“If people wore feathers and wings, very few of them would be clever enough to be crows.”
– Henry Ward Beecher, 19th century preacher/writer
A while back, The Ogre and I went looking for a murder of crows. I wrote a post about it. In the comments, my friend Mark (from Mark My Words) told me he hates crows. Mystified, I challenged him to write a post about why and – in exchange – promised to clarify why I love them. The time has come for those posts to go up. His is here: When Jerry Met Harry (but about half-way down.)
Random reasons behind my love of these birds -
2) Edgar Allen Poe. The Raven is still the only poem that I have (at least partially) memorized. (I know crows and ravens are not the same thing, but this post is about what ignited my passion, right? Besides, I do not live in the Great North Woods of Minnesota, and there are few if any raven in the central part of the state. Love the one you’re with, I say.)
3) Back in the day, when Tripod pages were everywhere and there was no such thing as a “blog”, I created a sprawling *website called Lizzy Crowe – A Witch Takes Flight.
Aside: I’ll be honest – I’m sort of a religion-dabbler. I started life as a baptized Lutheran, but we never practiced while I was growing up. In my late teens, I became involved in my friends’ youth group and eventually formally converted to Catholicism. In my 20′s, after a brief marriage and subsequent divorce, I became a witch. Now I’m a Lutheran-Catholic-Wiccan-Unitarian-Universalist, but I guess you could say I’m just spiritually inclined.
So, anyway, back on topic. When I chose the web as a receptacle for my personal grimoire, it seemed wisest to not use my real name on the great big, scary internet AND it was common practice for a new-age witch to take a magickal name. I chose ‘Lizzy’ because of the song Lizzy and the Rainmaker and ‘Crowe’ for no other reason than it felt and sounded right.
4) Several months into my obsessive study of the craft, and after I had named myself and my website, I was driving around in the middle of the night. (I did that a lot back then.) I came across a young crow hopping about in the puddle of light from a street lamp. I knew it was weird, and was at first concerned that he was sick or injured. I pulled over and cautiously approached him. He fluttered his wings a little and tilted his head at me … until I got too near. Then he hopped just out of my reach. I sat quietly, to see if he’d come close to me. He did, but never quite close enough for me to touch.
He was a beautiful bird – glossy, well-plumed, sturdy-looking and large. His eyes were sapphire blue. (I later learned that crows are hatched with blue eyes which eventually turn black.) We spent the better part of an hour on that deserted street, flirting with each other. I was able to see there was nothing wrong with him, and decided he was merely newly fledged and confused. I assume he came to the same conclusions about me.
As if I haven’t confessed enough in this post already, I will admit that I still regret not trying harder to catch him and bring him home. If I had carried back then what I carry now – leather gloves and a big towel – I might still have a crow companion now. (They can live more than 15 years in captivity.)
But that would have been definitely illegal, and probably wrong, so it’s a good thing this happened before I trained as a raptor / wildlife rescuer.
As it was, I lost my nerve whenever I thought about the quick and potentially damaging lunge I would have to make in order to grab him. (The impressive length of his beak as it glinted in the dim light was a little off-putting too.) Eventually, I bid him a frustrated and reluctant farewell and drove away.
I went back, about an hour later – determined to try again, but he was gone.
I have at least one more crow story to tell, but it’s 2:00 in the morning, I’m tired, and I have to work later today. So let’s pretend I was planning a two-parter all along, ‘kay?
*Dark Touchstones was created as an off-shoot of Lizzy Crowe. I brought that content here, and it can be found among my tabs. If you’re bored one day, and in a paranormal mood, have a look. There are lots of fun links to follow.
In order to have a byline, I had to do some internet voodoo. Don’t worry about it.
The blog might look funny for the next few days. I’m trying out various templates as I search for a cleaner look and some features I’ve been admiring on many of your blogs.
This is also a sample note, so that I can try out some of these post formats that I’m reading about. Thus I’m adding a couple of random photos and such to see what happens to them. I really hope I won’t end up spamming you. Please let me know if I do, ‘kay?
So that’s a gallery. Apparently there’s only one kind of media per post?
I’m writing this on the first of January. Visions of self-improvement and positive change are dancing in my head. Right now, it seems we’re all setting new goals, making new promises to ourselves, devising new plans of action – in short making New Year’s Resolutions, though some of us avoid using that term. Even if we reject the cultural zeitgeist, January’s dark and closed-in nature lends itself to consideration of entirely new ideas, and recommitment to ideals we’ve held for decades.
I prefer to set goals at other times – around my birthday, for example, or when the seasons change. Still, I am not immune to the vibes of this wildly optimistic month. I’ve been busy fussing over my projects and planning my upcoming year. If you want to know what I’m striving for in the future, feel free to check out my pages: By July 22nd, 2014 and The Paranormalist’s WriMoProg.
Instead of writing about what I intend to do this year, I thought I’d round up a collection of tools suited to supporting resolutions. I’ve tried them all, and I still use some regularly. A couple of them are my own design, but most are winnowed from years of searching through dozens of self-improvement resources.
The truth is, I’ve never been good at sticking to a schedule or coping with repetitive tasks. I accept the fact that consistency will always be a challenge for me, thanks to my paranormal nature and choices. I’ve made peace with that.
If you read my blog, it’s likely you’re paranormal too. (Some of you have a more than average appetite for the macabre. Some of you do battle with mood and/or health issues. Some of you are deliberately forging a unique path toward an unusual lifestyle. Almost all of you are writers. ‘Nough said?)
If these tools worked for me, they are probably well suited to you. May you find something here that helps you create your best year yet.
General organization – especially routine & accountability:
An involved but effective system for putting your home and domestic life in order. It has a charming, gentle start path that you should follow religiously. Lots of solid organizational info. Concentrates on making repetitive tasks (cooking, cleaning, organizing) easier to handle. Use this to figure out all the stuff your parents should have taught you.
From the creator: “Are YOU living in CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome) like Franny in the pink sweats? Do you feel overwhelmed, overextended, and overdrawn? Hopeless and you don’t know where to start? Don’t worry friend, we’ve been there, too.”
I prefer a paper to-do list, but this program is a wonderfully customizable way to stay on track with daily tasks. It would work well in conjunction with the FlyLady principles. There is something very satisfying about seeing a column of green dots when you come to the end of a long day. I’d be interested to know what the interface looks and feels like on an Android phone.
From the developer: “Joe’s Goals is a simple yet powerful tool to make tracking your goals the easiest part of accomplishing them. Use the simple single page interface to setup daily goals and track them with just a click. Watch your daily score to gage your success and use negative goals (or vices) to confront and overcome bad habits that finally need to get the boot. Share your success with your friends and family or post your personal score badge to your blog or MySpace page. Add as many Goals as you want and update them all from a single interface.”
This is a project I created a long time ago, which I am now dragging back into the light. It’s mostly about the process of figuring out what you could be, and should be, doing on a daily basis. In the end it becomes a daily to-do list with a twist … something that could be tracked on a program like Joe’s Goals. In it’s original (and, I think, most effective) form it is done on paper.
From the author: “A Keeping Score tally is a paper list of potential tasks that you need — or like — to do. This list is first carefully designed to suit your life, then duplicated in bulk so that you may use a fresh tally to track your accomplishments every day. Creating a personalized tally requires some time and effort. Keeping a tally once it has been designed, on the other hand, is easily accomplished in just a couple of minutes each day.”
Project management – especially organization and productivity:
If you feel like your projects are out of control, and you haven’t yet read this classic, then get to it. Plunging into the program is a bit intimidating, but David Allen’s methods work. If you have read it, and experienced some success but then got lazy, read it again. It’s less overwhelming the second time through, once you realize this is a project management system and not a way to keep track of simple life tasks.
From the author: “This groundbreaking work-life management system transforms personal overwhelm and overload into an integrated system of stress-free productivity.”
Todoist is great for managing projects that have multiple concrete steps which can be definatively finished. (Joe’s Goals is better for ongoing, repetitive tasks.) I believe it plays nicely with google products like Google Calendar and Gmail. I used the free version of Todoist, but considered upgrading to enjoy the fancier bells and whistles that a paid account provides. I’ve since converted to a simple 101 things in 1001 days list, and WriMoProg … because almost all my projects are about writing these days.
From the developers: “Conquer complexity. Manage projects of any complexity by creating nested-tasks, adding deadlines, assigning priorities, and using color-coding. Todoist features everything you need and nothing you don’t.”
Especially for writers:
This is my own writing progress management system. Even if you don’t actively participate in the challenge, I encourage you to read the section called ‘Setting Your Monthly Goals’ before you plan another chunk of your writing schedule. The information there may help you better decide how much of your time you want to dedicate to developing a writing career.
From the developer: “The Writer’s Monthly Progress Challenge is about feeling accountable AND receiving encouragement & credit for all of our work. (Much of which, let’s face it, is invisible to our non-writer loved ones.) It is not about giving us one more thing to do that gets in the way of the actual writing. After the initial set-up, WriMoProg should take a few minutes a week.”
I’m not sure I would have beaten NaNoWriMo if it hadn’t been for this app. I purchased the desktop version a few months ago and I love it. It does have some glitches, but I quickly learned how to avoid stressing the program. I guess I work better under pressure. Try it out HERE, with the free web app version.
From the developer: “Write or Die is a web application that encourages writing by punishing the tendency to avoid writing. Start typing in the box. As long as you keep typing, you’re fine, but once you stop typing, you have a grace period of a certain number of seconds and then there are consequences.” READ MORE HERE.
Critique Circle is a wonderful resource for writers who are ready to submit their fiction to review by other writers. In order to participate in the group, you must sign up for a free account. The free account works very well if you are working primarily with short stories. Effective management of a novel, as it goes through the review process, is much easier with a paid membership. I am not currently active there, because I spent too much time critiquing and not enough time writing.
From the developers: “Membership to the Critique Circle is free and we welcome everyone interested in using an online forum to improve their writing skills while helping others improve theirs. Critique Circle is open to all genres, including science-fiction, fantasy, romance, children’s novels, horror and suspense. Members submit their stories to the story queue, and pay credits to do so. Only a certain number of stories will be displayed each week (more on this later), so you may have to wait a week or two for yours to come up, depending on how much queue activity there is. When a story comes up for critique, other members can read it and submit their critiques to the author, thus earning credits.”
To get this no-membership-required manuscript meter from Critique Circle, just go HERE. After you install the meter, simply clicking on it will lead you to the place where you update your word count.
Well this is completely out of character for this blog, but my heart is hurting tonight. I thought I’d share a few things that made me feel just a little better.
There’s this from Flickr Creative Commons:
and this from Moveon.org:
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world. – Mr. Rogers
and this from buzzfeed:
and this, from my facebook feed:
Our hearts break for those affected by the senseless tragedy in Connecticut. Thoughts of the tragedy naturally turned our hearts to wondering, “What can I do to fix this?” We can’t take away the pain for the families of the victims. We can’t mend hearts and lives. We can do something to make a difference. At PinchingYourPennies.com, we’d like to offer a challenge to all of our Facebook friends. We challenge you to help us honor the 20 children killed today by completing 20 acts of kindness between now and Christmas Day. They don’t have to be huge, even simple kindnesses will make a difference. Can you imagine the difference this could make? If all of our friends would join us we could have more than one million acts of kindness completed. Join us, have your friends and family join us, let’s make a difference together.
I have a nasty, miserable cold that seems to be peaking. (At least I hope it’s peaking.)
My boss’s mother likes to give me very specific instructions as to the folding order of laundry loads. She expresses this in a lovely, lilting, thick Indian accent, which – try as I might – I have trouble understanding. Which makes me feel like an idiot. (My boss’s wife speaks 3 languages fluently, which makes me feel like even more of an idiot.)
There is a resident who thinks the elevator is filthy. Even though I cleaned it yesterday. He says it’s sticky. It’s not. He told me elevator cleaning is not one of my strengths.
Someone named Roger called. He says one of the housekeepers is selling drugs to the residents … and she’s cheating them! My boss is supposed to do something about it. Otherwise, Roger is going to make sure police patrols become more frequent. He left his telephone number.
And a very drunk, recent divorcé thinks I have real purdy feet. No he didn’t have that accent, but I heard it, just the same. Here’s the funny … I kinda have a thing about feet: I don’t like them. I mean they’re fine and all, but I just don’t like to think about that particular fetish – it leaves me cold. Normally, I don’t judge. Whatever floats your boat, ya know? But I shut him down – or tried to – fast. “Not my thing,” I said. “In fact I kinda don’t like feet.” Here’s the creepy … that didn’t even slow him down. I now know every little thing he wants to do to my feet, in lacivious detail. Thank God it’s not too hard to give a drunk the slip. I ended up hiding in the laundry room until he staggered back to his room.
I called my coworker and asked if he wanted an extra hour or two tonight. He did. I came home early. Now I’m going to go bathe, take some drugs and sleep for a minimum of 12 hours.
I have no idea what image I should use to illustrate this post.
I typed in fetish. This was the second image. FML.
Shiny paranormally pictures here:
Not so shiny bipolary naval-gazing here:
I try not to write too much about my mood swings here at the blog. Still, my tagline does include Finessing bipolarity, so I’ll allow myself a post on the topic.Tonight I find myself unable to work up any enthusiasm for a paranormal- or Halloween-themed post, which is a little weird, because I did have plans in place, and I do have (just enough) time to craft something. I simply don’t want to.
That attitude has been creeping up on me, I think, over the last couple of days. Remember that night I didn’t manage to post until after midnight? That really took the wind out of my sails. Or it was an early warning sign that the wind was dying. I don’t think I’ve been manic in these last weeks. (My energy levels haven’t been that high; the writing hasn’t been coming to me easily, the way it does when I’m up.) I am concerned, however, because today’s crash does feel like the coming-down-from-manic stage.
I think my mood has been even (“normal”) for weeks. I’ve had a few awfully happy days – mostly when I’m out and about and taking pictures, but I’ve settled down as soon as my day off was done. I’ve had a few days where I felt tired and/or under the weather, but I’ve bounced back. (Sometimes a depressive skid pretends to be an illness, so I watch that sort of thing carefully.) Perhaps today will be like that. The problem is that I don’t have any physical complaints. I just feel … mentally tired. Also, my anxiety is eager to rise up, if I give it half a chance. (I’ve had a couple of long drives lately, and that seems to enable surges of anxiety. Drives gives me time to think about the legitimate stressors in my life.) Rising anxiety is a clear indicator of an impending depression for me.
Tonight I am mentally sorting through the factors that have been known to trigger sudden mood shifts. Alcohol is supposed to be a depressant, but I had barely a beer last night when we went out. I’d be surprised if that’s enough to mess me up. The weather has turned cold, and a little gray, but it hasn’t been terrible. Weather must remain a contender though, because I tend to be very sensitive to it. In fact this might be more about sliding toward the dreaded winter season than the actual temperature. There’s no way to deny that fall is past its peak now, here in Minnesota.
Maybe I am just depleted. My husband, who is a classic introvert, seems to think that I’m a natural extrovert, but I know better. Last night, at the zombie pub crawl we attended, I had to approach strangers to ask for permission to take their photographs and for them to sign a publishing release. (I’m paranoid about getting sued someday.) Everyone was friendly and receptive and cooperative, but each encounter took more out of me than anyone knows. As for other energy sappers, we all know I’ve been working a lot, and I’m only just now starting to feel competent at the new hotel. In the last months, there’s been an awful lot of me stepping out of my comfort zone and a lot of being on my best behavior … for readers, for guests at the hotels, for coworkers, for my bosses, even for my friends and family, who don’t need to have me falling apart during this 9+ month time of stress for us.
So, it’s really no mystery what’s going on – I just have to figure out what to do about it. For now, tonight, I’ll give myself this break from being “on”, as well as permission to see what happens tomorrow. I almost didn’t post at all tonight, but I don’t want to lose the pretty-darn-good streak of daily blogging I’m on if this is just a bad day. There’s nothing that keeps me even and grounded like achieving something I set out to do.
When you work at the front desk of a seedy hotel, you realize that you can’t identify a prostitute by the way she looks or dresses. Granted, some of the girls do wear stereotypical micro-mini skirts, spangly tops and cropped rabbit-fur jackets, but those style choices are not reserved for pros; an amazing number of … free girls put together outfits that leave just as little to the imagination. The first two prostitutes I met at work, in fact, looked like ordinary women in their mid-20s. Both wore jeans, a tee-shirt and a hoodie. Neither was overly made-up, both were pretty, if not gorgeous. I knew why they had come to the hotel – on a Wednesday, in the late afternoon – only by the way they acted.
The first woman strode up to the desk, while her male companion hung back. She looked me straight in the eye, asked for a smoking single and handed her ID over the counter. As soon as I entered her name into the computer, a list of her previous stays came up. Because she is a frequent guest, she has a lower than normal rate. When I quoted the price, she glanced over her shoulder. The man stepped up with his wallet open, and his head hanging low. I repeated the amount. He counted out three twenties and laid them on the desktop. When I offered him his change, he scooped it up and immediately faded back. She signed the room card, requested one key, and headed down the hall toward the elevator. He followed, never once having lifted his gaze from somewhere near the vicinity of his shoes.
The second woman came in an hour or so later. She told her companion to handle it, and disappeared into the lobby bathroom. He stepped up and looked at me.
“How can I help you, sir.”
“Um. I need a room.”
“One bed or two? Smoking or non?”
“Smoking, I think. Is one bed cheaper?”
“Yes, Sir.” I then quoted him the budget hotel’s reasonable rack rate.
He blanched a little, and checked the contents of his wallet. He nodded.
“What’s your last name, please?”
“Oh. I, uh. It’s gonna be in her name.” He jerked his thumb toward the bathroom door.
“No problem. We can get started here, then she can sign the registry card when she comes out. What’s her last name?”
The consternation that twisted his features looked painful. “Oh. I … I … can never remember how to spell it. We’ll have to wait for her, I guess.”
It’s been a busy night here at the hotel, so I’ll have to finish this later. Gotta count out and fold my last load.
Well, damn. No perfect score for the October NaBloPoMo project. (I’m back-dating this entry – it’s actually 12:15a on Oct 11.) In my defense, I had typed up some babble in Write or Die, but this is the first time I tried to use it on my laptop, and it did something weird when I told it to post to my blog. (It opened a new tab for each of the 300+ words I’d typed, if you want to know.) I’ll be checking into that little glitch tomorrow.
Now I’m just too tired to give a damn. (‘Been at work since 3:30p and it’s been a day full of laundry and mean people – which I babbled about in the aforementioned attempted emergency post.)
Now that I think about it, I must complain about at least one of individuals who went out their way to make my day bad: a guy who was staying in room 120 deliberately peed on both beds in his room, before leaving without telling us that he wouldn’t be back. I don’t mean he wet the bed, I mean he hosed down everything he could reach. He must have sucked down gallons of water to maximize his output.
I learned of this when my boss called to give me instructions on how to wash the ‘special’ linens. Yes, that means I have been touching stuff that was saturated with a stranger’s urine. Of course I wear latex gloves whenever I handle the dirty laundry here, but you have no idea how badly I want a shower.
I’m here until 1:00a. Gotta go fold two sets of mattress pads, blankets and comforters now. I’ll start again tomorrow.
You know what’s really sad? This is my 100th post.
The following couple of paragraphs were composed (and I use that word loosely) in Write or Die! – a program I just paid ten bucks for, then downloaded from the interweb. I’ve been eyeing it for a few weeks, and I’m choosing to make the leap tonight, mainly because I am too tired to write the proper, themed post I had planned for the evening. I will do some more exploring after I take a nap, then edit this post to give more details. At this exact moment, though, I have to say that I think I might be in love.
I’m so tired that I’m beyond tired tonight. I’m typing this post in a new tool, called ‘Write or Die.’ It’s meant to provide the stick that so many writer environments fail to provide. If I stop typing, my screen turns red. If I continue to not type, I will hear an unpleasant sound. The program allows me to set any word count goal, to be achieved in any time frame that I set. I have to choose all the settings when I launch the program, then, when I hit the ‘Write!’ button, the program takes over the entire screen, which gives me a large, blank white surface on which to write. At the moment I’ve given myself 10 minutes to type 300 words. I believe the top (gray) line is showing me how close I am to my word goal. The lower line (red) is probably showing me how much time I have left. I was able to choose from three(?) different levels of difficulty: gentle, normal and kamikaze. (I chose normal.) I was also able to set a few other options. I am able to choose to disable the backspace key – which would kill me – for example. Right now I can’t remember what the other options were.
The program can also be used to participate in a ‘word war’. Apparently, I could link up with another writer for a predetermined amount of time and race against him or her. I’m looking forward to trying that, though I fully expect I will suck at it, because I tend to be an incredibly slow writer, who spends waaay too much time editing on the fly. I am currently feeling pressured, but not stressed, which is pretty awesome, now that I think about it. Ah, my screen just turned red for the second time– Oh! I just heard a fanfare! I guess I made the word count goal before the time ran out … and now there’s been a second fanfare, telling me, I assume, that I have been working steadily for the full ten minutes. Interestingly, in the lower left corner of my screen I now have a timer that is counting up.
Ok. First glitch. I believe that badge (which is uber cool) should be showing my numbers.
I had a post topic scheduled for tonight, but all day I’ve been having trouble finding my way to a good place for writing. Instead of agonizing over that for the next hour, I’ve decided to do something different — I’m going to post short, hourly updates of what’s going on here, at my sorta-seedy hotel / rooming house, on a cold, October, Friday night.
I’ve been working here for about a month now, I guess, but my shifts have mostly run from five in the afternoon to midnight or one o’clock. Once a week, I work first shift, from nine to five. I came here knowing, though, that I would be doing some overnights. Tonight will be my first. Yesterday I was told that tonight I would be working from midnight to 9a. When I stopped by to pick up my check this afternoon, however, my boss asked me to slide the whole shift a couple of hours earlier, so I came in at ten o’clock.
In the ten o’clock hour ~
My boss was filling me in on what special tasks I need to do during my shift, when he was called away from the desk for a moment. One of the roomers (Rick) sidled up to the desk and – from the corner of his mouth – whispered, “Everything’s all changed now. Look over there.”
I looked in the direction he nodded. A new monitor was glowing from the niche where the television had been on Wednesday when I last worked. The monitor’s screen is divided into 16 blocks, each showing a section of the hotel. (Including the area where I am sitting and typing at this exact moment.) Security cameras have come to my work.
I have started some laundry, counted the cash drawer and straightened the desk. Now I wait until after 3:00 am before I can go actually fold what looks like a ton of laundry. (My boss wants me present at the front desk until then.) Rick the roomer is sitting in the lobby, not doing much of anything. (There’s no TV; he isn’t reading.)
In the eleven o’clock hour ~
A young blond man came to the desk and growled at me. Well, actually his dog growled, but at the time I didn’t know that. (I’d forgotten we allow pets in this hotel.) It turns out the dog (he looked like a lab/pit) was angry not with me but with Rick. He stood stiff legged, with his hackles raised and a deep continuous growl rumbling in his barrel chest, staring at him. It was almost a hunting dog’s point. Rick never looked up. I made a new key for the blond guy. I trust dogs. I’ll pay more attention to Rick’s whereabouts from now on.
Since I’ve come in, I’ve made several replacement keys, and given one female guest an extra ash tray. Now I’m going to start catching up on my blog reading.
In the midnight hour ~
Nothing. Phone rang once. I set a wake up call. The guy from earlier walked his dog. (Now that Rick’s gone up to his room, the dog walked through the lobby without making a sound.) I moved a load of laundry and patrolled the halls to check for noise. That’s it.
In the one o’clock hour ~
The phone rang. A guy wanted to know if we rent rooms by the hour. (No.)
I moved a load of laundry. (The folding pile is getting bigger and bigger.) When I work the evening shift (5-1) I try to get most of the laundry done for the overnight guy. My boss did not do that. Still, the only real difference, then, is that I have to fold everything I normally fold at one time, rather than as I finish loads. I cleaned the lint screen. (Boring, I know, but I think it matters for this next bit.)
When I got back to the office I looked at the security monitor. The camera in the laundry room has night vision mode, which I think is cool. As I watched that section of the screen, I noticed LOTS of little white lights / blobs / orbs flying around. I’m gonna go with lint as the explanation, for the time being.
A few people have come and gone, but most of them don’t seem to need anything from me. A girl with manga-red hair stopped by the desk to drop off her key, but said, “He is still in the room, and he’s staying.”
I just took a good look at the laundry room on the monitor. No orby things. So lint then.
In the two o’clock hour ~
Nothing. I cleaned the counters in the coffee area and stocked up creamers and such. I cleaned the glass in the doors. I’m getting tired, so I ate a candy bar and had a cigarette. It’s incredibly cold for mid-October. Almost time to start folding.
Hey! Something happened. A man checked in, then instead of going to his room, he went back outside. Hmmm. And a “couple” left. She was wearing a mini-skirt, stilettos, and a cropped white fur jacket. He was wearing jeans, sneakers and a baseball hat.
Oh, the man that just checked in came back into the building, with a woman dressed very similarly, except she had no coat and was wearing a spangled beret and matching tank top. Do I need to remind you that it’s cold out there?
Time to go fold laundry.
In the three o’clock hour ~
Patrolled the halls, checked the doors. Made some change for a guy. Folded fifteen sets of queen sheets and a load of towels, wash clothes and bath mats.
In the four o’clock hour ~
Had a cigarette. Now that I’m warmed up from folding, it doesn’t feel as bitter out there. Time to tackle the kings and the doubles.
Ah, my woman-who-reads-and-drinks-A-LOT-of-coffee has appeared … looking for coffee. At 4:20a.
In the five o’clock hour ~
All linens done, and the laundry room floor swept. Coffee brewing. The Reading Lady has been joined by a guy and they are discussing current events. Time for more blog reading.
In the six o’clock hour ~
More of the same. I closed my shift and recounted the cash drawer after my whopping single rental. Everything matched, natch.
In the seven o’clock hour ~
Three guests checked out, and one came in to reserve a room for tonight. My boss arrived at a quarter after. On the way home, I passed a bank thermometer. It’s 32 freakin’ degrees out there. I’m sorry it was such a quiet shift. (At the latter part of my 5p-1a shifts, I’ve had more interesting things happen.) I thought it might be exciting. Ah well. Now, to sleep. Good night everybody.
This is my baby-girl, about 20 years ago:
She was born when I was young, and it was just the two of us for a while, before my Beloved came into the picture. (Literally, in this case – that’s his shadow.) She’s 26 now, and she lives in North Carolina. It darn near killed me when she moved away, but she had some very good reasons to go. If it weren’t for free long-distance on cell phones and the internet, the situation would be intolerable for me. As it is, we are able to maintain a day-to-day connection, mostly on Facebook.
When Halloween approaches, I miss her terribly. Our whole family loves Halloween. (After all, for many years, the entire clan lived in Anoka, The Halloween Capital of the World.) A few of us – including my mother, a couple of my sisters, and most of my nieces and nephews – have been known to go a little mad in October (in a good way.) I suppose it’s natural, then, that both of my children love the season. My son, who has his birthday in October, really enjoys Halloween, but my truest Halloween companion has always been my daughter. Some of our best days together involved going to the pumpkin fields, carving jack-o-lanterns, decorating the house, planning parties and – of course – trick-or-treating. There were even a couple of years – when I was struggling with depression – where she shouldered the responsibility for making Halloween happen for her brother.
This month I am particularly pleased with my girl. From 1,200 miles away, she is working hard to celebrate Halloween with the family and friends she left behind, here in Minnesota.
Early in September, we all received an invitation to join a Facebook group that she created. Here’s some of the text:
Welcome to the 31 Nights of Halloween. This is a month-long game, and I am inviting all of you to participate. The game is points-based, and you gain those by doing things that are in the spirit of Halloween. At least one Halloweeny thing from a core list must be done each day to accrue points, such as watching a horror movie or going on a haunted hay ride. Bonus points will be available for other things that are also in the spirit. At the end of October there will be prize for the spooktacular winner, and a mark of shame for the one who comes in Dead Last.
Ten households will be participating. She has written up a detailed list of activities that will earn points, and created a set of rules that reward the sharing of our Halloween experiences with each other. She’s purchased small prizes for everyone. She’s taken pledges from all participants and the winner’s pot (to be spent only on Halloween decorations) is $55.
I’m hurrying through this post, because I’ve got to go carve a pumpkin now – I want to be the first to post a jack-o-lantern picture in our Facebook group. (But I won’t do it until after midnight.)
*UPDATE INSERTED AFTER MIDNIGHT:*
I earned TWO spookpoints for this – one for reading Halloween poetry, one for carving the pumpkin.
I’m in the lead right now, mwha-ha-ha-ha!
In other news:
Last year, not long after I started The Paranormalist, I did National Blog Post Month in November, as a substitute for National Novel Writing Month. (BlogHer hosts the writing challenge every month of the year. The most popular month to participate, however is November.) I enjoyed it. Even then, though, I realized that from 2012 forward, it would be more appropriate for me to celebrate NaBloPoMo in October. This year I won’t be winging it as much as I did last year. I’ve actually mapped out a plan for every day in October and I’m really excited to begin.
My nights at the hotel have been ridiculously busy. Apparently we are at the height of Minnesota’s tourist and wedding seasons. On top of that, several new employees have joined the staff, which paradoxically makes more work for the “old” staff … at least until the newbies get the hang of things.
Tonight, for the first time in forever, I am able to settle in here, on my laptop, in order to take advantage of some of that free time I was promised when I interviewed. I hardly know where to start. Certainly there should be some blog reading, then maybe some real blog writing. (I’ve got a creepy tale to tell, about what I saw when I recently let myself into the wrong hotel room in the middle of the night.)
What I should NOT be doing is watching trailers for horror movies I haven’t seen … not when I’m alone in a dimly lit hotel lobby at 2:20a.
This one, The Pact, has me thinking that I wouldn’t make it through a theatrical screening. I’m going to have to wait for the video — then I’ll be able to make my husband tell me what’s happening while I cover my eyes through half the film.
Have any of you seen it? Is it as suspenseful as the trailer makes it look?
A few weeks ago, a rare summertime aurora alert arrived in my inbox. According to the email from SpaceWeather.com, an especially strong CME was about to trigger a vivid display of the northern lights in the skies over Minnesota.
At about 2:30 on the morning of July 16th, my son and I hopped in the truck and headed north, seeking an unobstructed view of the horizon. Such a vista proved difficult to find, but eventually we found a promising gravel road. We bumped along that road for a few miles, until we found a lengthy stretch of darkness between the rural security lights which are the bane of skywatchers. We parked along the edge of a boggy meadow with a decent view, killed the lights and stepped out into the warm night. Though the sky was clear, and there was a certain glow that might have been a weak manifestation of the lights, we decided that we were out of luck.
(In other parts of Minnesota, however, the display was amazing. Check out these shots of the event, from a talented photographer in St. Cloud – a location approximately an hour and a half northeast of where we were.)
Despite our disappointment, we lingered. The pre-dawn morning was lovely, with a thick, low layer of fog swirling over the meadow and lapping at the roadway. Inevitably, of course, I started to imagine zombies shambling in the mist, and we decided to go. As I turned the truck into a nearby driveway, a motion in my sideview mirror caught my eye. Illuminated in the glow of my tail lights, a small, furry beast was following us.
It disappeared from my view when it marched directly underneath the truck. I stomped on the brakes and told my son what I had seen. He said, “Well, huh.” We looked at each other for a moment. Then we both leaned out our windows, trying to figure out how to not run over the damn thing. After long moments, it waddled out from behind the front, passenger-side wheel.
My son reported on the creature’s ever-changing relative location as I cautiously backed up. It seemed intent on circling us. We both assumed it was simply trying to return to the boggy meadow, but retreat was not on its mind. By the time I had squared myself in the right direction, it had taken a stand in the middle of the road, blocking our exit. Now the headlights clearly revealed the critter’s species:
As muskrats go, it wasn’t a particularly big specimen. Despite its harmless appearance, however, its behavior -along with the steadily thickening fog that was closing in around the truck – thoroughly unnerved me. My response in such situations is often laughter, and this one had me in a near-hysterical giggle-fit.
For a few seconds we each held our positions, then the muskrat charged straight toward the truck. I hit the accelerator and swerved around and past it, thankful that the road was wide and the shoulder firm. As I drove away, I looked in the rearview mirror. That mad muskrat was chasing our truck – as fast as its furry little legs would carry it.
It was a strange encounter, but not as strange as some others which have been in the news lately. Even before we went on our aurora quest, we saw a story on the national news that amazed and amused us:
Click on the above photograph, or go here to view a CBS news story about some grave robbing rodents in New York.
Subsequent to our muskrat encounter, rodenty happenings in Minnesota took a darker turn. (Yes, I know that otters are NOT rodents. In fact, they are considered to be members of the weasel family. That’s why the title of this post includes the word ‘rodent-like’.)
Doesn’t this pair look sweet? I’ve certainly always thought of otters as gentle, playful creatures. I’ve never seen one in the wild, but if I had, I would have been delighted. In light of recent developments, however, I think I will be cautious if I ever get the chance to observe one up close.
Click on the otter picture above, or go here to read about two different attacks by otters in Minnesota waters.
What does this mean for the human race? Probably nothing. All things considered, though, I’ll be keeping an eye out for unusual behavior in any animal I meet in the coming days.
I think I found a job ridiculously well suited to me … I’m going to be a night auditor at a hotel. The shift runs from 11p – 7a. The work load sounds extrememly manageable, especially once I’ve been trained and have settled into the routine. The charming owner/operator who hired me is perfectly comfortable with the idea of me bringing my laptop along to use however I see fit, after my regular assigned tasks are done. Pretty sweet deal for a writer, huh?
Tonight I’m thinking about books I can load onto my e-reader, because that seems like a good way to pass the dead hours as well. Obviously, it’s time to re-read The Shining. I also found this:
I think I already love this Wilke guy:
“The dull people decided years and years ago, as everyone knows, that novel-writing was the lowest species of literary exertion, and that novel reading was a dangerous luxury and an utter waste of time.”
— Wilkie Collins, My Miscellanies
The talented, funny folks over at eyelaugh.wordpress.com have included me in this Versatile Blogger Award thing that I’ve been seeing around. It was a pleasant surprise. Eyelaugh is a bright spot in my often dark (by choice) blogroll, and I always enjoy coming across one of their new comics in my reader. (Thanks for choosing The Paranormalist guys!)
When I think about the award itself, I realize that it’s all about the networking. It’s a nice way to share other blogs with one’s regular readers. With that in mind, I’ll follow the rules and offer the award to 15 folks on my list. With a couple of exceptions, I’ll try to keep my suggestions in line with my theme.
Each recipient can do as they please with the award – some folks might not have the inclination to play along, and that’s ok with me.
Before I list my nominees, I should share “The rules for the Versatile Blogger Award”:
1) Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them in a post
2) Share 7 things about you
3) Pass the award on to 15 more bloggers
4) Contact the bloggers you have chosen to let them know that they have been selected
Seven things about The Paranormalist:
- I already have a ‘13 things you’d hate about me‘ list on my Backstory tab.
- I chose to educate my son at home, independent of a school for entirely secular, academic reasons
- …and the term “home school” makes me choke every time I use it. (It makes me think of homespun.)
- My favorite flowers are freesia and wild roses.
- I adore seafood – well, more specifically, shellfish.
- I sleep, almost every night, with the TV on.
- I believe there are very few situations that a hot – really hot – bath can’t improve upon or make better.
Now, my nominees:
First, my Tumblr blogs(?) – I’m not sure they are blogs in the traditional sense, but I subscribe to them via my google reader. I can’t even figure out how to comment on their posts – so I don’t know how I’m going to inform them of my selection. In truth, I still haven’t really figured out what a Tumblr is supposed to be, but I love these images that come streaming at me. (Be aware – in the first two, there is occasional partial nudity in the form of Victorian images.)
- Strange is Beautiful
- Maudelynn’s Menagerie
- Huff’s Weird Blog (This and the next are more traditionally styled blogs.)
- My Paranormal Podcast
Now for the at-least-slightly-paranormal-flavored blogs at WordPress and Blogger, as well as the self-hosted:
- Ghost Cities (these first four are writers to watch, who also happen to write entertaining blogs)
- Hunter Shea
- Mark My Words
- Creature with the Atom Brain (horror movie reviews)
- Aden Moss (I haven’t wrapped my head around this, but I think there’s something brilliant going on.)
- My Ethereality (a lovely, historical blog with a steampunk feel)
And, finally, these are distinctly not-paranormal – but I really enjoy the voice / writing / work of the authors:
- Cultivating the Art of Sustenance (hog farming and writing in Michigan, USA)
- Hoola Tallulah (crafting in rural Hertfordshire, UK)
- Commonplace Crazy (free grammar lessons included)
- Sad Man’s Tongue Rockabilly Bar & Bistro – Prague (all things rockabilly, including pinups)
- # 16 – don’t forget to check out EyeLaugh while you’re surfing the links.
That was harder than I thought it would be. I faithfully read other blogs as well, and I enjoy each for its own strengths. In the end – I guess – I chose the blogs which I think might most appeal to you – let me know if you find a new love thanks to my recommendations.
If you are one of the blogs I selected above, and you want to participate:
- Download (save file as) the Versatile Blogger Award icon found above, then upload it to your blog in a post similar to this. I’ll be looking forward to your suggestions.
My intention was to follow my recent post – I’m going to need a new tagline. – with one more in keeping with my usual topics. (A meditation on why so many stairways seem to be haunted, maybe, or a photo-essay of a local abandoned house.) Instead, I feel compelled to write a bit more about our situation, because, upon reading the comments it garnered, I am beginning to think that I didn’t share quite enough.
We do not want to give up the chickens. If we thought we could stay here, we would certainly count on those reliable old girls to help us out with their eggs.
My husband’s former position (ok – salary), however, will not easily be replaced, and I haven’t held a regular job in
10 15 … since I was a young, miniskirt wearing, single mom, slinging drinks. For multiple reasons, we will be living on a fraction of what we have grown accustomed to – and we’ll be doing it for a good long while. We can’t afford to stay here.
There. I said it straight out.
We are about to experience a major lifestyle change. The positive spin is that the change is one we were very slowly and gradually working toward. It’s just happening before we were ready for it.
We will be moving to a medium-sized town, where there will be jobs (for all of us) that don’t require a commute like the one my husband has been enduring for a decade. We will live in a two bedroom apartment – just me, my husband, a strapping 16-year-old son, an oops-he’s-bigger-than-we-thought-he’d-be dog, and *some goldfish named Chicken. We will enjoy having a reliable internet connection and decent water pressure.
We will miss the stars, and the wild turkeys, and the fire ring, and the … well, lots of stuff – but we knew this phase of our life would end eventually. (The some-day goal still includes a trio of hens in a cute, town-sized coop, but we won’t have a yard any time soon.)
We had hoped that our geriatric hens would peacefully expire before the time for our migration came. Now that I’m sharing how I really feel, I might as well tell you we also have to re-home our two elderly cats. As well as my mother’s adorable but ridiculous pedigreed Persian. (He’s just a yearling, but we reluctantly took him in when she recently moved to a retirement home.) AND we’re worried about the two “feral” cats that adopted our barn because the mouse-hunting was good, thanks to the scattered cracked corn.
I had also hoped that I would be contributing financially to that new lifestyle with my writing. Now I’m worried those ambitions will have to be set aside, again, as I figure out how to hold a proper job.
The truth is, I’m freaking out. I just don’t want to bring too much of that into this blog. My chicken/tagline post was an effort to acknowledge the situation in a darkly-humorous sort of way – the way in which I thought “The Paranormalist” would handle it.
I can tell you right now, it’s easier that way. These upcoming changes are so huge for me that I assume some of my real-world angst and confusion and awkwardness will continue to bleed into my blog, but – mostly – I’m just hoping that I can figure out how to keep writing about my beloved creepy stuff.
So. Next post: Abandoned house or haunted stairways?
*The number of goldfish we will have is in negotiation. I was thinking nine, in honor of the hens in our current flock. My beloved is thinking three, in expectation of our future trio.
I’m a little weirded out. See, there’s this guy. A writer. A good writer. And he’s about six steps ahead of me at all times. I feel like I’m accidentally following him wherever he goes. I wouldn’t blame him for worrying he’d picked up a stalker in me.
(Do you think I’m stalking you Hunter?)
It all started when I was a lonely blogger, at a loss as to how to find like-minded individuals in the great-big-blogosphere. I wandered in the void until I found wordpress’ topic search. Of course I typed ‘paranormal’ into the little box. (And chickens into another, and retro into another, and home-school into another … I have an eclectic blogroll.)
But back to Hunter.
A writer, Hunter Shea, came up when I searched paranormal, so I went to his page. Hmmm. Interesting. Oh look, he does some paranormal investigating too. Except he’s actually completed a couple. Cool, a man with experience. I subscribed. I noticed he had a Facebook button in his sidebar – and because I was just starting my own Facebook pages – I clicked that too.
In truth, I didn’t pay much extra attention to him, until a familiar-sounding snippet jumped out at me from his ‘about’ page: “I’m the product of a childhood weened on The Night Stalker, The Twilight Zone and In Search Of. Luckily, I’ve managed to make a love of all things ghostly and beastly into a career.” – Hunter Shea.
If you’ve read my Dark Touchstones page, you might remember seeing this: ‘As a child, I chose to immerse myself in an In Search Of ~ Ripley’s Believe It Or Not ~ Twilight Zone kind of world. I read Nancy Drew, “true” supernatural stories, and any horror novel I could sneak into the house.” – Renae Rude.
Okay, I thought. It shouldn’t surprise me that two horror writers of an age had an interest in the same kind of things when they were kids. No biggie. But I’m going to keep a closer eye on this dude. A few weeks later, he mentioned that he listens to music by Midnight Syndicate when he’s writing. Whoa! I thought I was the only one clever enough to do that. I broke my own rule, about not posting links to my blog into the comment section of other people’s blogs, because I just had to show Dark Touchstones to this guy – we had so much in common. There I’ve made contact with another horror writer. Mission complete.
Another few days passed. Then Hunter posted that Midnight Syndicate had given him a shout-out at their webpage. (Follow that link. Note that he’s the first author on the list. Now, weeks later, it appears to be a trend.) Wow, I thought. That’s so cool. Good exposure. … if I were a bit further along this road, that could have been me. Sigh. (Didyasee that little bit of envy creeping in? Yeah. It gets worse.)
Of course he continued to promote his new book on his social media sites. Curiosity made me look into his method of publication. Samhain Publishing, huh? ‘Wonder if they are the kind of market I’ll be interested in. Clickity-click. They have Ramsey Campbell?!? Oh yeah I’m interested. I should probably read this Hunter guy’s book … someday.
A while later, on Facebook, he offered to name a character, in his next novel, after anyone who bought his e-book, or pre-ordered his paperback, on that particular day. That’s a little weird, I thought. When I was driving home today I was thinking I should buy his book next Friday. I guess I won’t wait until payday, because – hey – who doesn’t want to be a character in a novel?
(Smart Hunter. Very smart. How many books did you sell that day?)
So I ordered Forest of Shadows. I started reading it – even though I was already half-way through a couple other books – just to get a taste. I thought, This is good. Dammit. Wait! … I mean, cool, right? … This should be inspiring … if he could do it, so can I. Right? … Oh shit, I’m now officially cowed*. Why did I follow this guy in the first place?
I flipped my e-reader to – Are You There Blog, It’s Me Writer by Kristen Lamb; I needed my social media mentor to sooth me. Sure enough, lesson seventeen – with it’s clear discussion of why we build platforms – snapped me out of my useless envy. (As did my vague memory of Kristen assuring me, somewhere else in her book, that writers aren’t in competition with each other. People can, and do, buy books from lots of different authors.)
Renewed, I decided to spend the evening tackling twitter in a more organized fashion. I began by popping into each blog I read, to look for a twitter handle. I followed everyone I could find. Then I turned my attention to some hashtag groups, where I cherry-picked folks that seemed interesting. Lists were made. Tweets were sent. I followed Kristen’s advice (be nice, promote others) as best I could.
About half-way through this process, something strange started to happen. If you aren’t familiar with Twitter, you might not know that when you go to someone’s profile to consider following him/her, Twitter shows you who (amongst the people you follow) already follows the person you are considering. Guess whose name showed up on most every page I visited?
Hunter Shea had already been there, done that. Damn he’s good.
I’m on the right track, I thought. Cool.
*I wasn’t sure ‘cowed’ was the exact word I wanted, so – as I am wont to do - I went to thesaurus.com. I decided to stick to my first word choice, but the list of synonyms there was awesome.
I have less than an hour to get something down today. I feel compelled to write something “really good” which isn’t helping. I could have started writing an hour ago, but I’ve been reading everyone else’s posts instead of coming up with something to say. I suppose it’s best to just let that go, and finish this the way it wants to be finished.
I should be pretty tickled with how well this has gone. It was nice that launching my blog coincided with the challenge. NaBloPoMo provided just enough pressure to get me to really dive into the blogosphere and figure things outs. I am pleased I managed to do ANYTHING for 30 days straight. (Consistency is not my strong suit.) I’ve made new friends. Overall, it’s been a good experience, even when it was tough to force myself to deal with the commitment.
Despite all those positives, I’m feeling a little sad and lost. What happens tomorrow?
I know only two things for sure:
1) On my 101 in 1001 list, item # 48 says: successfully complete NaBloPoMo once each season. Next year, I’ll do the autumn run in October – which should be pretty darn easy, considering my theme.
2) I’m hoping to participate in National Novel Progress Month for December, and beyond. Even if the group doesn’t tackle the task again, I will absolutely set a goal for myself and track my progress.
Oh. I know one more thing:
BONUS THOUGHT) I will be writing – something, somewhere – tomorrow. Because that’s what I do.
So. That’s it. Congratulations to everyone who finished any of the November writing challenges. And congratulations to everyone who tried.
I have stopped worrying about living a normal, appropriate life. Want evidence that this is true? I ended “yesterday” at about 7:30 this morning – with a ride to McDonald’s to get breakfast. I had spent the night catching up on the small writing and editing tasks that I mentioned HERE. (And watching Session 9 and In the Mouth of Madness.)
This is not the first time I’ve stayed up all night on Thanksgiving eve. In the past, though, I did it so I could cook and clean all night in preparation for a high-stress holiday. This time, it was just part of my regular routine.
Today – after I slept for a good, solid 5 hours – I watched Rocky with my menfolk. I knitted. I wrestled with my dog. I took a long, cozy nap. I goofed off.
I did not cook.
This year, my husband has been sick, and life has been busy. Had we tried to “do” Thanksgiving today, it would have been a rushed, unhappy process. In years past I would have soldiered on anyway. (Which is why I have a history of hating holidays – as noted on my 13 Things You’d Hate About Me list, visible HERE.)
We think we will have our traditional Thanksgiving meal on Sunday. Because I like to cook, and we do want to enjoy all those favorite Thanksgiving dishes. If something comes up that conflicts with that plan, we will calmly fit it in whenever we can.
Because who cares when we actually get two kinds of cranberry sauce and Chex mix?
As promised in Off-topic: my not paranormal life -
Can you believe this is the same boy? I am so proud.
Regular blogging will resume tomorrow
I have this thing about a certain kind of light. I usually notice it in the afternoon, when the sun is low in the sky, but not yet actually setting. Often it occurs at just about the same time the day’s winds are dying down, so that the world becomes distinctly still, hushed, expectant. The light seeks anything with the slightest cast of gold or copper and burnishes it. It lasts as long as twenty minutes, before it fades into twilight.
Now that I work all night, I occasionally stay up really late (past dawn) then drive to McDonald’s to get breakfast. The other morning, I was returning home – McMuffin in hand – when I realized I was driving through the light. It had never occurred to me that my beautiful, ethereal, magical light would naturally appear twice a day.
Yes, I have just admitted that I have never in my life been conscious enough at 7a to notice one of my favorite things. I have always been truly nocturnal, so my mornings were a miserable blur. Life is better now that I’ve stopped fighting my nature.
I had to pull over to try to capture it. Here’s what I got, using my cell phone. I’ll try again, probably in the afternoon, when I’ve mastered the good camera.