Have you ever wished you could step outside of reality for a little while, take a breath and simply will yourself somewhere that is more peaceful, or more exciting, somewhere where you can be anything you can imagine, or experience an adventure you’d never dare to dream in real life?
The main character in my book Virtual: can you be sure what’s real?, Amanda, has the chance to do exactly that, through a marvelous trip into Virtual Reality. Join Amanda and her teammates and opponents, especially the sexy Rex Cade, as they experience excitement, adventure, betrayal, and untold dangers as they uncover a plot to take control of this new world.
One of my favorite things about Halloween is seeing all the children, dressed as their favorite characters from make-believe, excitedly collecting treats as they travel door-to-door. With a few simple rules and precautions, we can ensure that this holiday tradition is a safe and fun time for our kids.
Before you go:
Do your research.
Many communities will establish a certain time frame for kids to trick-or-treat in, so both residents and law enforcement will be aware of when they may be on the streets, and to protect residents from “tricksters” who may try to take advantage of the night. It’s a good idea to check your local news source or community webpage to see if there are restrictions in your area. In my community, for example,children are only permitted to be out on Halloween from 6 to 8pm.
It’s also a good idea to plan the route your kids will take, especially if you are not going with them, and make sure they know to stick in areas you know and consider safe.
Alternatively, a number of local shopping centers and even churches offer “trick-or-treating” events, where kids can walk around a well-lit area, sometimes indoors, and collect candy from participating vendors or parishioners.
You’ve purchased your little ones that costume that they just had to have. Unfortunately, it’s a dark color that will make it hard for them to be seen by any cars on the street while they’re out. That’s okay, because you can make a last minute addition of reflective tape, found at any craft or hardware store, to their costumes. Or consider a battery-powered light pack, or a flashlight or other light-up accessory such as a lightsaber to make them more visible when they have to cross the street.
Instead of a mask that can make it hard to see, especially in a relatively dark area, consider using makeup on your kids’ faces. There are all sorts of specialty kits available for Halloween, or you can make use of normal cosmetics you have around the house.
When you’re ready to head out:
Make sure that your little ones are either with you, an adult or older teen you can trust, or at least with a group of friends. There really is safety in numbers when they are walking in or near dark, with loads of strangers out.
Encourage your kids to follow the courtesy rule-only visit houses where there is someone waiting out front or an outdoor light lit. Not everyone chooses or is able to hand out candy on Halloween, so remind your kids to be respectful. Also, it never hurts to encourage them to say thank you for the treats they receive.
It’s time to go home:
Unless your route out goes by grandma’s or your sister’s house, make sure that your kids don’t eat any treats until you get home and can check it. Consider counseling your kids to not eat their entire haul in one sitting, or take charge and ration it out to them. After all, the last thing anyone wants is for them to end their Halloween with a massive tummy ache!
Forty years after the release of the original movie, Laurie Strode, played once again by Jamie Lee Curtis, faces a final confrontation with her brother and nemesis, Michael Myers, played by Nick Castle.
This new version of Halloween begins with Michael escaping from the sanitarium where he has lived for most of his life so he can continue to kill. Laurie has survived when no one else has, and rather than fearing that Michael will come after her, Laurie actually is prepared and even eager to wage war on the psychopath who murdered their sister among many others. She will fight with everything she has to protect her family and stop Michael.
Michael Myers began his killing spree as a six year old child in the original theatrical release, Halloween (1978), when he murdered his sister Janet. Confined to a sanitarium for fifteen years, he escaped with only two goals in mind, to find his sister and to continue his murder spree. The next few movies weave a mysterious and horrifying mythology around the characters, culminating in a reboot of the series in 2007, with a sequel, Halloween II, in 2009.
This second reboot of the franchise that has sparked eleven movies to date, plus novels, comic books and video games, Halloween (2018), arrives in theatres next weekend. What a perfect way to get into the spirit of the season-just leave younger children with the sitter because this movie is rated “R” for violence and gore.
I remember long-ago nights when, accompanied by my siblings and friends, I walked through the streets of our neighborhood, dressed in an outlandish fashion and carrying a plastic jack-o-lantern. There were usually a few parents along for the trip, but we didn’t fear the night, because surely our large contingent of monsters could handle any truly scary denizens of the dark.
I remember the excitement I felt as a child as I chose a new identity, a new persona I would become, if only for one night. Simply by putting on different clothes, a mask, a wig or a hat, my mind was free to imagine, and I took advantage of the situation to act, to pretend, to become someone new.
Once our baskets were full and we had paid homage to every last house in sight that displayed a lit front porch light, it was time to return home, where our bounty could be inspected before we secreted it away, and removed our costumes and wigs, ready to be ourselves again.
It’s October, and as I wander the aisles of my favorite stores, the displays of colorful seasonal merchandise take me back to those treasured memories of my childhood. I’m not talking about the bountiful Christmas decorations that are often exhibited side-by-side with the other stuff, but rather those items strictly designed especially for the period that begins with the start of autumn and that we are usually ready to store, or dispose of, by Thanksgiving at the latest.
Halloween has always been one of my favorite times of the year, from the neighborhood camaraderie generated by the descending hordes of costumed children seeking sugar, to the imaginative and eye-catching displays some of our neighbors create to entertain, and to scare.
Halloween is one of the few excuses we adults get when it is socially acceptable (aside from Comic-con or Renaissance Fairs) for children and children at heart of all ages to become someone else for a little while. One simply needs to don a mask, and live out a fantasy. Pick up a wand or sword, and become a new character. Put on a costume, and revisit childhood and the world of let’s pretend.
Who would you choose to be if you could become someone else, temporarily? Would you choose to be your favorite character from a book, movie or television show? Would you choose an archetypal character like a generic vampire or pirate? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to wander around or simply answer the door as a zombie, a werewolf, or a fairy godmother?
Let’s take this occasion to fantasize, to remember, to return to when life was filled with the joy of imagination. If you have the opportunity to attend a work or community event where you can dress up for a night, why not take advantage? Remember for a little while the joy that comes from such a freeing activity.
If you have children you can take door to door, or through the local mall for trick or treating, consider coordinating costumes with them. I have seen some really cute theme costumes in the past, where every member of a family became a character from The Wizard of Oz, or Star Wars, or Marvel.
Take pleasure in using your imagination. Even if you don’t go out, you always can dress up to hand out candy this year. You may find that you enjoy the thrill your guests get from seeing you as you answer the door. Whatever you choose to do this year, have fun. After all, that’s what Halloween is really all about.
Fall officially begins at the end of this week, but I’ve been gearing up for it for some time. For those who follow my blog, I’ve already written a couple of posts this month related to my favorite season, with hopefully more to come. Today, as I start planning the decorations I’ll be putting up over the next few weeks (Do I really want an entire cemetery on the front lawn this year?) I began thinking about one of my personal favorite monsters-the vampire.
What is it about these creatures of the night that is so fascinating? The myths that surround vampires are hardly new, but because of new additions to literature and Hollywood, their lore is continually being renewed by modern culture. There are even societies devoted to vampires, where members dress and act as if they are members of the undread.
Vampires are enormously popular, thanks to television shows- Vampire Diaries (Netflix), The Originals (CW), True Blood (HBO), as well as recently popular movie series- Underworld, Blade and Twilight, to name a few. Of course, books about vampires can be found by the dozens and hundreds in any seller or online retailer, from authors such as Charlaine Harris, Anne Rice, and the one who started who launched the cult following, Bram Stoker.
But why do we love vampires? Here’s a few of the top reasons:
Vampires have longevity. The stories and legends of vampires existed long before Bram Stoker penned his epic novel, or before Hollywood first introduced Dracula to the masses.
Vampires are mysterious. No matter the version of the story, all vampires have secretive pasts and hidden existences that leave an audience wanting to know more about them.
Vampires are often seen as romantic characters. Whether they are seductive fiends that come into a woman’s bedroom at night, or brooding teens that shy away from their bloodthirsty nature, we can’t help but be drawn to them.
Vampires are powerful. They have superhuman strength and speed. In some versions of the story, they can turn into bats or wolves, and have the ability to take control over a human’s mind.
Vampires often have a duality of nature. Vampires can be both scary and attractive. We are captivated by them; while at the same time we fear them. They appear to be human, right up till the moment they give in to the urge to feed-on us.
Vampires have history. Many stories include vampires that have been around a century or a few, that have seen mankind’s many triumphs and missteps, and have acquired a great deal of wisdom from their extended lifespans.
Vampires represent eternal youth, beauty, and immortality. They are often portrayed as being attractive, appearing young, and of course, they live forever, or until they see the sunrise or someone stakes them.
Vampires are outsiders. Many of us can identify with characters that exist on the fringes of society, which are often portrayed as being solitary, as loners.
Vampires are the ultimate bad boys. They live outside the rules of society, because they must kill to live, or at least steal blood from a bank or animals.
Vampires are monsters, even if they appear human. We can’t help being fascinated by the idea that something out there considers us prey, which makes us vulnerable. After all, horror stories in general have widespread appeal.
When you have some downtime this week, why not dust off that vampire novel you’ve been meaning to read, or download your vampire movie about those creatures of the night? After all, with fall right around the corner it’s the perfect time to feed a monster obsession.
September in the Midwest brings with it a relief from the humidity and a slight drop in temperatures as we meander ever-closer to the beginning of autumn. This gentle change in the weather is the perfect backdrop for a number of activities especially suited to the harvest season. Here are just a few ideas of ways to spend quality time in the great outdoors with your loved ones this time of year.
Sunny fall afternoons offer the perfect excuse to breathe in the crisp air and enjoy some lawn games with your family. Bring out a ball to toss or kick around, or play an old-fashioned game of tag. Outdoor games such as cornhole, which involves aiming beanbags through a wooden target, are a good choice that can appeal to all ages and skill levels. Take time to appreciate the colorful foliage, by letting little ones collect pretty leaves, and perhaps joining them in jumping in a pile.
Chilly autumn nights are the perfect time to utilize that fire pit on the deck or in the backyard. Settle down with your loves ones for an evening of s’mores and sharing your favorite ghost story. Many communities will host bonfires in the fall, often in celebration of back-to-school or in support of a local sporting event. Check local listings for events, and don’t forget to pack lawn chairs. A blanket may come in handy as the temperature drops, too.
Feed your artistic side by carving a pumpkin. While this can be done indoors, it’s often easier to move outside, especially with younger helpers participating! Pick up pumpkins at a local grocery, nursery, or farm, and use your imagination. Kitchen knives work well but specialty carving kits are easy to find, as are carving tips and designs in magazines and online sources such as Pinterest.
If you want to make a pumpkin creation that will last beyond the season, faux pumpkins make of foam, cardboard, and wood are available from your local craft store, and can be decorated with carving tools, paint, and any type of decoration you desire.
Visit a nearby farm. Check directory listings for rural venues that offer special seasonal events. Many of these destinations will feature attractions tailored for families, such as hayrides and corn mazes. Spend an afternoon picking apples, selecting a pumpkin straight from the patch, or wandering through displays of colorful fall flowers. As the sun goes down, warm up with a mug of hot apple cider or cocoa, before you carry your bounty home.
The varieties of activities that are available to make the most of nature and the harvest season are as unlimited as the autumnal colors surrounding us. I hope you can take time to breathe in the cool air, smell the falling leaves, and spend some precious time with your loved ones today.
September has arrived, and while the temperatures here are still in the nineties mid-day, school is officially back in session and everywhere I turn, I’m beginning to see signs of the impending autumn season.
I don’t just mean the planter full of mums I just put out front, either. A visit to nearby Target or Meijer will showcase a clearance rack of back-to-school needs, alongside half-stocked display shelves full of costumes, decorations, and knickknacks styled for the upcoming fall, and sometimes winter seasons. The local gardening stores have begun to carry planters filled with seasonal foliage, and grocery stores are already stocking decorative pumpkins in the produce aisle.
I ask you, is it too early to decorate for fall? Is it too soon to pull out the orange candles, the colorful silk leaves and plastic spiders? Is it time yet to think about Halloween costumes, and where to hide the candy so it actually survives long enough to be handed out to trick-or-treaters?
I tend to go a little overboard when it comes to fall. The drop in temperatures invigorates me, and I absolutely love the colors, the smells, and the foods of the season. As my family can attest, this is hardly a new phenomenon for me. I’ve had the habit since I was a child, and I shared the love with my own kids, to the point we have nearly as many boxes of decorations and paraphernalia for fall and Halloween as we do for Christmas.
To me Halloween has always symbolized a freedom of expression- the one time of year (other than Comic-con or Renaissance Fairs) when it’s socially acceptable to become someone else, for just a little while. It’s okay to live a fantasy, to act out a favorite character, to revisit the childhood joy of make-believe and imaginative play. That’s why I tend to dress up, even if I’m just handing out candy, because why should the kids have all the fun?
So while I’m going about my daily tasks, I’m also planning the display we’ll set up this year, the costumes I need to get or make, and estimating how much candy to buy. I’ll be digging through my recipes to make my special pumpkin coffee cake, and choosing between recipes for pecan pie. Of course, once fall officially arrives later this month, I’ll have planning for Thanksgiving to do, too, and then the winter holidays. The next few months are going to be busy!
The summer heat has been slightly less oppressive in the last week, as August winds down and we realize autumn is right around the corner. While there are still tomatoes growing on the vine and my petunias haven’t yet bloomed their last, many of us are already consumed with thoughts of back-to-school time. Soon we’ll be dealing with a barrage of colorful leaves covering the lawn, and looking forward to tailgate parties and bonfires.
First, though, summer has one last hurrah in the coming weeks- Labor Day is almost here. For many of us, this national holiday, a tribute to the labor unions and the American worker, means a rest day off from work, a time to spend with family, a last chance to visit an amusement park or the lake before the end of the season.
This year the holiday falls on September 3rd, and all over the country people will be breaking out corn hole boards and s’mores supplies, packing up the RV or the four-wheelers, and setting out to enjoy one last weekend of summertime fun.
For myself, my family will most likely stay home this year, but that doesn’t mean we won’t celebrate. I’ve already started going through recipes and deciding the menu for our cookout. Which of our favorites have I used this year, and which will be the best to cap off this summer?
Burgers, brats, or something more exotic? I’ll have to poll the guests, and check what’s on sale this week.
Potato salad? Done it, but it’s always worth repeating.
Fried green tomatoes? Done that a couple of times too, so put that on the maybe list.
Homemade cherry pie with homemade filling? I haven’t actually made that this year, so this might be the time, while the cherries are still in season. Or maybe peach cobbler would be better? Decisions, decisions.
I’ve got some time to work on the menu. After all, the most important part of the day is not the food, or the activities, or even the location, but the time spent together. Labor Day, and any holiday really, is first and foremost a time for families to reconnect. Everything else is really secondary as we visit, relax, and let the stress of jobs and outside activities melt away.
I hope however you spend your holiday you enjoy yourself, and have the opportunity for some quality time with those you love.
One of the hardest parts about being a parent is when their children move out and begin a life of their own. Whether their kids are going away to college, beginning a career in another city or state, or simply settling into a new home with a significant other all parents face a sense of loss. They can sometimes feel like they are no longer needed or as important in their children’s lives.
It’s okay to be sad when the kids leave the nest, but life doesn’t actually stop for mom or dad just they suddenly have a different role in the lives of their offspring. There are ways to cope with the change in your relationship, and many things to look forward to ahead.
Take care of yourself first. If you feel depressed or overwhelmed by becoming an empty nester, talk to someone. Whether you have a significant other to turn to, or you confide in a friend, or even seek professional help, it really does make a difference to know you’re not alone in this. Your kids are starting a new chapter in their lives, and so should you. The feelings of loss should ease as you settle into your new norm and your new relationship with your children.
Your relationship is changing, but your kids will always be yours. The worry and the concern will remain, even when they’re out of the house and if you don’t see them as often. They will always be a part of your lives and in your hearts and minds. Keep in touch however you can-whether you call, text, skype, or email. You can always visit, or have them visit you. If you live close enough schedule regular family dinners, either at home or a restaurant. Let them know that it’s still okay to turn to you when they need a sounding board, or advice. You can offer to help them with big “adult” things, like shopping for a car and decorating a new home.
Your future is in your hands. Just because your children don’t live at home anymore doesn’t mean your life is over. Take advantage of your situation to try new things. Make plans to travel somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, but couldn’t manage before because of schedules or budget. Find a new hobby you can share with your spouse, or take a course at a local college. Join a book club. Volunteer. Spend time planning how you will spoil any future grandkids.
Having your children grow up can be harder on the parents than it is for the kids. Remember how big a wreck you were on their first day of school. Hey, you survived that, right? You’ll get through this too. Just hang in there.