Halloween Read-A-Thon!


I love to read, and I love to read classic scary literary fiction every Halloween! I am reading Dracula, now. Every year I reread Henry James’ ‘Turn of the Screw” and some years, I work in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” I also recommend Eudora Welty’s “Ghost Stories,” for sure! I am looking forward to joining in the community for Lauren’s Halloween Read-A-Thon.

Happy Haunting,


It’s Halloween My Pretties: Costuming Time!


Who doesn’t want to pretend to be a kid again? Take a break from “adulting” for a day, or an evening. Whether you like to plan and make costumes, visit the pop-up Halloween seasonal stores, or your local WalMart, Target, or craft store in pursuit of the perfect costume, everyone has a closet in their home full of clothes. Regular, every day clothes. If you have a last minute costume party or event, and no costume, go to the closet.

My favorite “closet costume” was my “Grandparent’s Day” costume from my teaching days – Homecoming week had dress-up days for each day of the wee, but this would be a great costume for Halloween, too. I decided to go “tacky office worker” and wear mismatched clothes, carry a cane (formerly my granddaddy’s), and shove a pillow under my skirt.


Much of this look was completely unintentional, but I will use it again, someday. I put a square throw pillow in the waistband of my skirt. The elastic pushed it in so that my figure truly shifted! I didn’t realize I looked like I had saggy boobs until I went to the main office and the ladies who worked the front laughed until they cried. I was told the square corner at the bottom of the pillow looked like a hernia. Now, the purse and the separated pearls had belonged to my grandmother. I didn’t have time to get gray hair spray to color my hair, but I think baby powder would’ve worked. I just wrapped a scarf around my hair. And, yes, I did walk around all day with a scowl. I was a grumpy old office lady! 🙂

This next closet costume was so simple: black! Add ears and a tail, maybe a little makeup, and you have a black cat costume. I made the ears and tale, but you can always buy a set at a party store. CVS or Walgreens may carry them close to Halloween.


The gloves had finger nails on them already – I found them and they’re actually witch gloves, but they worked okay as claws. Heavy eye makeup and eyeliner jumps up the dramatic cat look. I didn’t do the nose and whiskers, but if you do want to create the look, use an eyeliner pencil, and color the underneath part of your nose around your nostrils, and lightly draw a few whiskers on your cheeks.

There are a slew of easy DIY “closet costumes” available. Check out your character or idea and google it and “DIY” and then go look in your closet. You always have the option to be a ghost, after all, if you have a white sheet!. A white sheet also transforms into a toga, or wrap it around you and go as an Egyptian (my 4th grade Halloween costume). Got a trench coat? go as a detective or Sherlock Holmes (my 9th grade last minute Halloween costume).

My brother is pretty creative at costumes, especially last minute numbers. Can you guess who he is?



Granted, he comes by the beard natural, but if you guessed Chuck Norris, you’re right. He grabbed one of my dad’s old karate belts and a hat, and there you go. (That is my St. Paulie Girl costume I made…a little more description and how to for another post.

Pick up vampire teeth at a drugstore, and yes I have seen them at CVS at Halloween – I bought them – and rock the subtle, “modern-day” vampire look. 😉

The point is, my Pretties, is you have no excuse! Tease that hair and go 80s, cut the neck out of an old t-shirt and rock Jennifer Biles, Flashdance 80s look. Wear jeans, boots, and a flannel and be a cowgirl or cowboy. The possibilities are endless and so is the fun.

Happy Haunting,



Halloween 2015: Where the Wild Things Are (or Were…)

Halloween Morning, 2015, tailgating on college game day! College kids were yelling out their cars: “That was my favorite book!”

It’s that time of year when my writing and exercising suffers because I’m busy making costumes for our family. My early-morning free time before work inevitably becomes a cloud of material, polyfoam, thread, and snippits of sequins, fur, and other glitzy or scaly parts. I love it!

This year, I am making a Winnie the Pooh costume for Mac Attack. Next year, he may be too old to want to be Pooh, so I’m taking advantage of his love for the “hunny” grubbing, lovable bear this year. That post, when and if I finish, will be posted in the next few weeks. (It’s proving a bit of a challenge as I am a novice seamstress, at best!)

Mac Attack’s first Trick-or-Treat outing, Halloween evening. Children were bounding up to us, excited to see their favorite storybook characters.

Last year, when my son was 6 months old, I brought home a copy of a children’s classic: “Where the Wild Things Are,” by Maurice Sendak. It was my souvenir for him from my anniversary trip with my husband to New Orleans, and my visit to The Faulkner House. Mac Attack fell in love with the story! So, naturally, I thought it would be super fun to do characters from the book for Halloween.



I am often overly-ambitious and can be a bit obsessive once I’m involved in a project. I love a challenge! So, I found two amazing sources on the internet that I used to create our costumes. The first was a fabulous blog “Tell, Love and Party” on how to make the Max wolf costume you’ll find here, and linked into her blog about her costuming experience was a great instructional YouTube video you’ll find here. I am no seamstress and have never followed a pattern and this video was a treasure to find!

Mac Attack as “Max” and my beautiful mama – his “Memaw”

So, not only did I make the costumes, I decided to make the wild thing head pieces. I found instructions on Instructables.com, here. There are many options to choose from using paper mache, poster board, to paper plates. I liked this because it seemed it wouldn’t be quite so heavy as paper mache, and it would still have the big bobble-head look. 🙂

My husband wins the “Hubby-Daddy of the Year” award for rocking his Wild Thing costume! Especially since I ran out of time to make his shirt and didn’t paint on the orange stripes, but used duct tape, instead. In a colder climate, that would’ve been fine. Not in North Florida on a hot Halloween! With the polyfoam wild things head pieces in 70 degree weather, we were a hot mess. Literally. But it was fun!

Mac Attack receiving his first candy while trick-or-treating!

If you are silly like me and want to do extensive head pieces and costumes, I recommend starting in late August, especially if you work full time, like I do. I didn’t get to finish all the claws or my costume, completely (layered feather leg look in “Tell, Love and Party” blog). Also, I didn’t finish all the hair on my wild thing, nor did I finish the beard part of my husband’s costume. Mac Attack didn’t keep his hood on because it was too hot. I used a lighter-weight fleece, and it was okay for a short period. I’d use a lightweight jersey or cotton material here in Florida, next time. I will resurrect these in another year or two, remake the Max costume, and add finishing touches to the monsters.

Where the Wild Things Are Selfie

So, Happy Halloween! “Let the wild rumpus start.” 🙂




Happy Hour in Toddlerville


wp_20160914_004Last week was wild. By Friday afternoon, after a week of intense work and Thursday night emergencies with other family members, I was ready to jump off the zooming train and land on soft, comfortable dirt, bushes, or cacti…anything to stop and breathe. Thursday was the pinnacle of chaos. My heart was breaking for my family in trouble.

Friday morning comes along and I see our office hotline calendar at work and notice the colored-in circle on Thursday’s date: a full moon!

That is why people parked crooked at WalMart on Thursday afternoon and why all hell broke loose that night with phone calls and text messages about the two massive difficulties on either side of my family! Thursday night was all “dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria.” I thought the monster from Stranger Things was going to burst through the ceiling any moment.

I blame it on the full moon. 😉

Friday Afternoon Happy Hour: Mega Blocks, Winnie the Pooh, and a Sam Adams Octoberfest, please!wp_20160914_002-2

After the rippling effect of the proverbial boulders falling in the water had settled, and after a workday of foggy-viewed, head-ache infused tedium had ebbed, I got home to my sweet Mac Attack, whose attack was snuggles and kisses, and a promising half hour of mega-block castle building pared with Winnie the Pooh on in the background and a Sam Adams Octoberfest (only 1 for Mama).

My how happy hour has changed. The only stress for that short time was if a Mega Block tower fell down and when the Heffalumps and Woozles invaded Pooh’s dreams. And even the latter is a pretty entertaining show. (Good grief! What were those 1960s Disney cartoonists and composers smoking?) 😉




(Things did settle down in one situation, and the other will soon work out.)

Sweet Morning Moments

I was up at 4 am to get my workout in. Really, to get started back in a workout routine. After my workout and shower, I was ready for an hour of writing before getting my family up for school and work.

I had my tea made. I had my laptop open to my most recent chapter of my novel, and then I heard it.

The doorknob rattling in surround-sound.

The volume on our baby monitor is up so that I can hear my son if he wakes up and opens his door in the middle of the night. He always closes the door behind him, so I always hear a rattling and shutting, as I heard it at 5 a.m. this morning.

I turned around and saw his near 3 ft. silhouette standing at the end of the hallway and started running toward me. Forgetting the computer, my tea, and writing goals, I knelt down and opened my arms to embrace his morning hug. I turned everything off, sat down on the couch with him, and we watched his nursery rhyme YouTube channels. His new favorite is woodland creatures in a snowy forest singing Jesus Loves Me. We played it on repeat.

I know, very well, there will be a morning when I have hours to write. My boy will be off playing at a friend’s house, off to camp, off to college, so I treasure every moment with him.

Mac Attack playing at our neighborhood park.

Being an older parent of a toddler has many blessings. I have years under my belt and a different appreciation for life than what I had at twenty. I’m not knocking twenty, but I still had my entire family alive and well at twenty. Now, most of them have passed away. That sort of loss changes you. Yet, with the difficult comes much good. Through all that, now I’m married to the love of my life, and we have a beautiful little boy.

My sweet morning moments: my well-rested son running out of his bedroom in the early morning hours into my arms. Now that’s a great way to start my day!



Posting and Updating or Writing and Stamping? A Time-Out from Social Media

Sometimes I wonder how we are all walking around vertically and not lying down frozen in a prostrate position. One minute you’re cracking up as your toddler ravishes his first ice cream cone, and then you scroll through social media and see a friend had a family member pass away, and you’re heartbroken.

It’s the real. It’s the real in our fast-paced, social media world of tweets and posts, updates, and check-ins.wp_20160912_005

While social media certainly has it’s positive place in our lives, I have found it to be a hindrance, too. A hindrance because we have a key-hole view into peoples’ lives with whom we’ve likely had no personal interaction or true conversation for five, ten, fifteen plus years. The danger is we remain only superficially connected in that we have the ability to see what someone else puts out there and only what they put out there. Those posts affect us.

We are all so busy and we’ve never had faster communication or more methods to communicate in all of history. Yet, we seem more disconnected regardless of all our profiles, dot-coms, and instantaneous updates.wp_20160912_010

Now, I don’t think it’s better to go back to telephones with party lines and neighbors picking up the line and interrupting our phone calls every few minutes, nor do I believe we should allow social media to anger us to the point that every 6 months we delete our accounts only to realize we no longer have an old friend’s phone number, and we shouldn’t have deleted our account in frustration at the big bad internet.

How do we enjoy technology and still feel like we are connecting on a deeper level with those we care about?

Quality over quantity. Even in letter-writing days, even when communities were smaller, one didn’t write every single person with whom he or she had come into contact. He or she communicated based on need or desire, time allotted, and money afforded. Most social media is free. Practice selectivity in posting and updating. Pretend dollar bills are flying out of your pockets with the more time spent/characters typed (hello Twitter!) on social media platforms. After all, time is money, so they say. wp_20160912_001-2

Less is more. Frustrated with the cattle-call communication of modern technology? Irritated with the lack of personalization of the social media post or message over a text, or the text over a phone call? Tired of getting angry at a person’s post with whom you no longer have a relationship? Offended by how everyone is always “offended” by a remark or comment? Change your patterns. Don’t check profiles on your phone, but only on the computer. Schedule time to be on platforms. Set an alarm. Tell your spouse or roommate to dump ice down your back…whatever it takes.

In response to my frustration, I have started to write a letter to one friend a week. Mostly this is one-sided, but I figure if I do this, maybe someone will be glad to get something in the mail other than a bill, and they’ll eventually write me back. This affords me the opportunity to sit with my coffee or tea, concentrate on that person, only. While writing, the pace slows down, and I take time to truly share and connect with that friend and ask pointed questions. I offer news in our family and life. I connect with someone who is very dear to me with whom I have little contact anymore. It has been enlightening for me and I hope it has made my friend glad to know I spent time communicating at a deeper level. I focus on my penmanship (you can always type) and the immediacy of each word.
Letter-writing. What used to be mainstream social media is now a rarity. Making statements with pen and paper truly makes a statement.




Hey, Hey, Namaste


Sunset, Big Island, HI

Yoga has saved my life.

Okay, a little dramatic, but it has surely saved my lower back. Yoga and a great physical therapist.
I have a common lower back issue with my sacroiliac joint, or SI joint. In the past, the pain has prevented me from living the active life I always have. Chiropractic care, while it serves a purpose, did not help me. Physical therapy, exercise, including stretching and yoga, keeps me active so I can play with my toddler, surf, kayak, and simply walk with no pain.

Benefits I receive from yoga:
1. My shoulders detach from my ears…I let go of stress!
2. Improved flexibility. I was a dancer when I was younger, and I still love to line dance and ballroom dance, occasionally. I am flexible, but yoga has helped me reach another level of flexibility.
3. Peace. I know I sound cliche, here, but releasing the stress, focusing on the stretching and balancing, frees me of daily worries.

Ochos Rios, Jamaica

4. Physicality. I improve in other activities and athletics. Balance, flexibility, and focus flows over into other movement.
5. I smile more. I am a better person. Releasing the stress, focusing on breathing, balance, and stretching promotes mental and emotional stimulation in addition to the physical. Woods comma Elle said it best: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” – Legally Blond

Check out a yoga studio or a class at your gym. You can do what I do – yoga at home. Look for a yoga DVD and read reviews; I love the original P90X Yoga that is an hour and forty-five minutes. I usually don’t do the entire DVD, but when I do, it’s amazing! It comes with the entire program, but there are other yoga DVDs available.

Beginner Surfers: Getting Started

Rip Pics Surf Contest, Cocoa Beach, Fl, 2009 – Women’s longboard competitors

Hire an instructor or have a knowledgeable friend teach you.

Three things your instructor should do:

  1. Safety: before you put a toe in the water, you should learn about safety in order to prevent injury.
  2. Waves: your instructor should push you into waves so that you experience the exhilaration of the sport. Otherwise, there’s no way you’ll be willing to do the work to paddle to the outside. Surfing is mostly paddling.
  3. Board: your instructor should talk about you and your board, you and the ocean, and you, your board, and the ocean together.

After a personal crisis, I decided I wanted to learn to surf. I had always wanted to surf since I was a girl, but living in northern, inland Florida offers limited opportunity. My dad had surfed often in the 60s and he enjoyed it. We never got around to it, and 16 years later, it was my time.

Nine years ago, when I began surfing, I lived in Orlando and was fortunately only 45 minutes from Cocoa Beach, home of famous world champion surfer, Kelly Slater. I got online and looked up surfing in Cocoa Beach. I found a group of surfers who met up on weekends to surf and I contacted them. The wife of the organizer was very nice and suggested I hire an instructor and learn all about safety. The first time she surfed, she stepped off the board and broke her ankle – never step off the board! Fall off. So, I hired an instructor. If you’re in the Central Florida area, I suggest EZ Ride Surf School, and Marcello Loureiro, the director and head surf instructor who taught me is an excellent teacher. If you’re elsewhere, google surf schools or surf instruction.

Me, center, with friends at Rip Pics Surf Contest, Cocoa Beach, FL in 2009

Marcello sat on the beach with me, and talked about paddling, popping up, stances, turtle rolling (getting under waves on a long board or a fun board), duck diving (short boards), wiping out, and other technical safety concepts.

Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate how the ocean is never-ending. It is the most powerful force of nature that is always moving toward you that we choose to play in. There is no other sport or pastime where a force of that power constantly comes at you. Always be aware of your surroundings.


A few safety and etiquette tips:

  1. Have a landmark on the shore. Be aware of your surroundings on land and in the ocean.
  2. If you wipe out, which you will, always know where your board is and know where the next wave is. Bad wipe out? Roll with the waves, and forget about your board until you can get air and know when the next wave is coming.
  3. Best not to surf at dawn or dusk to avoid sharks. Also, if you see birds diving in one spot, they’re fishing. A school of fish means other underwater feeders, like sharks. Avoid that area.
  4. As a novice, don’t surf where there are lots of swimmers. Likewise, don’t surf where the experienced surfers are. Talk to another surfer. Be honest that you’re a beginner and ask where you should surf.

You control the board with your torso and upper part of your legs. When you’re on your board, and it’s calm, close your eyes while lying down in paddling position on your board. Stretch your arms out over the water and let the palms of your hand barely touch the surface of the water. Feel the ocean’s rhythm and force. The movement. Our Earth is mostly water. So are our bodies. Like a dance, like music and movement, you are part of the rhythm. Feel that. Enjoy the calm and serenity of nature.

Big Island, HI, 2010, with 8’6″ rented board – first epoxy board I had surfed. Note: Epoxy is lighter and faster than fiberglass. I recommend fiberglass for a beginner.

Of course, you can always do what my husband did. Rent a board and run out into the ocean completely unprepared. You may earn yourself a broken nose like he did.


Hermine Tried and Failed

The craziest night of my life: my 3rd hurricane, 2nd in my hometown, and 1st as a wife and mama. Thanks to my husband, our friend who’s a former PJ special ops, and God, others’ lives were spared. 911 Emergency was not responding.

From our front door, what we thought was a tree that took up most of our front yard was a branch off a tree from 60 feet up.  

Within 5 minutes: something hit the roof (now I figure a branch), our friend, “Chappy,” called my husband and was on our doorstep, we opened the door, and he burst in asking my husband for help – and to go 10 minutes up the road to load three people into the car and get them to our house to safety. A tree had sliced their townhouse in half, landing on the bed our friend was supposed to have slept on but chose the couch instead. The residents were terrified…too scared to stay, too scared to run. The same tree took out another family’s roof. Water was filling up the house, power lines were down, and all hell had broken loose. My husband and friend looked at me, told me to get our toddler and go to the safest room in the house – the hallway bathroom. I did. Thankfully, I got my family on the phone with me to help keep me calm. 

The tree branch after it was cut down to the trunk.




About 10 minutes later, 3 people flooded into our foyer, carrying bags, a cat carrier, soaked through. My obedient son sat in the hallway bathroom with his dog, flashlight, snack and juice and peeked around the corner. My husband hollered a tree’s down in the yard. I asked if we had cars. He said yes. I said good and grabbed dry towels for everyone. My husband and Chappy went back to the house to rescue their 4 dogs.

Four of the five dogs pictured here. All sweet pups. They were troopers. Our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Odysseus, shared his home well. 

Seven people, 5 dogs, and 3 cats later, we survived. Grateful for preparedness, our new generator, and can-do attitudes.

Always take the weather seriously. And get yourself a generator. 

Coffee! Thanks to the generator, I had a fresh cup of brew the next morning. I was prepared to make “cowboy coffee” on the grill, however. 

Gratefully, Janellen