Trick or Treat of Days Gone By

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I was never good at creating a costume. Those plastic masks and tie-on outfits were the go-to costume of the day. Boxes and boxes of them lined the store shelves, waiting to be chosen. I preferred those small masks that went across your eyes that were red or black or any solid color. The easiest costumes of the day were ghost and hobo. I don’t think I went as either. I can hardly remember what I dressed as and there are no pictures to remind me.

My son was very creative when it came to Halloween and still is to this day. He always knew what he wanted to be. We did a few store bought costumes like Darth Vader but he liked to make his own. Frankenstein and Dracula came to life with his own creative touches. Even as a small boy, he planned out his wardrobe. Doctor for Preschool, Fireman for trick-or-treating. I have trouble thinking of one idea and he had two!

There was one big difference between the Halloween I celebrated and his. Parents now had to be on high alert, taking some of the fun out of this once-a- year thrill. Safety first is definitely a must but I never checked my candy or feared someone would sabotage it when I was young. When the first stories of razor blades or drugs appeared, it was a sad day for Halloween.

But now back to the fun stuff. I have two stories from back in the day I’d like to share. One’s a scary memory and the other is funny.

One family, down the street, loved Halloween–the scary kind. I’m a PG rated Halloween girl, no thrills and chills so this is my scary memory. On that night, we could always hear screams coming from that house…some from the trick or treaters and the rest coming from inside the house. My sister and I would meet up with other neighborhood kids and stand on the sidewalk gazing at the house. Large trees dotted the front yard, making it harder to see what was going on. Kids would come running down the drive, laughing and yelling. I could never tell if they enjoyed what happened to them or not.

I never went to that house to trick-or-treat. I did find out what made everyone scream. As kids walked to the door, a large ghost dropped from a tree, landing right in front of them. Startling, I’m sure. I never wanted to find out how startling it was and never approached the house. It was scary enough standing in the dark listening to all the strange noises.

My favorite Halloween memory is trick-or-treating at an elderly woman’s home. We hardly saw her the rest of the year. She lived alone and kept to herself. On Halloween her light was always on. She’d come to the door with a giant bowl of candy corn with a large spoon sticking out from the center. She’d grab the handle, scooping up a heaping mound of the mouth-watering morsels and my eyes would light up. (Remember, this was back in the day when it was okay to hand out apples and loose candy.)

The old woman would then begin to shake the spoon. She’d shake and shake until there were two of those kernels left. Then she’d dump it into your bag. We never missed her house in all those years of trick or-treating. I guess we hoped one day we’d get that giant scoop thrown in our bags.

She reminded me of one of those fairytales villains that looked normal at first but as they did their wicked deed they’d turn into an old, weathered form of themselves, like a witch. That’s as scary as my Halloween got. .

I hope you have a few good memories tucked away that you can pull out this season and laugh and reminisce about. I think the real idea of Halloween is to be able to step away from your everyday life for just one brief night and face your fears, laugh till your sides hurt and eat some candy. I recommend starting with two candy corns. They’re the best.

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Choose One Chair

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Pavarotti was talking about the advice he got from his father when he couldn’t decide between teaching and singing. His father told him, “Son, if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.”

I love that message. His father wasn’t rich or famous but gave great advice. Too often in this fast paced world, people want things handed to them or become an overnight sensation. The easier it is, the better.

When I first started writing my book, I kept telling myself I was crazy. I researched how many words a book should have and found 60,000 to 100,000 as the common answer. I decided if I made the commitment, I’d stick it out till the end, regardless the outcome.

I wrote, researched, and read each chapter over and over again. I had no idea how many words it was because I decided that wasn’t important. The essential thing was to get the words on the paper. Worry about the small stuff later.

I finally gave in and used the tool bar to click “word count”. Imagine my surprise when I had 55,000 words and wasn’t nearly done. I chose one chair and stuck to it. More stepping stones would come along after the book was written but I had met the challenge. As I continued on, each task needed to be handled with that same mindset. One chair at a time.

The message is clear. Stick to one thing and do it well. If you don’t love what you’re doing, try to see it through to the end. You never know what might happen and you could end up liking it. Can you change your mind and follow a different path? Absolutely. Just do it one chair at a time.

Real Men Cook Breakfast

chefs-hat-23436_640My father always cooked breakfast on weekends. He’d also fire up the grill for steaks or barbecue chicken and stand over them like he was the master chef.

My husband does the same thing. He makes breakfast on weekends–makes a mean pancake–and mans the grill for just about anything we cook. I didn’t think much of it at first. I grew up with a man who did the cooking and met another one who didn’t mind to cook. I realize now I’m a little spoiled.

Naturally, I had to have my main character’s father comfortable in the kitchen. He’s ready to lend a hand no matter what time of day it is. He’s into natural ingredients and will jump in the car to get a fresh piece of fish to cook for the family.

More and more men are into cooking these days. When I was younger, it was woman’s work. Julia Child was on the scene and women wanted to emulate her. Now there are TV shows galore showing men whipping up all kinds of dishes. I like that. Nothing wrong with men knowing how to cook.

My son has jumped on the cooking bandwagon. He’ll help out in the kitchen when the mood strikes him. When he was away at school, he bought himself a good knife and a cutting board. He swears by them. They usually come out front and center when he’s involved in a recipe.

The first time we cooked together was right after he came back from school. The recipe called for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Since my husband and I aren’t fans, I would’ve made the meal minus the peppers. My son wouldn’t hear of it and insisted I buy them. He would cut them up.

After opening the can and dumping them on a plate, we couldn’t stop laughing. They reminded us of something that was not food and had more to do with a bodily function. He took pictures and posted them on Facebook having people guess what they were. No one could. The meal was finally prepared after all the antics. My husband came home from work and we shared our story.

My son dubbed that adventure, The Matt and Mom Cooking Show. We’ve had more that followed, some just as funny. My only regret is I wish we really had them on film. We have many videos of people blowing out candles for birthdays or ripping open packages on holidays. Nice to have but sometimes you feel you’re on repeat as you watch.

I wish I had pictures of my dad at the stove, whipping up the scrambled eggs. I’d put it with the one of my husband pulling the Thanksgiving turkey out of the oven. Then next to them, I’d place the picture of the chipotle peppers. It would be a great trip down memory lane.

Hopefully, one day my son will add to my fantasy picture album. His son would have to go a long way though to top his dad’s photo but if he’ll be anything like my son, he’ll make sure he does.