Monthly Archives: October 2011

A Shadow Tale

I was reading Lucy’s Football the other day, about Amy’s visit to her haunted state capitol complete with photographic evidence of a ghost, and I was reminded of an experience from my youth which scares me to this day. I thought that since today is Halloween, you might enjoy it.

When I was a teenager, and my older sister had moved off to college, I inherited her bedroom. It was cool for two reasons: 1) it was the only bedroom downstairs (except for the seldom used guestroom) so it was very maturely set apart from the rest of the family, and 2) it was home to the lofted double bed my dad had built for my sister out of 4×4 beams, with a  heavy wooden ladder, the rungs of which were carpeted with a variegated blue shag. SO cool! The ladder did have an unfortunate tendency to slip off the edge of the bed when I was on one of the top steps, so the fear of a sudden traumatic fall followed by injury added a thrill to the mix. The bed platform filled one end of the room, with enough space for the mattress, plus a shag-carpeted  area  and shelves at the foot of the bed for my clock radio, books, and statues of cats and dogs. There was a big ground level window in the wall next to the foot of the bed, draped with white eyelet curtains:  panels that covered the lower half of the window for privacy (not that there was anyone to see in; our house was one quarter mile off of the road and the neighbors were far distant,) and a matching valance that framed the top half, leaving a gap through which I could easily gaze from my bed. My small closet was on the wall opposite the bed, and the door to the room was on the same wall as the head of the bed. Underneath my bed was a space big enough to stand in if I hunched over. There were more shelves of books and trinkets under the head of the bed, a chest full of my junk and supporting my record player and modern yellow plastic lamp with white plastic dome shade against the side wall, and the bean bag chair that I bought with my own money in 1976 (white, spangled with red and blue patriotic emblems–the Bicentennial rocked!) I bet you are beginning to see how outrageously cool I was.

One night, as I lay tucked under my faux-patchwork printed quilt I was having trouble falling asleep. My gaze drifted around the room in boredom. The darkness of the night competed with the moon and starlight coming in the window, which seemed to cast shadows randomly against the walls. I began cataloging the source of the shadows, guessing their origin from the shape. Some shadows were darker than others, the darkest being the frame of the window, with the curtains indistinctly outlined on the floor. There were some fainter shadows against the wall under the window. The easiest to make out was that extinguished domed lamp on the chest, casting a shadow instead of light. The record player made a low oblong shadow next to it on top of the larger oblong of the chest. Next to that…what was that? It was a weird shape, not like anything I recognized. It was like a…goat’s head, with no ears and with really big straight gnarled horns. All thought stopped as my emotional reactions locked into panic mode. I ceased breathing while my heart began thudding, pounding to be let out of my chest. After a few moments my rational brain responded by saying, “Now, now, don’t be silly, can’t be anything like that, keep looking, you’ll figure this out.” The next shadow was of my ladder by the foot of the bed. No help there. The figure casting the horned shadow appeared to be motionless, sitting in my bean bag chair.  I squeaked the tiniest gasp of air into my lungs as I watched and watched, frozen, waiting for that shadow to move, but it didn’t. I can’t wait until I wake up in the morning and see whatever stupid thing is scaring me so bad right now, I thought to myself, and then my rational brain wondered, Where in the world is the light coming from that is making those shadows? Are you with me? Because all those things were against the wall UNDER MY BED in the darkest part of the room!

The next thing I knew, I was waking up with sunlight coming in through my cheery white curtains, and I was locked in the same position I’d been in when I’d passed out from terror the night before. All shadows looked normal. I swallowed hard, took a silent breath, and lurched forward to find out what was under there, praying for an embarrassingly reasonable explanation. Nothing. Nothing but the record player, the lamp, the chest, the bean bag chair and the ladder. I numbly climbed down from the bed and went upstairs for breakfast. I went on as if everything was normal, because there was no evidence that it wasn’t. Pretty much forever after that, as I entered my room to climb into bed, I did a quick survey for objects and shadows and nothing was ever out of place. I never again saw light, faint or otherwise, casting shadows from beneath my bed. I did not tell anyone about the episode until much later, when possibility had faded into memory. It is called compartmentalizing, and for the most part it is a pretty effective coping strategy–when you don’t have too much to stuff into that compartment. For me, it works. I am just glad I didn’t have to figure out how I would have coped, if that shadow had moved.


Some of you know that I usually tool around in a gigantic brown Ford F-150, with a super crew cab and a full-sized bed. That vehicle is 18.5 feet long; I know because I measured it when I tried to explain to my son why my parallel parking demonstration wasn’t working. Back in 2006, I was slightly involved in the process when my husband picked the truck for his primary ride. Then in 2007 he came to the conclusion that it was not a very good commuter vehicle, so we turned in my Impala for a small zippy BMW 300 series and I got the truck. I informed him shortly afterward that the next vehicle we got would be picked out by me, for me. The next four years I had to be diligent about finding the best pull through parking places, preferably ones with no vehicles on either side because maneuvering that beast into a spot was a daily stressful event, and usually resulted in a style of parking that could be described as “cattywampus,” which is a great word but an undesirable outcome. In the garage, there was a specific slant needed to optimize space, and you had to nearly touch the front bumper to the wall for there to be enough room to skirt around the back when the garage door was down. More stress. Adding to the fun, over the years Mr. Wordtabulous has made several observations about my ability to park the truck in the garage, the most flattering being, “Well, that wasn’t quite as bad as usual.” We normally hold onto vehicles for a lot longer, but between the gas mileage and my increasing aggravation (some might call it rage,) we began shopping for a crossover SUV.

I refuse to go into details about the communication problems Mr. W and I had with this process, because I am afraid of sounding even more crazy than I generally do. Let us just say that it took a long time, with many breaks needed for calming breaths and research. Years. Finally, I picked out my car, a 2011 Honda CR-V, EX-L (which means heated leather seats, which I don’t need–but I do love.) What I liked about the CR-V was that it had everything I wanted: good mileage, reasonable power, good safety rating, reclining back seats and adjustable leg room for the teenagers, a place to plug in my mp3 player, (and did I mention heated leather seats?) without making me pay for navigation, bluetooth, and other fantastical features I am too cheap to care about. We cleaned up the cavernous cab of the truck, which is like a living room on wheels with two large recliners in the front and a full sofa in the back, and took it in to talk trade-in, eventually coming to a deal we could live with. I got my car! My husband, after all the discussion and silence involved in the shopping and research portion of the endeavor, had bowed out of the actual dealership visits and test drives, so he didn’t sit behind the wheel until we’d owned the Honda over 24 HOURS. I could not believe the restraint. I was not 100% invested in him loving it because I am kind of growing out of needing him to agree with me, but I was still hopeful he wouldn’t hate it. We went to the mall and he drove. We talked about this and that. He asked how the radio turned off and on. The conversation was pretty neutral. Then, when we were almost home, after a lull in the conversation, he said, “Yep.” This was in a voice that leaned slightly more to approval than to neutral, and which I take as an overall passing grade. And then, in a completely neutral voice, he said, “You can tell it’s a 4-cylinder.”

Hmmph. Everyone knows it is a four cylinder vehicle, and that his car and the truck are both more powerful and studly. Point made. But why? Why point that out? Allow me to compare it to a jewelry purchase: “I see you have a new gold necklace. I can tell it is 10k gold.” He can’t help himself. If I accused him of being negative he would honestly be confused, “But I told you I liked it,” he’d say, because that is evidently part of what “Yep” means, unless it means, “I don’t like it at all, but there is nothing to be done about it now.” There is probably a subtle difference in inflection to differentiate. But even he is amazed how much space we now have in our garage. We could now hold a dance in there, even with both vehicles inside. I might try. I am happy; I like the sleeker look, the improved gas mileage, and the features–and the maneuverability is amazing. There is just one thing that puzzles me. For reasons I do not understand, I still park like crap. But no matter, overall it is still a win and I will take it.

A Writerly Gift

I can be so asinine and ignorant. Never you mind why I said that; I just needed to get it off my chest. Moving on…

Next month is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo,) when anybody who wants to try can take on the challenge of writing a 50,000+ word novel in thirty days. There is no prize, except a certificate you can print yourself. No one at NaNoWriMo reads or critiques your work, unless you ask them to, but I wouldn’t–they are all too busy writing to have time for your neediness. Wait until November is over and ask an unsuspecting friend. People love that. The website,, has lots of inspirational messages and motivating tools and quite a bit of craziness intended to support participants. I recommend it highly. At best, you will learn some things that make you a better writer and open a world of opportunity; at worst, you will gain an appreciation of how difficult it is to write even a bad novel. And I know, because I’ve done it. Twice. One of those bad novels might grow into a halfway-decent novel one day but the other is irredeemable. So, join the fun if you are so inclined.

For those of you who are writers, closeted or otherwise, I bring you a gift. I made it myself, because that is what I do (especially when something more important needs to be done.) Here is a picture of your gift:

It is a flyleaf, a page you can three hole punch or glue into a notebook, or post on the wall, whatever, you decide. It is covered with inspirational quotes about writing from other writers you may have heard of. Yep, I’m a giver. However, I am not fully versed on the best way to do these things, so what I have come up with so far is to give you a link to the flyleaf which is cleverly hidden inside my blog (along with the first two chapters of Hollywood University, sorry if you’ve been looking for that.) When you click on the link, the .doc file should download to your Word program. Then you can print it off, because I am not made of money to buy ink cartridges. So I guess that makes me a cheap giver. And again, ignorant, because I feel I should have been able to come up with a smoother way to do this, but I am also not made of time, so here goes. Thanks for flying with Wordtabulous, and have a nice day! (Here’s your link:)


Breathtaking Moment

I am at the pleasantest part of the day. The house is quiet; my to-do list has not yet encroached on the mild euphoria and clarity a 16oz Velvet Hammer with French Vanilla has afforded me. Soon I will turn to untangle the threads of conflicting priorities and finite time, but just now, this second, take a deep breath and join me in this happy place. ~Thank you~

Crushing Monsters

I was reading Salem’s Lot by Stephen King for my October ambience read and was struck by a couple of things. First, I noticed how tiny the size of the font used in the paperback is and how old and squinty my eyes are. Second, I noted what traditional vampires King’s monsters were, compared to the mutations that have hit popular culture since his book was published in 1975. And thirdly, (and here Mr. Wordtabulous would point out that I have exceeded the ‘couple’ of things I referred to in the first sentence, couple meaning two and not three, but Mr. W. doesn’t read this blog so pbbbbththhhh,) there is an interesting spiritual bit in the battle between Callahan, the priest, and the ancient vampire, Barlow. I suppose I need to warn you there could be spoilers here, but honestly, the book is over thirty-five years old. Consider yourself warned. Barlow has the boy, Mark, in his grasp and is facing off against the priest. Callahan, crucifix in hand, is all full of righteousness, and is literally glowing with the light of his convictions. Barlow is sly, and offers to release the boy and face Callahan “mono e mono” if the priest cast away his cross. To save the boy, Callahan agrees and tells Mark to flee. Mark does. Callahan suddenly becomes afraid to give up the cross, but even before he can throw it away, the light of  it starts to dim until it is nothing but an ordinary piece of metal. The symbolic cross wasn’t saving him, his faith in God, in “the White,” was what channeled that devastating power. When Barlow challenged him to let go of the cross, the priest became momentarily confused about the source of the power and he stopped channeling. And then bad things happened. End of spoiler alert.

Okay, I do understand this is fiction, but this vignette does make me wonder what, exactly, I am channeling. As a Christian, I believe in a Creator with infinite power, and a Savior with the juice to transform humanity so that they can enter the kingdom of heaven, as well as a Spirit surrounding and filling me with that love and power all the time. Instead, I seem to be channeling a lot of anxiety and wimpiness. This has got to stop. I am going to try on some power and faith and see what little monsters I can crush beneath my boots.

Sharing Bloggy Love

Hi there, friends and visitors! I am in an exceptionally good mood right now because I have had two very good things happen (no Mom, not published yet, but still good things!) Good Thing #1: I was nominated for the Most Versatile Blogger Award the same week I was having that meltdown you may remember from the post entitled This Blogger’s Prayer. Katie Leigh, young educator and writer with a theological bent, nominated me and I want to thank her (see the link to her blog, below!) The rules to fulfill the nomination are as follows:

  1. You must give credit to the person that has nominated you and create a link to their blog in your post, (as I have done below).
  2. You must create a list of 15 blogs that you enjoy most and link to those as well. Then you must go and tell them you have nominated them. That means if you do not have 15, you cannot do this step. If you do not complete this step, then you cannot claim this award.
  3. Finally, you must create a list of seven things about yourself.
I smiled and got all warm and fuzzy, I might have even done a little dance, and then I got to thinking…Fifteen Blogs? Confession: I don’t follow a lot of blogs. It took most my time and effort to get this little wordtabulous dealio underway and maintained, but I did have a few. So I got to researching and took my time to make sure I was only picking high quality blogs that I think you might enjoy. Good Thing #2 is that I have completed my selections which are listed below in no particular order. And to help guide you, I have made some notes along the way.

Hot off the Wire at is written by mi compadre of 26 years (wait a minute…good lord–26 YEARS?). Writer, journalist and radio host (among many other things) she blogs poignant essays and fiction with intelligence and wit.

The Greenery at, cooking and food, Otis the Cat, travel: intriguing writing and vibrant photography. Aviatrix Kim is truly versatile and has pointed the way to other great blogs.

Lucy’s Football This girl makes me laugh so hard! Hyper, irreverent, out of left field and great with words (she does sprinkle in the profanity but it works in the context.)

Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman at I especially love the cooking portion of her blog. She does amazing things educating with food and photography, and is so approachable and entertaining!

Rosie Says at Smart, amusing and political, Rosie helps readers think about issues, and then nudges them to funny, random things.

Kathryn Leigh, Still Growing at Katie, who I mentioned above, is unabashedly Christian and exploring the righteous life while working toward publication and killing digital  targets on Assassin’s Creed. (Way to go on beating the first installment!)

the wuc at Dark, funny, and QUITE naughty, the wuc offers a surreal take on work, romance and pop culture.

Kana’s Notebook at Kana blogs authentic and gritty. She is evidence that smart and amazing women don’t mark success with dollar amounts, but with gratitude for second chances and the love of family and friends.

Kate Hopper, Mother Words at Kate is a great writer and an inspiring writing teacher as well as a woman who makes her motherness an intrinsic part of her writing. I took one of her classes last spring and the essay I wrote there was one of the first things I posted on wordtabulous.

Julie Nordine at Julie combines wearable art and craft in the form of lampwork beads and I am a huge fan! Visit her blog to admire her beads, her photography, and her passion! Afterward, you can shop her site on

AG at My token male blogger? I didn’t think I was biased, but only one guy out of fifteen choices is telling. This guy is a playwright (it says so on his MFA :p -see the blog) and has witty observations on writing and culture.

So then SHE said at Okay, this is a cheat. This is a second blog I do with Kelly, a back-and-forth format experiment we are trying. I have long said that my best writing is in the emails I exchange with her and we are trying to work up to that level. Stop in, let us know what you think!

Jane Hall at Jane is one of several occasional shop owners in the Carver, MN area and she finds amazing stuff to use creatively in the home. She is generous about directing visitors to the sites of other dealers and the photography is inspiring and fun!

Lisa Sheppard at Lisa “upcycles” new and used decor items and inspires others to create a fun, original and beautiful home. I enjoy looking at what she is up to while ignoring my own neglected domicile. I interviewed Lisa for an article about her home and garden, and while we were talking outside, a bug flew into my ear and settled in. I still have the tape–a full twenty seconds of barely controlled panic and hysteria. I swear I was on the verge of begging her to dig into my ear with tweezers when it flew out. Tiny wingbeats sound like a helicopter when they flutter against your eardrum. Good times.

Amy at Amy writes with clarity about the sometimes difficult path of living an authentically Christian life, while keeping a cheerful and encouraging tone. She is a new find for me and I look forward to getting to know her better!

Seven Things About Me

  1. I am a recovering overachiever.
  2. My teenage sons are my most important work and I still don’t know what the hell I am doing as a parent. I pray daily they won’t need too much therapy once I am done with them, and that they will still call and visit when they no longer need financial support.
  3. I wrote a 92,000 word memoir with and about a friend of mine from Rwanda, and would love it if you happened to know an agent and/or publisher who would be interested in looking at it!
  4. Fiction (writing and reading) is my escape and anti-psychotic.
  5. Exercise endorphins are my anti-depressant.
  6. I have had the most interesting string of jobs over the years, starting with my first “real” job, as a tour guide for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society in De Smet, SD, aka Little Town on the Prairie.
  7. I love the movie, “Whip It.”
So now I have completed my obligations! Thanks for tuning in, and check out my nifty new badge! Oh, and Fifteen? Tag! You’re it!









A Groupon Breakup?

My email inbox overfloweth. There is a lot of cool stuff in there: new post alerts for blogs I subscribe to, snappy back and forths from my friend, Kelly, important updates about stuff going on at school and with the family. I also get a staggering number of “deals of the day,” from the school, from amazon, and from Groupon, among others. In the interest of taking some sort of control in the areas of my life where I should reasonably expect to be able to do so, I decided to do some unsubscribing. This is what popped up after I ditched Groupon:

And yes, I did click “Punish Derrick.” Brilliant. I have to admit, I loved Groupon the most. Their deals have not saved me that much, and I actually lost money on one that expired (aarrrghhh!) but if you take the time to read their copy, they are very funny and that stuff is free, delivered just about daily on your email or smartphone. Almost makes me want to resubscribe…

This Blogger’s Prayer

Oh my God, oh my God, please. Please let someone read it who gets it. Please let someone read what I wrote and say, “Wow, that is so [cool, right, inspiring, funny, ANYTHING.] Please let me not be just another asshat who is obsessed with being noticed, even though that is what it feels like I am. Please help me understand what it is I am doing or what it is I am supposed to be doing. Why do I keep feeling like putting words on a page? I mean, I am glad my mom and a couple of my long-suffering friends take the time to check in, but does this whole writing endeavor make sense? All this effort and angst for what? There is so much crap out there, God, have you SEEN all the crap out there? I don’t want to be putting out crap. I know I shouldn’t care about being liked, God, but then why did you build me so I care so MUCH about whether people like what I do or write? That is freakin’ mean, God. Harsh. To make me so insecure and so exhibitionistic at the same time, and then to wrap me up in the culture that says “If you can dream it you can achieve it,” but then make me so cynical that I know that is idiotic. Is this is a joke? Am I amusing you? I didn’t take you for snarky, Lord, but I am feeling like the dork stumbling past the cool kid’s table, and you are snorting milk out of your nose. OK, that’s not true. You wouldn’t laugh at me. But you are keeping some secrets and it sucks. I hate not understanding the direction or the point of this.

And that, right there, is the point. Understanding is my anchor; research and analysis is how I control my world. You want to be my anchor and want me to know that control is an illusion. Dude. I don’t have to like it, but I see your point. As always, God, oh my God, 1) help me, and 2) thanks.

Learned! + Spooky Book Faves

Mr. Clean Magic Erasers may not be magic, but when my bathtub is gross, they are close enough.

People who mock you are annoying but you shouldn’t knock them down.

Even a person who is making progress on the path to becoming a better person fantasizes about knocking someone down occasionally.

Just because nobody is listening doesn’t mean you don’t have something important to say.

It isn’t all about you.


Seasonal Stories

I have always loved spooky tales: Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Sleepy Hollow and The Dark is Rising as a young person, and then Stephen King and Dean Koontz in college. I love the Harry Potter books but Twilight? Not so much. Don’t get me wrong, I read them–I read them like crazy and then had a latter day goth romance hangover for two weeks afterward. It is just that this time of year, I get a hankering to read Harry Potter all over again, and I will never need to read any of the Twilight books again. One Stephen King book I haven’t read is ‘Salem’s Lot, and it is on my shelf. I think this October its time has come.

One of my new author favorites is Kat Richardson, who writes a detective series superimposed over a supernatural story line that starts with Greywalker and develops with each subsequent book. After dying and being resuscitated Harper, the protagonist, discovers she can see “The Grey,” the world between this and the next. It is populated with ghosts, echoes, energies, spells, vampires and other supernatural creatures which are very distracting and often dangerous. Her journey of discovery of this new world can be as bewildering to the reader as it seems to Harper, which becomes part of the charm of the series. She is a strong and gritty hero without being overly masculine.

The cable TV show “The Dresden Files” was one of my guilty pleasures on the SyFy channel a few years ago. Urban wizard Harry Dresden solves mysteries and tries to keep ahead of the bill collectors and murderous supernatural creatures while sorting out his own romantic quandaries. I love a self-deprecating hero who doesn’t take himself too seriously, and both the TV and the book series by Jim Butcher offer laughs as well as action and tension.

We are halfway through October, and there is plenty of time to pick up a spooky read from a new author or old favorite.
Enjoy! (Mwa-ha-ha-ha!)

Wrath Averted

It was several years ago that a friend called me, asking for my help. “I have a problem,” she told me. She worked at a high school and a family of one of the recent graduates was demanding an apology because their graduate’s diploma wasn’t available at the ceremony. It had been withheld because the student had some library fines, which the family said they had paid. My friend agreed the fines were paid, but not in time to get the diploma inside the folder for the ceremony. The student felt humiliated, and the family was aggressively seeking payback and even threatening litigation. The school wanted my friend to write an apology to make the incident go away. My friend, who is very intelligent and empathetic, had had it. “I am so upset I can’t even think, anything I come up with would just make it worse,” then she schmoozed me, “You are so good with words, can you come up with something?”

My friend was more than capable of coming up with the words, but she had lost the objective distance she needed to frame her response to the family. It is so difficult to overcome our own feelings of pain or anger, especially when we are feeling attacked. Like a contagion, retaliatory instincts had spread from the student’s family to my friend. It happens between people, people and institutions, cultures, and governments. I often wonder how much litigation, property damage and even death could be avoided if it was easier for people to slip out of their own experience to see and feel events from another’s perspective. When I was a little girl, weeping in sadness or frustration over troubles with my friends, my mom would urge me to look at the situation from the other girls’ point of view. It was highly unsatisfactory. “Why aren’t you on my side?” I wailed, picturing myself adrift on a raft of self-righteousness in the stormy sea of injustice. (Even for a little girl, I was very dramatic.) Eventually, I caught on to her philosophy and over time became more analytical about conflict. It helped me “simmer down,” as my dad would say when my temper threatened to boil over (which is helpful because I had inherited a temper that is constantly threatening to boil over.)  I felt that I had some of the skills needed to help my friend out.

I congratulated the student on reaching the milestone of high school graduation. I thanked him for paying the fines. I commiserated with his disappointment that the process didn’t work out in time for the event, but celebrated that he had had experienced a beautiful ceremony with his friends to mark the successful completion of twelve years of hard work. I thanked him for letting the school know his concerns and wished him well. It was easy for me to do because I knew all those things were genuinely felt, even by my frustrated friend. “Yes! This is perfect!” she said. She still had a kind regard toward the student, but it had all been choked back behind fatigue and anxiety in the face of the family’s umbrage. Was the family satisfied? I have no idea, but there was no lawsuit. Is it fair when only one side acts compassionately? As Dad was fond of saying, “life isn’t fair,” and as I would say, “that’s not the point.” Even if it doesn’t feel fair, it is best. I sometimes think it is only simple proverbs like ‘Walk a mile in another’s moccasins,’ and ‘A gentle answer turns away wrath,’ that keep the world from bursting into flames. It can sometimes feel like humanity is forgetting these ancient approaches; I know that I do at times, but I hope that there are still parents in the world aggravating their children by pulling them along to a higher road, one we can all travel together.