Tag Archives: Halloween

And Thanksgiving Suddenly Arrives on Halloween

Halloween masks

Some of the Halloween masks made in a reality TV exercise by students in one of my MMU classes. The one with the balloon was judged the winner.

I could be writing about the weather—we’ve had a consecutive string of nights well below freezing, so-called “hard” freezes that would be the end of mosquito season except they aren’t the first we’ve had.

But, truly, that’s pretty normal for this time of year. So the weather feeling like Nov. 1 right before All Saints Day just is not a huge shock to the system.

No, I mean I’m inordinately pleased, almost euphoric this morning because burdens have been suddenly and unexpectedly shifted into my future. It’s paradise in procrastination land—thanksgiving for the delayers.

I was feeling bad Tuesday because I had a meeting set late in the afternoon with my boss about a major at MMU, and little known to her, I’m supposed to have written a proposal to revamp said major that was to be the topic of our meeting. Yesterday, before the meeting, I was scrambling around trying to find my notes from consultations with other faculty members, and I can’t locate them. So I was expecting a somewhat awkward and vague meeting, full of empty promises to “get right on that,” when in fact I had already been on that and already dropped the ball.

But, it turns out the meeting is next Tuesday. Well, poke me with a fork and call me meatloaf. Hip, hip, hooray! I still have to find those notes and write that darn proposal, just not right this second.

I was in a good mood when I went to bell choir rehearsal, and something odd is happening there that continued to happen yesterday. I cant’ say why. I struggle a lot in the bell choir, and I feel bad sometimes that I’m holding everyone back. I’m definitely the most non-musical person in the room. We were going to play a new song, and the director said something like “we may eliminate the 16th notes,” and I was probably the only person in the choir wondering: What the heck does a 16th note even look like? And what sadist would call for a note that lasts for a quarter beat, a time interval so short you can’t even chew a bite of pizza once (that’s my musical time interval—an eight note is one quick chew). I’ve heard legends of these things called 16th notes, but no, I don’t want to try to play one and I want to protect my virgin eyes from ever seeing that abomination.


Boo! Spooky, right? I am going to play all of these bells, yes I will. Wish me luck. These are the bells I will ring for my Christmas solo.

Anyway, what’s odd? I feel like I’m doing slightly better than usual this fall. I’m actually reading the music and following along. I still get lost, still slow people down, but not as often as usual. I’m even going to play a solo song at an upcoming Christmas concert (blog fans, it’s Dec. 16 at 2 p.m. in the Memorial Chapel at Cedar Memorial—the big cemetery in town—yes, it’s true, they hold a big Christmas concert in a cemetery chapel, trust me, it’s fun). That means I’ll be ringing something on the order of 8 notes, not 2, my usual trick. And, we’ll see—but with practice, I’m sure I can do it. Slowly, ever so slowly, music is becoming less mysterious to me.

Well, they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I say they lie. And, according to an episode of “Myth Busters,” by the way, that adage about canines is totally libelous to old dogs. According to their tests, old dogs take pretty much exactly the same amount of time to learn new tricks as young dogs do. So there.

I voted

Yes I did on Tuesday, one week before Election Day. Done.

Anyway, despite being stressed and tired, my normal state during musical practices, I would say bells went well, as they have in recent weeks. Knock on wood, I don’t want to jinx myself, but there you have it—after about 3 years, I finally am staring to feel like I can actually play two notes. So after practice, I pedaled home in the dark, and when I met my lovely spouse, her first words were: “Want to go and vote?”

My first reaction was “no,” because I’m old-fashioned and vote on Election Day. But that’s only a week away and there is no chance in Hades that I’m changing my mind now. Audrey had gotten a call about a satellite voting station in our neighborhood, and what the heck?

So, I cast my ballot. If Romney wins, and the zombie apocalypse results, you don’t have me to blame. We then went to a restaurant for supper, and I had a steak. I don’t often eat steak, but I fairly often crave steak, and there was a delicious bloody dead cow on my plate.

I was not looking forward to today. It’s Halloween. Don’t get your knickers in a twist, I love candy, don’t mind giving it away, and am not one of those people who are confused about the meaning of Halloween and think it’s tied into devil worship and paganism an all that. For crying out loud, most Christian holidays, including Christmas, have pagan origins and we should just get over it and eat our Twix bars. Anyway, what I don’t like about Halloween is that Iowa College Media Association student newspaper contest entries are due that day, and that usually means I am on campus all weekend before getting them ready.

Except I was not this year, which meant that Halloween itself, today, was going to be devoted to searching through old newspapers with the kind of peculiar self-loathing that comes upon a newspaper advisor as he searches for something good in the past year’s worth of papers: Where is it? (Times kids, don’t take this as an indictment of you or your efforts, I think any communicator with experience will understand the melancholy of going through past efforts and wishing everything had turned out better, newer, faster, shinier—but mostly, just better. Trust me, it’s not you, it’s me.)

So I go into my e-mail, and I search for ICMA, and there is the message from the Iowa Newspaper Association with the rules. Sigh. Then I look at the rules.

Hold the phone, bar the door, break out the Champaign and drink a toast to yet one more last-minute reprieve. There I am, strapped in the chair, the guard is about to administer the juice, when suddenly in the ta-da nick of time, the governor calls.

The rules have been changed. The deadline this year is no long the day of ghouls—it’s Nov. 15.

Angels, descend, singing, playing handbells (Good King Wenceslaus, in case you wondered).

Even without a Reese’s (always and still my favorite on Halloween, but I’ll take that sweet candy corn, too) the day is looking up. I’ve already voted, I’ve eaten a steak, I have a few more days to write my major revamp and I have two weekends to put off my ICMA entries.



And to top it off, just as I was polishing off this blog post, I hear Dr. Dennis, the psycho professor next door, saying “maybe Joe would like the last one.” No need to wonder, of course he would. Thank you, Dennis, and thank you anonymous psychology student who made a good Halloween even better.



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Things That Go Bump in the Night …

Devil pumpkin

My Jack-o-lantern this year, a devilish pumpkin for a not-so-devilish day. I'm not worshiping Satan. I'm mocking him and turning him into a joke. The horns and ears, by the way, are tubers from the planters that Audrey's sister Paula gave us. Emptied and stored them today, and thought these were too good not to use with my pumpkin.

Tis the season of spooks and goblins. Time to list and face our primordial fears.

I’ve not always been “big” on Halloween. Sure, I enjoyed it as a kid. I was not one of those hoarders, stretch out for weeks kinds of kids—I was always a dump it out and stuff it in as fast as possible kind of guy. And chocolate and I have always been friends, so Halloween was an enjoyable evening, until the sugar crash came.

But, that was post trick or treating. Pre would often cause some anxiety. My mother was not a great planner, and we didn’t do anything to get costumes ready pre Halloween, so whatever I went out as was pretty spontaneous.

Still, I don’t mind home-made costumes, particularly in this artificial, everything comes prepackaged day and age. Like a home cooked meal, a “constructed” Halloween costume can be really good. Little Lizzie is going to be uber-cute—won’t say as what, but Amanda made it and it is sweet.

Dorothy. Were many Dorothys at Halloween on the Hill at MMU, but I think this was the cutest.

Nikayla and Tristan were part of a family plan this Halloween, a Wizard of Oz theme, which is a cute idea. Course, you can take cute too far.  There was one year that Audrey, all of the kids and I dressed up as a family of rabbits. Halloween was Saturday that year and we went to Saturday night Mass. In costume. Since we had six kids, it was a slightly racy reference, one that our oldest daughter, to her shame, could understand. She survived the trauma, however.

Anyway, I wasn’t planning to write a trip down memory lane. When I wrote the headline, my conception of this blog post was to list things that I think are scary. So there goes, Joe’s fear list for Halloween 2010:

  • Sarah Palin. Not a shock, I’m sure, but even Karl Rove says this potential President wanna be is not ready for prime time. He says she “lacks gravitas.” This from a man who masterminded the rise of one of America’s lightest presidents. A man in the junior Bush league thinks Palin lacks “gravitas?” That’s like Lady Gaga rejecting a politician for low public morals. I know, I’ve written before of my love for Sarah and shouldn’t waste more time on her—and it’s not really she who frightens me. It’s that she has millions of followers and is a potent political voice. Boo! Scary.
  • Gretchen Jones. Is it only women that I am scared of? I don’t’ think so, but another feminine name makes the list. To be fair, I’m not a Gretchen hater—I was not surprised that she made it to the finale of Project Runway. It’s not really Gretchen at all that’s scary. It’s that Mondo didn’t win. Really? The only designer whose clothes looked impossibly weird but well done at the same time? The granola designer beats Mr. Plaid and Polka Dots but somehow it still works? What is really scary is that Heidi backed down in the face of Michael Kors. Come on girl. You were right all along. (To my credit, I think, I wrote this paragraph before reading what the far hipper voices at Project Rungay had to say about the finale).
  • Horses. Sorry, Andria Pooley. Horses are big, they poop a lot, people wear hideous clothes around them and they are freaky mammals that should never come close to me. Would I be brave enough to try to ride one? Possibly. But for some reason, horses are like clowns. I know there are people who like clowns. I just don’t happen to be one. Horses are on my fear list.
  • Tristan as an adorable Toto, making friends at MMU.

    Bedbugs. They’ve been crawling all over me and biting me senseless. Fortunately, it’s all in my imagination—I have never seen an actual bed bug. But, I’m more afraid of bed bugs than terrorism. I’m not sure whether terrorists are really on the way. But, I’m close to being ready to panic and bring back DDT and kill all the eagles if the bed bugs can be kept away. (Not really, I’m speaking with more than a little hyperbole. But I am scared of bed bugs.)

  • Tans. We had HyVee Chinese tonight for supper, and the sweet young lady who rang up our purchase had a bronze glow about her. A glow that says “I visit the tanning salon so often that I set off Geiger counters.” I don’t know why or how a deep and deeply disturbing tan became the fashion among certain young ladies—particularly fair-haired young ladies who have skin that should best avoid UV rays—but they scare me. I have seen too many old people with skin that looks like bronzed alligator hide. Please, young women. A deep tan in Iowa in October says you’re working way too hard to be attractive. And, speaking for me, it’s not working. Relax a little. A pale skin never hurt anyone. But tans surely have. Scary.
  • Election day. It’s coming like a train on a greased track, and it feels like it will be a good night for Republicans. As a former Republican who occasionally has voted in the R column, that shouldn’t be so bad. But since the 1980s the GOP has moved so far to the right that it’s fallen in the hands of boobs and idiots who think Sarah Palin would make a good President. Or that George Bush would. I’ve slowly evolved into a an old curmudgeon Democrat—but I don’t think it’s all my fault. Where are the Gerald Fords or Robert Rays—moderate Republicans who act as if they can read and sometimes do? I don’t like being a straight party voter—the Democrats have some bad tendencies and we need a palatable alternative to counterbalance those bad tendencies. But, that alternative is not the modern GOP, which seems incapable of producing people who seem like they can govern. And yet, they’ll win back the House and maybe the Senate. Whatever Obama is going to accomplish, he probably already has. Yes, to me, it is frightening. Voting Republican in this era requires a deep sense of amnesia and a frightening narrow mindedness, and yet it’s the direction the political wind is blowing. Scary.
  • Taylor Swift. She doesn’t scare me personally, as far as I’ve paid any attention to her at all she doesn’t seem to be a particularly nasty young lady, certainly she is pretty sane compared to most of her contemporaries who are celebrities. It’s her singing that scares me. That love song about Romeo and Juliet? Didn’t they both commit suicide in the play? “It’s a love story,” but it doesn’t end with daddy saying go get a white dress. The characters in her songs seem trite and cliché—the band geek pines for a football star who dates a cheerleader. Sigh. I like many girl singers. I have a secret admiration for Katy Perry—no, not the “teen dream” sexy Katy Perry. But the sometimes offbeat, funny, “Waking Up in Vegas” or sings with Elmo Katy Perry. There’s a Pink picture in the MMU Times newsroom which was given to me by my daughter Theresa as a joke, but I really do like most Pink songs. One of may favorite singers of all time, however, is Sheryl Crow.  She uses her own life experience and vocal talents in songs that seems genuine and sound great.  But Taylor? Yikes. A slightly cleaner Miley Cyrus, and no, I don’t like Miley, either. Scary.
  • Blood. Especially my own, but other people’s, or animal’s, too. Don’t want to see it, don’t want to think about it, don’t want to talk about it. My most embarrassing high school moment was a 100+ student large format biology lecture when I was a sophomore. Sat in the front row (I was a straight A student in high school) and passed right out, plop onto the floor, during a lecture on coagulation. Not a dignified moment. (By the way, I am a fairly regular Red Cross blood donor. My own personal fears aren’t enough of an excuse.) I do not watch horror movies and didn’t enjoy “Sweeney Todd.” Blood=Scary.
  • People who hate Halloween. Particularly for rather lame semi-religious reasons. It’s a kids’ holiday, and it’s not that serious. It’s not a glorification of evil or the devil’s playground. Honestly, I think one reason a certain brand of conservative Christian hates Halloween is due to its Catholic roots as the evening before a very Catholic holy day. It’s called “Halloween” because it’s a corruption of “All Hallow’s Eve,” the day before what we now call “All Saints Day.” But, some Bible thumper will now point out, but it has Pagan origins. True, I agree. Yet, so does Christmas. We Christians rather conveniently co-oped something close to the Solstice festival to celebrate the birth of Christ, but really we don’t know what day Jesus was born and Dec. 25 is a date of convenience. Why does co-oping one Pagan day go without comment and the other raise so many hackles? Yes, there are aspects of Halloween that I can understand many not liking. It’s become too raunchy and too adult in our culture, and there are people of alternative belief structures who celebrate the original Pagan roots of Halloween more than the Catholic ones. So what? Don’t want to celebrate Halloween? Find by me, it’s a free country. Think that those who celebrate Halloween are promoting Satan? Bah, humbug. That’s scary.

Audrey's Jack-o-lantern. More traditional than mine, but there's something to be said for tradition. My potatoes won't shown when the candles are lit, and her's will look fine.


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