Category Archives: personal

Finding the Plan Me in Retirement

Song Lyric of the Day:

I might fear I go and my heart is white / And we race right out on the desert plains all night / So honey I am now, some broken thing / I do not lay in the dark waiting for day here / Now my heart is gold, my feet are right / And I’m racing out on the desert plains all night

Phosphorescent / “Song for Zula

Last year, amid all the fun of the pandemic lockdown, I went through a major life change: I retired. Retired from Discovery, anyway. I got an offer that was too good to refuse, and after countless discussions with the spouse, he encouraged me to go for it. So I’ve now officially been retired since November 6, 2020.

It wasn’t the easiest decision to make, and certainly not during a pandemic. But after almost 14 1/2 years with the company (née Scripps), this opportunity was the chance to make a leap I’ve been too scared — and far too comfortable — to make on my own. To say Discovery spoiled me is an understatement; I loved working there and can’t rule out going back someday. I mean, where else can I get Brady Bunch swag and play with puppies every spring? Not to mention the flexibility of working from home one day a week, and when needed due to illness, whether mine or the kids’, school cancellations, etc. I really loved and will miss the perks of working there. But mostly I miss my boss, work team, and my friends. And because of the pandemic, we didn’t even get to say goodbye in person, which was hard and probably why it didn’t *quite* feel like I’d separated from the company. Also, having worked from home since March didn’t help — there wasn’t a physical change of scenery, as it were. I went from working from home to not working from home. At least my wardrobe stayed the same.

I’ve never not worked. I’ve worked steadily since I was 16. So the first few days of retirement were weird. Rich would laugh at me since it was obvious I had NO idea what to do with myself. I found my footing pretty quickly, though, and am in a good routine now. I switch off with Rich in taking Sebastian to and picking him up from preschool. I run errands I used to only be able to do on weekends. I cook a LOT more. I enjoy daily lunches with Coraline; we’re currently bingeing Leverage. I’ve taken over most of our AirBNB management. I work on home improvement projects. I’ve started writing a lot more. And I never, ever, miss my morning nap with Capone.

Now that I have the gift of time, the list of things I want to get done and learn grows every day. My (now former) colleague Sandi coined the term Plan Me, and that’s exactly what I’ve started outlining in a journal. I want to learn how to edit videos, finish tracing my family tree, earn money from my photography, read ALL THE BOOKS, start new house projects, finish writing at least one of my novels, find freelance writing and editing jobs, and do so much more. The list grows by the day.

Here’s to the next chapter.

Discovery exterior

Discovery sign

Cube nameplate

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Looking Forward

Song Lyric of the Day:

Everything you need could be right in front of you / It doesn’t take much to see what is true / They say we are going to die if we go on like this / Who do you believe? Every story has a twist / Take a look around, tell me what you see / People in the world just trying to be free

Donavon Frankenreiter / “Love, Life & Laughter

Today is a good day four years in the making. Here’s hoping the next four years are much better — for all of us. Happy Inauguration Day to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

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The Last Sunday Sermon

“Secondly, we are challenged to eradicate the last vestiges of racial injustice from our nation. I must say this morning that racial injustice is still the black man’s burden and the white man’s shame. It is an unhappy truth that racism is a way of life for the vast majority of white Americans, spoken and unspoken, acknowledged and denied, subtle and sometimes not so subtle—the disease of racism permeates and poisons a whole body politic. And I can see nothing more urgent than for America to work passionately and unrelentingly—to get rid of the disease of racism.

Something positive must be done. Everyone must share in the guilt as individuals and as institutions. The government must certainly share the guilt; individuals must share the guilt; even the church must share the guilt.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr., March 31, 1968

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The Current Normal

Song Lyric of the Day:

I had a premonition that we fell into a rhythm / Where the music don’t stop for life / Glitter in the sky, glitter in my eyes / Shining just the way I like / If you’re feeling like you need a little bit of company / You met me at the perfect time

Dua Lipa / “Levitating

How are you holding up during this never-ending pandemic? I like to think I’m OK most days, but then other days I want to scream. I’m sleeping horribly. I miss seeing family and friends. I miss the freedom to just go out whenever — and to wherever — I want, sans mask. I miss going to see movies in a theater. I miss my daughter being in school with her friends. I miss life in general as it was pre-pandemic.

I’ve taken to reminding myself that we are not in a new normal, we’re in a current normal. Wearing masks won’t last forever, although it feels like it will. Not being able to see family and friends whenever we want won’t last forever, although it feels like it will. Working from home won’t last forever, although it should (seriously — I never want to work full-time in an office again). Not being able to go to a restaurant or bar won’t last forever, although it feels like it will. And I refuse to believe movie theaters won’t survive this. Watching the disappointing Wonder Woman 84 at home convinced me of that. (Thank God Soul was so good. It made up for WW84. Freaky was also a fun, gory watch.)

I’m not one of those people who took up 30 new hobbies and started a garden while hand-sewing my kids’ clothes and making my own soap throughout lockdown. I’ve done the bare minimum: I’ve survived. I’ve worked. I’ve dropped off Sebastian at preschool. I’ve walked Coraline to virtual school, aka our dining room, every morning; I still eat lunch with her almost every day, save for when she chooses Minecraft over me. I’ve cooked more meals than I normally would (if I wouldn’t go bankrupt and die of heart disease, I’d get takeout a lot more). I’ve remembered to put on deodorant every morning and do not stay in my pajamas all day, although I am now comfortable wearing yoga pants to preschool dropoff and pickup. I gained nine pounds. I admitted to myself that I’m too cheap to buy new clothes, so I then started using our treadmill regularly and taking Capone on walks, as well as eating more keto meals, and lost 10 pounds. I’ve journaled every single day since I started on January 1, 2020. I’m trying to read more; having a house full of books and a library close by certainly help. I’ve enjoyed the extra time with my kids.

Mostly, though, I remind myself that this is NOT our new normal. I have no idea when this pandemic lockdown will end, but I know it will end someday. I know that whenever it does end, I won’t ever take boring, routine, everyday things for granted again. Lesson learned.

Happy Capone

Capone loves his current normal.

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Song Lyric of the Day:

Homegrown alligator, see you later / Gotta hit the road, gotta hit the road / The sun it changed in the atmosphere / Architecture unfamiliar / I can get used to this

George Ezra / “Shotgun

I haven’t traveled a lot the last few years. And you can guess how little I traveled in 2020. My last major trips were New Zealand and Toronto, Ontario, in 2014, Disney World in January 2018, and Toronto again in September 2019. Other than that, over the last few years we’ve visited my sister’s family in Huntsville, Alabama, and traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to visit close friends, and taken two trips to the beach. These days I fantasize about traveling, because OH MY GOD WE CAN’T GO ANYWHERE DURING THIS PANDEMIC. I’d love to plan a vacation for the family for sometime this year, but things are still so uncertain there’s really no point in planning anything.

I’ve been fortunate to have traveled a lot overall in my life, though. Way back in (year redacted), when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, my mom scrimped and saved to send me on a French-class trip to Europe. Over the course of 16 days, we visited Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, and England, in that order. I dream of being able to send Coraline and Sebastian on a trip like that someday, and I’m forever grateful to my mom for working so hard to make sure I could go. I was able to repay her in kind, to a degree, when my sister and I won a contest just by answering trivia questions over the phone related to our VHS rental of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. We received a letter saying we’d won a prize and included paperwork to sign and return, so I was thrilled at the thought of winning a T-shirt or — a kid could dream — our very own VHS copy of the movie. (Yes, I’m old.) The next letter we received, however, informed us that we’d won a 7-day, 6-night trip for two to Paris, France. I remember reading it out loud and my mom screaming so loud I thought she’d just killed my dog, Spot, by way of a heart attack. Being that my sister and I were both minors, I couldn’t chaperone my sister around (sorry again, Sam!), but our mom could chaperone me around. The trip was a whirlwind (which my sister still hasn’t forgiven me for; did I mention I’m sorry?), which included us visiting Versailles, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, the Catacombs, and me vomiting on the Eiffel Tower. I’m not afraid of heights, so I think something I ate hit at a very unfortunate time. Again, my apologies to Paris.

Growing up, my family and I would visit relatives in New York City, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Puerto Rico; that last one was very infrequent since flights cost a fortune we couldn’t afford. When we got married, Rich and I took a 7-day honeymoon cruise throughout the Caribbean, including a day trip to Aruba that started out with a horrible beach, but ended with us at a much nicer one. He and I enjoyed a trip to Uruguay with a couple of close friends a few years later, and we made a few visits to New York City over the years, too.

When Coraline was almost one, we took her to visit family in Iowa. A few years ago, we traveled to Denver, Colorado, for her godmother’s wedding. Since Sebastian was born, our only trips as a family of four have been to Columbus and Huntsville.

The itch to travel isn’t due to a fear of missing out, though (I loathe the acronym FOMO), but, frankly, boredom. I work and spend time with my family, which is all well and good, but a change of scenery would be nice, especially these days. We enjoyed a taste of it with our trip to Disney World in 2018, although we did leave Sebastian with my sister and her family that week, because he doesn’t travel well and does horribly once off schedule; he still does, actually. The joke was on us, though, since a huge cold front hit while we were there, so we were grateful he was back in Alabama and not being dragged around in cold weather or holed up in a hotel room. (I was layered in four tops and two pairs of pants every day except our last day there.)

My trip to Toronto in 2019 was the first time Rich was alone with both kids. Ever. He had to travel internationally when Sebastian was a few weeks old, so by now Coraline, Sebastian, and I have it down pat when Rich is away, whether it’s for two days or two weeks. I admit, though, when I thought of Rich being left in charge, I thought of the house at the end of Poltergeist — you know, when it self-destructs. Problems with my control-freak tendencies, I know, although Coraline was excited at the thought of helping to run the house in my absence. Seriously — that kid knows everything about what goes on in the house. And of course, Rich handled everything splendidly while I was away. Although Sebastian has ordered me to never leave them again. Fingers crossed we’ll get to go on an adventure together someday in the near future.


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That Escalated Quickly

Song Lyric of the Day:

Where are You now / When darkness seems to win? / Where are You now / When the world is crumbling?

Lauren Daigle / “Look Up Child

So that was a year, huh? Last year  was so weirdly awful/awfully weird that it turned out my New Year’s non-resolution post was the one and only time I managed (bothered) to update. (Also, I’m still sticking to the non-resolution thing. It’s very freeing.) Of course, given that we went into pandemic lockdown in mid-March, it’s not like I had a lot of interesting stuff going on. Ergo, nothing much to write home (here) about.

Granted, lockdown could have been a lot worse. Rich and I were fortunate — and incredibly grateful — to still have full-time jobs. He’s been working from home full-time for his company for a while now, so he was already used to it. My last day in the office ending up being Tuesday March 10. I worked from home Wednesday, my usual day, then ended up working from home again on Thursday because Sebastian was sick. That afternoon work sent out an email that our work-from-home experiment on Friday would actually be an indefinite work-from-home period. And that was it. Our office remained closed the rest of the year. We got to go in and empty out our cubicles as part of a “clean cube” initiative, so that was a bit surreal. On my assigned day and time at the end of September, I was the only person in the wing where my cubicle was. It took me exactly one hour to pack 14 1/2 years’ worth of mementos, paperwork, and photos into two boxes, so I didn’t even get to say hi or bye to anyone. It actually ended up being more depressing than surreal.

Since everything was going into lockdown when Coraline’s spring break rolled around, we didn’t go to our cabin as planned. The Saturday at the end of spring break, though, we went out and enjoyed a day at Cades Cove. Nature put on quite a show for us that day, as if in anticipation of us not going anywhere again for the foreseeable future: We saw bears, deer, eagles, and even red wolves on that trip, the most animals we’ve ever seen there. It was glorious. The next month Rich and I celebrated our 20th(!) wedding anniversary with a homemade meal of fried chicken, one of my specialties.

We took (and continue to take) lockdown seriously, wearing masks when we ventured out for groceries and the occasional takeout order. We’re lucky that we were able to space out in our house, although when Sebastian is home I’m never truly alone. That boy is like a bloodhound — if I’m home, he’ll find me. We had a lonnnnng few weeks when preschool shut down to all but the children of essential workers. Sebastian needs structure and routine, and we couldn’t give him exactly what he needed as we were both still working full-time. It was a huge relief — for all of us — when he got to go back when preschool reopened to the rest of the kids about three weeks later. Of course, most parents were hesitant or unable to take their kids back, so Sebastian ended up being one of a handful of kids there for the next few months. We had complete confidence in how well the school was cleaning rooms and items, and they enforced the mask mandate for all adults. So we felt he was safe returning. Thankfully, he and all his little friends have remained healthy throughout. I’ve only heard of two parents having or being exposed to COVID since they reopened, and neither was related to any of the kids in Sebastian’s classroom.

I finally slid into a major depression in late July. We made the hard decision to have Coraline attend school virtually starting in August and a friend was diagnosed with cancer. Those events compounded everything else and, as a result, I turned into a weepy mess for a while. Everything felt horrible and hopeless, and not being able to see family or friends like I normally would have been able to didn’t help. Luckily I came out of my depression in a few weeks. That was … not a good time for me, though. Obviously.

In October we cracked: We decided to go to the beach for Coraline’s fall break. We rented an Airbnb so we had a house all to ourselves, and it was literally around the corner from the beach. So we’d just load up with our bags and umbrella and gear and walk over every morning. Since it was October versus June, July, or any summer month, really, we were there for off-season and didn’t have any problem with crowding and being around other people. It helped reset our sanity a bit, and I FINALLY got to see sharks in the wild, a bucket-list item of mine. I can die happy now having seen sharks in the wild. We saw some sharks enjoying a feeding frenzy off a fishing pier our antepenultimate day there, which was … surreal. And more intense than I would have thought. As much as I love sharks, now I KNEW they were literally in the neighborhood. So the next day — our last day going to the beach — I stayed in water that didn’t come up past my knee. That turned out to be the one day Sebastian REALLY wanted to go in the water to kick waves, so I did my best to distract him with building sandcastles and collecting shells. Coraline and Rich were far braver than I and went boogie-boarding as usual. I just watched and prayed a hungry shark didn’t wander too close and think either of them was a Lunchable.

On the drive to and from the beach we ate all our meals in the van, and when we ate at a restaurant at the beach we were always well spaced out since it was off-season and only the locals were still hanging around. We also ate at least half our meals at the house, alternating between cooking and working on whatever leftovers we had. We made it home healthy and the happiest we’d been in months. Back home we went back to our usual lockdown mode, though, and avoided seeing even our “pod” people (ha) for about two weeks after returning, just in case. For Thanksgiving we had a handful of our “pod” family members over, sticking to the suggested 10-or-fewer recommendation. For Christmas we only saw my parents. The kids handled that really well, considering they always get to see ALL of their cousins for the holidays. But they understood that 2020 was not a normal year. Having the first white Christmas in Knoxville in 10 years helped. Actually, I’d say Coraline has handled lockdown better than Rich, Sebastian, or I have. She’s done great in school, even making honor roll and winning good citizenship and perfect attendance awards (she always logs on early to not risk being late). She gets to see friends at kung fu, where everyone is masked and spaced out, and she sees her Girl Scout sisters at small meetings, as well as virtual ones. Whereas I’ve seen four friends since March, and I think Rich has seen three. Good times at Casa Lee.

I know things could have been much worse for us, so I’m grateful for having been able to work from home and keep my family as safe as could be. And at least we had that beach trip and that one perfect day at Cades Cove.

March 21, 2020

At Cades Cove, March 21, 2020


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2020 Vision

Song Lyric of the Day:

I dedicate my life to something richer / And all the things that come / Cuz that’s no price at all / And I know you’ll be there / And i want you to know I care because / Keep your head up, hold your head up even though / It’s a cruel world

Active Child / “Cruel World

The year is now 2020. Kind of hard to believe, isn’t it? As it is, a new year means a new, clean slate. In keeping with my laid-back approach to resolutions the last few years, I’m not making any hard-and-fast resolutions. I have general goals, of course, like taking professional development and photography courses, learning how to budget (officially), to keep decorating our house and working on countless home improvement projects, to write more, to travel more, and be healthier all around, mind and body (the never-ending struggle). But I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t succeed at any, or, God forbid, all of these goals. Because I plan on doing the best I can, which will have to be enough.

My only real resolution for 2020 is to be happy, which means letting go of anger toward certain people and situations (SO HARD for me to do as it goes against my nature), and focusing on what’s healthiest for me and my family. Sounds easy enough, right? 🙂

Here’s to a great 2020!

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Jeepers, My Peepers

Song Lyric of the Day:

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone / I can see all obstacles in my way / Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind

Johnny Nash / “I Can See Clearly Now

I’ve had to wear glasses for decades now, since I was a teenager (I’ll be 74 in a few decades). The past few years, if I wasn’t wearing my glasses or contacts, I could only see things within about 8 or 10 inches in front of me. Everything beyond that was a blur if I wasn’t wearing my glasses or lenses. The past few years, I also noticed how quickly my prescriptions were changing. Read: my eyes were getting worse every few months. If I got a new contact lens prescription in January, it would be outdated by April. Ditto new glasses. When vision insurance only covers so much, it gets expensive going to the eye doctor multiple times a year for new prescriptions.

After years of being frustrated by how blind I was without glasses or contacts and my eyes consistently getting worse, I made the big leap and decided to get LASIK, which I’ve thought about doing for years. I’m actually writing this post without glasses on or lenses in, because I don’t need them anymore: I got LASIK last Monday at Woolfson Eye Institute‘s Knoxville office (they also have one in Atlanta). (My work husband recommended Woolfson to me months ago when he got LASIK, and a couple other friends also recommended them via Facebook.)

I was jittery the day of the procedure because it’s a LASER BEAM CUTTING INTO YOUR EYE. The staff was great, explaining everything in detail before the procedure, as well as what post-op care would entail (resting the first couple of days and so. many. eyedrops.). I was actually in the waiting room with a few fellow LASIK candidates and one PRK patient for much longer than I was in the OR, because that’s how much detail they went into with us about what everything entailed. Once it was my turn to go in the OR, everyone put me at ease before I was even in the chair, which was fully reclined so you’re flat on your back. Dr. Woolfson talked me through things as they were happening, from the speculum being placed to hold my eye open (OMG) to what the laser beam was doing to what he was then doing. I started out staring into a laser beam, which I didn’t really feel doing anything to my eye other than slight pressure. It wasn’t until Dr. Woolfson did his part that I felt noticeable pressure, but nothing painful. It was like looking through a frosted lens. He talked me through the part where you briefly lose vision, which I can only describe as experiencing an eclipse inside my eye; the loss of vision lasted not more than 10 seconds, which was a short time, but was still a weird and freaky experience for me. I think the doctor then used a soft brush to smooth out my cornea once he was done; all I could see was a small white object moving across my eye in the same direction a few times. Then it was on to my right eye to repeat the process. At some point during the procedure I noticed a nurse patting my hands, which I had crossed on my stomach. All told, I was in the OR maybe 12 minutes. After surgery, I was given wraparound sunglasses to wear the rest of the day and the two following days to keep my eyes as protected as possible. You don’t realize how much you touch, scratch, or rub your eyes every day until you’re specifically told to stop doing that. I also had clear eye shields to tape over my eyes to sleep in. Other patients weren’t kidding when they said that was one of the worst complications post-LASIK — that surgical tape really hurts when you peel it off the next morning. Feeling like I was losing a layer of skin was the most painful part of all of this.

Post-procedure you’re told to take it easy, including trying to avoid screens and even reading; when you are watching TV, on your computer/phone/tablet, or reading, you blink less. Blinking is good after LASIK as it helps keep your eye lubricated. So I followed their advice and tried napping (with my eye shields on) as soon as I got home. After my sort-of nap I managed to listen to some TV and text quick group messages to my family to let them know how I was doing. I was in hell not being able to read because my book had gotten really good (I highly recommend Abandon by Blake Crouch). By bedtime Monday night, my right eye was driving me crazy, because it felt like something was stuck in it. Of course there wasn’t, but I tend to fixate on things like that, and it felt 100 percent better when I woke up Tuesday morning. I drove myself to my first follow-up last Tuesday morning and was told I’m now at 20/20 vision. I have another follow-up today that I expect to go just as well.

All told, I’m really happy with how my vision turned out. Being able to SEE again is an adjustment in itself. I don’t have to run to the TV now to read the forecast, because I can see it from across the room. Everything isn’t blurry when I wake up in the morning, although I look forward to being told I can rub my eyes again — the Prednisone eyedrops leave a lovely white gunk behind. My biggest adjustment is reminding myself to not reach for eyeglasses that are no longer on my nightstand. They’re now packed away to be donated down the road, because I don’t need them anymore.

My Glasses

I took this when I put my glasses in the case for the last time, right before I went into the OR.

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Better Together With Time Apart

Song Lyric of the Day:

To realize the hand of life is reaching out / To rid me of my pride, I call allegiance to myself

half•alive / “still feel.

No, this is not a post announcing a separation. Lately, though, Rich and I have been working to give each other solo time. For years now, I’ve complained that even though he’s promised I’d get alone/quiet time to write and do non-household-related things, it’s almost never happened for one reason or another, whether through my own fault or his. So to shut me up and make me happy, he recently said we needed to make a point to prioritize solo time and finally make it happen.

For the last several weekends, I’ve grabbed my laptop and a book and headed out for a solo lunch, followed by writing time. So far I’ve only gone to local Paneras, which is where I wrote this post. That way I can kill two birds with one stone: I can eat lunch while I read a bit, then enjoy using their free Wi-Fi to help me do book research and update my blog. Also, I’m not a coffee drinker, so I’m not sure I’ll ever head to a local cafe to write unless it has a decent lunch menu. (If any locals are reading this, I’d love to get recommendations on local haunts with free Wi-Fi.) Eventually I’ll go somewhere different for a change of pace. I might hit Lawson McGhee Library downtown as it’s the only library branch open on Sundays, which is usually the day I get to pop out for solo time as we’re typically running errands and doing house projects on Saturdays.

I recently found this list on The Write Life of places to write outside the home, and it has some great ideas. For instance, I never would have thought to hit a museum to get some writing done. I like the public park idea, but given that the weather here is all over the place lately, that’s probably not in the cards for me — I really don’t need to catch a cold right now. I love the idea of a coworking space, but (1) it could be cost-prohibitive and (2) I haven’t heard anything through the grapevine about the ones that exist here in Knoxville. Again, maybe a local can share what they know about these spaces.

As for places in/around the house to work, that’s where things get tricky. Sebastian is an avowed mama’s boy, and trying to shake that kid off my trail is not easy. Our house is a good size, but have you ever tried to hide from a toddler? They’re basically smaller, more committed, more relentless bloodhounds. They won’t rest until they’ve hunted you down. I could simply close the door to my home office, but Sebastian — who has freakish strength for an almost-2-year-old — would just bang on the door until he either knocked it off the hinges or I cracked and let him in. You remember how the leper pirates knocked on doors in The Fog? That’s pretty much Sebastian’s knocking style.

I could turn on the heat lamp on chilly days and hang out on our screened-in porch as long as the curtains stay closed. Or I could hole up in the guest room downstairs; I’m pretty sure Sebastian wouldn’t think to look for me there. Then again, the dogs might give me away, too: “She’s in there, kid. Now get us a treat as a thank you.”

I’m really enjoying my new solo time, and have to thank Rich again — in writing — for making sure I get it. (In case you were curious, his solo time is usually gaming nights with buddies.) You know those couples who have no problem working together, living together, and spending all their free time together? Those couple who seem to never argue or get on each others’ nerves? Yeah. That’s not us. Rich is my best friend, but that doesn’t mean I need or want to spend 24/7 with him, and I know he feels the same way. We both think some alone time is healthy for our relationship. It’s also critical for our sanity. Time apart is making us better together since we’re now both getting dedicated time to decompress and just do what WE want to do, even if for a few hours a week.

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Horror Movies: A Love Story

Song Lyric of the Day:

And then silence! It was a whole new day / I thought, “Huh, I wasn’t scared of him anyway.” / Until I noticed those rips in my sheets / And that was proof that there had been a nightmare, on my street

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince / “A Nightmare on My Street

It’s November now, time for my annual horror-movie detox. Not that I only watch them in October — I just watch more horror movies in October than during the other months. Really, watching horror movies is a year-round hobby. It’s just that October is our favorite month for me and my sisters to indulge in our love of all things horror. Why? Because we grew up watching it.

For us, horror movies were family time. Whenever the latest Friday the 13th would premiere on HBO (or whatever channel we watched them on), Mom, Dad, my sisters, and I would all be huddled together on the couch to watch. I have fond memories of my dad sweetly consoling my sister when she cried about the dog dying in Cujo, even though, let’s face it, Doggy had to go. I still laugh when I think about how my sisters and I were home during a storm watching Aliens when the power went out; I laugh because I left them yelling in the dark while I hauled ass downstairs (my bad). It was right when the Xenomorph rises up in the water behind Newt. Great timing, power outage! And I know — Aliens is technically a sci-fi movie, but only because it’s a horror movie in disguise.

I reveled in instilling what turned out to be a lifelong fear of clowns in my sisters thanks to a local TV guide cover that featured Pennywise, complete with sharp teeth, on it. Every night at bedtime I’d show them the cover and tell them that he was going to get them. The fun lasted for me until my mom caught me, rolled up the TV guide, and smacked the crap out of me with it.

Not scary, right?

Because this isn’t terrifying for kids to see at bedtime, right? #worstbigsisterever
Image found on via Google search

Of all the serial killers we watched slash their way through countless movies — and victims — Michael Myers from the Halloween franchise is our favorite boogeyman. My sister and I went and saw Halloween on opening weekend. Our verdict: good scares, great homages to all the sequels its timeline erased, and a fitting direct sequel to the 1978 original. Our other sister begged to differ.

I’d say Jason Voorhees is probably my second-favorite slasher-movie serial killer. There’s just something intrinsically terrifying about a seemingly unkillable killer running after you in the woods, in the middle of nowhere. Which is why when I’d go on Girl Scout camping trips, I’d always position myself in the middle of my troop on hikes. Why? Because if said campground boogeyman were to grab anyone, it’d be the ones on the outside, giving me a chance to run. (Issues, I got ’em.) I wish I had a photo to share with you of my mom’s expression when I told her that several years ago. That’s the only time I can recall her saying that maybe, just maybe, she shouldn’t have let me watch such scary movies at a young, impressionable age.

I don’t just enjoy slasher movies. Those can be pretty predictable and follow a typical horror-movie formula, and excessive gore does not equate fear for me. It’s just gross. There are some great ghost stories out there that don’t rely on gore or violence to scare the pants off a viewer. I watched The Woman in Black in the daytime and almost peed myself; don’t bother with the sequel, though, as it was pointless, not scary, and literally too dark to see for most of it. The Others was a beautiful haunted-house movie. The Changeling is terrifying with its mostly implied scares. And Spanish gothic-horror movies El Espinazo del Diablo (The Devil’s Backbone) and The Orphanage (El Orfanato) manage to scare while also ultimately breaking your heart.

I’m glad my parents exposed me to horror movies at an early age, though. Even though most of those movies scared the crap out of me and my sisters, we always knew those things weren’t real. Those movies taught us the rules for how to stay safe — or at least how to survive in a horror movie. We learned to run out of the house, not back upstairs. Never be dismissive of weird, unexplained noises. Always keep the doors and windows locked. Work on your cardio so you can outrun even the fastest walker. Watch where you’re running so you don’t trip. Make sure your flashlight has fresh batteries. Keep your car properly maintained so it will always start. Don’t go investigate anything by yourself. Always, always go for the zombies’ heads (characters in zombie movies almost never figure this out in time). And NEVER, EVER leave the weapon behind.

Coraline — who I have not yet allowed to watch horror movies — once asked me why I love horror movies so much. I explained that for me, they’re like roller coasters and other thrill rides. It’s fun to know I can scare myself silly. And unlike a ride I can’t get off once it’s started, I can always hit pause on a movie and walk away if I need to.

True story.

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