by far I find it one of the most shady of divinations. I have never had two palm readers come back with the exact same information. The basic things, the major things, all tend to be the same, but the detail? Yea those change all the time. On palmist told me once it was because our hands constantly change and the reading is only accurate at the moment it is given.

He was different though. I knew that whatever he said was going to be much more profound and true than any other reading I had ever had. His slightly pudgy finger, which looked oddly well manicured, lightly traced over the labyrinth of lines that cover my palm. I am told it is a sign that I am an old soul. He made all the requisite "hmm" and "ohh" noises that you expect when some one is divining something about you from lines on your hand. Then he said something that I had not expected and filled me with dread and excitement all at the same time.

"Well that is weird."

He said it very dead pan and simply pulled my hand closer to his face for further examination. He tended to be a little more eloquent than the statement that had just fallen from his lips. I was not certain I wanted to know what he considered 'weird'. I mean come on the man does this for a living and has certainly seen some bizarre things before. The fact that my palm rated as weird was a little disconcerting.

After careful examination he lowered my hand so that I could see it as well and pressed his finger down onto my life line very close to the start and asked me if I saw the line. I was not certain which line he was referring to as my life line, and all of the major creases in my palm, is covered in little hash marks. He pressed harder as though that would somehow help me find what he was looking at, and finally I was fairly certain I knew which little dash he was referring to.

He proceeded to tell me that it was a line of emotional detachment and it fell on my line sometime around age 5 to 7. I was not certain what this meant. I am anything but emotionally detached. I am if anything an over emotional person. He sort of smiled and shook his head making the beads and feathers on his hat flutter about his face.

He explained to me that the line indicated, that while I had intense emotional attachment to people while they were in my life, once they left my life I could detach from those feelings. It is not that I would not mourn their loss, and it was not that I would not miss them, it was just that I would move on without any great amount of disruption to my life. You hear about those old couples that when one dies the other is not far behind because they can't live without them? Or the people who go through divorces and their lives crumble because of the loss of their spouse. Yea I will never be one of those people because I can let go.

He said what was so strange was that most people never develop this skill. He said that the earliest he had ever seen someone learn this lesson, that was not a sociopath, was around the age of twenty. It is the age when people leave their families and set out on their own, or lose their first major love. Typically if you are going to learn this lesson that is the time to do it. You don't often see it in children who lose a parent or loved one because children process death differently. He said most people who did learn this lesson didn't actually learn the lesson until very late in life, until they had experienced a great deal of loss. He said most people just never learned it.

I assured him I was not a sociopath which only made him laugh again. He said he could clearly see that I was not a sociopath, and he assured me it was not a bad thing. It was actually probably a good thing and really incredibly healthy if you thought about it. I was never going to make myself sick over losing someone. I would always be able to live my life despite loss. Not many people can say that.

Looking back over my life, I can not deny the truth to his reading. I let go of things easily. I love hard and I mourn just as deeply, but I have never experienced loss that was crippling. I have experienced some pretty significant losses in my life, I just processed them and moved on.

I fear that someday this is going to make me look like a very cold hearted person. I am fairly certain that in my life I will lose someone or something that while being emotionally devastating, will not really put much of a stop to my life. I will continue on and continue to function and I don't think that people will understand. I wonder if they think I am just putting on a brave face and suffering in silence, or if they will just think I am some sort of callous heartless bitch.

I am neither. I am just living. I am just being me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The right way vs. The easy way

There is never really just one way to do anything. The old adage 'There is more than one way to skin a cat' is incredibly true as I discovered in my high school Physiology and Anatomy class*. Such is true with everything in life.

Now I won't go so far as to say there is the hard way and the easy way, because sometimes both ways are easy or both ways are hard. Life sort of sucks like that sometimes. Hard way vs. hard way is why people say such things as 'Stuck between a rock and a hard place.'

What I am thinking about in particular today is weight loss. It is a subject that is rather at the forefront of my mind lately considering I am on the path to a less fluffy me. I have listened to a lot of debate lately on the whys and hows of weight loss and it is sort of dizzying.

To get one thing straight, I am losing weight for no one other than myself. I don't give a fig what anyone else thinks of my size and shape. I mean if I did my families disapproval would have made me anorexic decades ago. The husbeast is happy with the way I look, and he is the only person I am trying to impress (and I really am not trying to impress him). I am also not losing weight for health reasons. I have no overlying issue which will be helped by weight loss. I am certain that weight loss can not hurt me as I have more than enough to lose, and I am certain I will feel better in some way, but I am not doing this because my doctor said 'Do it or else'.

I am currently down roughly 30 pounds and I have another 70ish to reach my ideal goal (which is not close to what the BMI says I should weigh because the BMI is a load of crap). It is a goal I set because remembering back to that weight I was very pleased with myself. I am still over the societal 'acceptable' weight, but again I don't give a damn about that.

The biggest question I get though is not why (people assume it is health or society), it is how. How am I losing weight? Am I on a diet? Am I getting surgery? Am I doing anything special? The answer is I am doing it the right way. Diets may lead to fast weight loss but normally result in me being miserable and fast rebound of weight. I am not going to get surgery because I can lose the weight on my own.

So it comes down to I am eating right and moving more. I am lucky in that this method actually works for me. I have cut out sodas completely from my life, and really most beverages that are not milk and water. Right now lemonade is my beverage vice, and even then I drink the light stuff. I have cut down the size of my portions significantly. I have also changed when and how many meals I eat. There is no longer a lot of snacking in my world. Also the things going onto my plate are different. There are a lot more fresh veggies and fruits, we have never been huge red meat fans so lean meats were always on the plate they are just smaller cuts now and not fried as often. There are still sweets and treats in my world, they are just smaller and further between occurrences.

Then there is working out. I really hate this portion of the plan. I try and be good and make it to the gym two to three times a week, though here lately I am lucky to make it once. Even if I don't go to the gym I try and do something active every day. I take the stairs at work, I park a little further out at the grocery store, I stretch and do stuff around the house. In general I move more.

Is this easy? No not really. It certainly is not fast. It is effective though, and really it is not hard. It is however the right way, at least the right way for me. I could try some fad diet and probably lose a lot of weight really fast, but in the end it would only come back because I would not have fixed the underlying problem which is how I eat and how I move. This way I am fixing things as I go. Now even on weeks I do not lose any weight, I am not gaining any back, which means I can maintain things when I reach my goal.

Now all I have to do is stick with it.
Slow and steady wins the race, right?

*According to my teacher there are only two proper ways to skin a cat; from the top and from the bottom. She was however only using methods involving a scalpel. There is also boiling the cat, though that removes all the flesh as well, or using an air compressor, though that can rip the muscle. I bet you all really wanted to know that.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Unfortunate side effects

For the past several months I have been actively attempting to lose weight (the five months prior to that I managed to lose about 15 pounds only passively trying to lose the weight). Thus far I am in total down about 30 pounds. This is fantastic and makes me do a little dance. It is by no means close to my final goal, but give me a break this is harder than it looks.

So if you have never had the opportunity to lose large amounts of weight let me fill you in on a few of the things that happen. Aside from the looking better and feeling better portion, there are two very large side effects to weight loss.

The first one is: People notice. This is not a bad thing really. When your friends and family see you and exclaim "Look at you!" in the good way, it feels pretty darn good. When pseudo strangers, such as coworkers you've never spoken to, walk up and ask if you have lost weight it feels even better. Your friends and family are sort of obligated to say something about your changing size, strangers not so much.

At the same time this is a little awkward. When people start going on and on about how much you've lost and how good you look it sort of makes you stop and wonder if you really looked all that bad before. I mean was I some sort of hideous blob that you were embarrassed to associate with? I know that isn't true, but I get hyper sensitive sometimes.

The second side effect (and really the more important one): Your clothes no longer fit.
In theory this is fantastic. It totally shows you that you have lost the weight aside from the number on the scale. It is a much more tangible sort of accomplishment. The day you realize your favorite jeans are going to fall off of you, you need multiple new holes in your belt, your shirts swallow you; these are all great feelings.

What you fail to realize though is that once your clothes no longer fit you, they no longer fit you. This means you have to buy all new clothes, which is expensive. Also if you are in the midst of losing weight and know you will lose more, buying new clothes 1/3 of the way through your weight loss, only to have to do it again two months later, and again 2 months after that, is really really really expensive.

So now you are faced with spending a fortune or being naked. It causes some creative shopping, and wearing a lot of clothes that do not fit you. Belts on baggy pants, taking in elastic on skirts, tucking in shirts in hopes that they don't look so big are all common things when in the flux of weight loss.

Also things that you wouldn't think about will have to be replaced. Thus far I have come across several things I can no longer wear and can't fake. My wedding ring is entirely too big. It slides right off of my finger, so I have been forced into a stunt ring until the weight loss has stabilized and I can resize my rings. My shoes no longer fit right. Apparently my feet lost weight, because now all my heels slip off my heels. None of my underwear fit right anymore.

While replacing bras is very expensive, underwear can be cheap. This is probably a good thing because of all of the things that I have shrunk out of, that is what needs to be replaced most desperately. There is nothing worse than walking into work and realize that your underwear are slowly but steadily making a run for it. At that point there is not a lot you can do about it since you are surrounded by people and reaching into your pants to find your drawers is more than a little inappropriate in an office setting.

So while you can put on a belt, tuck in a shirt, and take off a ring, always remember that you should just spend the money and buy new panties. It is an investment that is well worth it to cure a very unfortunate side effect.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Rational irrationality

I am probably one of the few people in the world who can say that they are pissed off that their spouse was not fired from their job. Perhaps I should give a little back story here so I do not sound like a complete and total loon.

The husbeast is a salesman. He can sell just about anything. Old adages like selling ice to Eskimos and selling ketchup popsicles to women in white gloves are things he has considered in all seriousness and is certain he could do. I have no doubts that he could, the man has a way with these sorts of things.

Anyways, back in May he had a pop in his sales. One of his clients made an unusually large order and it skewed his monthly numbers pretty bad. The sale made him look like he was doing much more business than he actually was. Afraid that they would up his monthly goal to a number he could not reach he went to his boss and explained the anomaly. He was assured that they would take that into consideration and would not jump his goal.

They jumped his goal.

After the goal jump they started to makes some internal policy changes with how they priced items, how they could make quotes, and other things that I do not particularly understand beyond the fact that it makes his job much harder. It also meant his customers were not as pleased, and in sales people are so fickle that it sort of goes without saying that he started to lose customers.

Losing customers sucks for us in two ways; he gets paid commission on sales, so with less sales we make less money, and if he doesn't meat his sales goals he runs the risk of getting fired. Being fired is a seriously not good thing. We are still trying to crawl back from him getting laid off repeatedly over a two year period. We have no sort of real cushion to see us through until he finds a new job, and my paycheck is not enough to pay our bills.

After a couple of months of him not reaching his goals (which were still increasing despite him not meeting the old ones) his bosses began to really ride him about it. I have seen some of the emails they send him about his numbers and they are less than professional. They are demanding more and more out of him without giving him anything but a lot of grief. They finally delivered an ultimatum at the beginning of August: Meet the goal by October or else.

Since then he has been so incredibly stressed I barely recognize him. He has lost all of his confidence in his ability to do anything, he is nervous and worried, he is driving himself crazy with all of this. It is incredibly unhealthy for him. At this point I am more worried about his health, both physical and mental, than I am about the money.

So last week we were preparing for the worst. We wondered what day it would be on. We knew they would want to fire him before a new month or new pay cycle started so it had to be sometime during the week. It was the end of September, he missed his goal again, it was all over. Everyday I waited at 5 with my phone in hand expecting the call to say he had been fired. Every day there was no call.

Finally Friday rolled around and I knew it was the end. I was busy packing for our weekend at faire and waiting on him to come home with sad puppy dog eyes because he had been fired. I was ready for it, and I was relieved it was going to happen. Finally he could let go of all of the stress and bullshit that has been weighing him down. He could move forward and finally start living again.

Only he wasn't fired.

The day came and the day went and his boss never fired him.

And I am so angry I could spit!

Seriously? Honestly? Are you fucking kidding me?! They put him through all of this stress, all of this worry, drove him to the brink of a nervous breakdown, and then they don't do anything? Now we are left in a worse place. Are we still in eminent danger of him being fired? Will it be today or later this week? Maybe the end of this month? Or next month? Are they going to pull a Princess Bride "Goodnight Wesley you did a good job, I shall most likely kill you in the morning.". This time will they let the axe drop or will they just use it as some sort of deranged motivation forever?

How the hell do I plan for the future when I am living in constant fear that the majority of our income is about to be taken away? Do I scrounge and save just in case, blowing off the planned vacation, and cutting back on our allowances and unnecessary expenses? Do I keep living as we are pretending it will continue to be exactly the same and we are in no danger? Hell at this rate we are both going to have a nervous breakdown over this.

Yes he is looking for a new job. Yes I hope he finds one before they fire him so we have security and the satisfaction of telling these people to take their job and shove it. Mostly though I hope this is resolved one way or another quickly. I am not sure how much more of this either of us can take.