(My) Top 10 List of the Best Horror Movies Ever

It’s Halloween, and to celebrate the holiday, I would like to share my favorite horror flicks of all time!

10. Salem’s Lot

This is where all the vampire movies stemmed from, I’m pretty sure. Don’t get me wrong.  The original black and white “Dracula” movie was pretty awesome, but adding color and a plot really helped get the vampire movie motif moving.

9. Nightmare on Elm Street

So many sequels….but still so scary.

8. Friday the 13th

What can I say? It’s a classic. But only the original. The sequels and the constant machete scenes kind of “killed” it. (lol)

7. Halloween

The music still creeps me out.

6. Poltergeist

I had nightmares for months after watching this.

5. Carrie

In my opinion, Stephen King is one of the best story tellers of all time. And while his stories may not always adapt well to the big screen, I’d say they do pretty well (Think It, Cujo, The Silver Bullet, Thinner, The Dark Tower and countless others.) For those who don’t know, “Carrie” was Stephen’s first book made into a movie.  I didn’t get to see it when it came out at the Iowa Theater downtown. (It was rated R, no one under 17 allowed and they carded everyone!) And I can see why. The prom scene was one of the best horror scenes of all-time. It’s right up there with the Poseidon Adventure’s New Year’s Eve scene, when the ship turned over. Scary stuff…

4. Child’s Play

An evil doll that comes to life and kills people who get in his way? What could be scarier? Bride of Chuckie was pretty good, too.

3. Dolls

More evil dolls come to life ….

2. Dolly Dearest

Beginning to see a pattern? I wonder if other people have nightmares about their dolls or toys coming alive ….

1. American Gothic

Rod Steiger and Yvonne DeCarlo at their scary best! I think what was so scary about this movie was that I had some neighbors just like them.

And there you have it; just a few of my favorite horror films, and certainly ones that made an impression on me.

Have a frightful Halloween!

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The Witchless Kitten

Illustration by Scott Dolash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This past weekend, I was feeling a little creative and wrote a short story for my grandchildren in honor of one of my favorite holidays. The above illustration was done by my friend, and local artist, Scott Dolash.

The Witcheless Kitten

Once there was a kitten, who lived with his mother and brothers and sisters in a witch’s house. He was a very nice kitten and could catch mice better than any other cats around.

He had many, many brothers and sisters, who all grew up to become witch cats.
When the kittens were old enough to leave home, the witch’s friends came by to visit and to pick out a kitten. Soon, all of his brothers and sisters found homes with all the witch’s friends, except for him.

“He’s a funny color,” he heard one of the witches say.

“And he’s so tiny,” said another.

It was true; he was more brown, than black (all the witches wanted black cats), and he was the runt of the litter. But he was fast! He wished he could tell them that, but all he could do was meow quietly, as they walked by.

He was very sad. His mother and his mistress witch tried to cheer him up by telling him to be patient. “Someone will come by soon. You’ll see.”

But days passed, and the kitten began to give up hope of ever finding a witch of his own.

Then one day while he was outside playing in the yard, a little girl walked by. She stopped to pet him. “What a nice kitty you are!” she exclaimed.

The kitten liked that! He started purring and rubbing up against her leg. And when she bent down to pick him up, he didn’t try to get away like the other kittens did. He liked being held.

When the witch came outside to see what he was doing, the little girl became frightened and started to run away, but the witch smiled and called out for her to stay and chat.

“You don’t have to be afraid. I am a good witch,” she told her.

The little girl stayed and told the witch she lived on the other side of the hill. “Can I please come back and play with the kitten?”

“Of course, come anytime,” she told her. The little girl gave the kitten a hug and waved goodbye as she walked over the hill.

That night, the kitten told his mother all about how the little girl held him and how much he liked it.

“But she is not a witch, and we are witch cats,” he said sadly. “How I wish she was a witch, then I could go home with her!”

His mother smiled. “You really liked her, didn’t you? Well, it doesn’t matter to me if she is a witch or not. All that matters is that you are happy. If she comes back tomorrow, and you still want to go home with her, I won’t mind. I will miss you, but it will mean more to me that you are happy.”

The kitten was very excited and waited all day for the little girl to come by. It became late and the little girl didn’t come. He became very sad.

All of a sudden, he heard the little girl singing. He ran to the edge of the yard and saw her come over the hill. She smiled and ran to the kitten when she saw him sitting in the yard. She scooped him up in her arms and hugged him. He purred happily.

The witch looked out her window and saw the little girl holding the kitten. She went outside and told her, “The kitten likes you. You can take him home if you promise to take good care of him.”

“Oh yes, I will! Thank you!” she told the witch as she held the kitten close and skipped home.

That night, as the little girl snuggled with the kitten, he thought about his brothers and sisters and hoped they were happy with their witches. Because he was just as happy without one.

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Perspective

There’s no doubt that when we change the way we look at something, we see it in a whole new light; a different perspective, if you will.

For example, if we get stuck in the loop of believing that nothing good ever happens to us – that the only luck we have is bad luck, and the world would be better off without us – we are going to see the world as gray and meaningless.

But once we find that spark of hope that tells us that we have the power to change the way we think, our lives become better. We become empowered to want to do more, be more. 

All we need is a little nudge; something or someone to show us that it is possible.

Let me tell you a little story:

“Once upon a time there lived a little girl who came from a large family. The members of the family were  much too busy with other things to care much about the needs of the little girl. This unhappy little girl decided if no one cared about her, she wasn’t going to care, either. Her once lively spirit diminished, until all that was left was a shell.

As she grew into an adult, she found herself searching for something that would fill the emptiness inside her. But no matter what she did, happiness was always just out of her reach. She looked for it in relationships, her work, and her children, but nothing ever seemed to fill the hole inside her.

One day, she realized she couldn’t go on living that way. The way she saw it, she only had two options; end it all, or do something about it. Fortunately, she choose the latter.

She quit drinking and smoking and joined a 12-Step group. She started hanging around positive people , good examples of who she wanted to be. She  faced her demons and her fears. She began to accept life on life’s terms. And after years of being what everyone wanted her to be, she learned who she really was; a wonderful, caring, generous, socially-awkward basket case. And she learned to love every aspect of who she was.

She learned to let go of her resentments and was finally able to forgive those who had hurt her.  She took chances on love and life, and learned that every little success brought her closer to where she wanted to be. And every setback made her even more determined  to become the person she was meant to be.

Years passed before she was able to look back and understand that the suffering, the pain, and all the heartache she had gone through, had a purpose.  She had to go through the bad to appreciate the good. She learned to look at obstacles, not as something trying to defeat her, but as lessons to learn from, so she could grow as a human being.

And as she contemplated her life, she realized for the very first time she was truly happy. Oh, she’s had happy moments throughout her life, but they were fleeting.  Now she was happy, truly happy, just because. And that is how she lived her life.

And she lived happily-ever-after.”

As you might have guess, this is a true story. This is my story. But it’s not the only one. It’s the one that catapulted me from my simple existence, to become an active participant in life. Not only did my attitude change as a result of my ‘Self’ work, but so did my life. I became more positive, and ambitious. I had more energy and drive to help others.

There was a time when I hated my life. But hard work and determination paid off; somewhere along the way, I learned to love myself, and my life.

Today, I may be a better version of myself, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have problems. I face new challenges every day; whether it is health, work, relationship-related; but I can go to bed with peace of mind and thank God for the opportunity to learn and grow.

I know; it sounds too good to be true. But I am living proof that it can be done.  When I think about where I was, and where I am now, all I can say is that it is truly a miracle.

But it’s not magic. It’s a lot of work, it takes time to unlearn bad habits and develop new, healthier habits. You will have to challenge your beliefs and let go of everything you thought was real. You will have to reach deep inside you and pull out your most painful memories so you can finally resolve them, instead of just pushing them away.

You will cry so much you think you might never ever stop. But then one day, you will wake up and realize how great your life is. You will feel like shouting it to the world and you will want to share it with everyone. And then you will know you have changed the way you look at life.

In My Father’s Footsteps

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Just Another Thursday

 

 

 

It’s just another Thursday. But is it, really?

When you think about it, today might be just one of approximately 27,500 days of your life, for the average person (by the time you reach 50 years old, you have lived 18, 266 days), but it’ a day you will never get back.

Let’s look at this Thursday we have in front of us; for the next 24 hours, we can do anything we want. I imagine you’re sitting there thinking, “Nope, not true…I gotta work, stuck behind a desk …. Gotta take care of the kids … other obligations …. gotta do this, do that … my life is planned … and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

True, but it’s all in how you look at it.  We all have obligations. We all have things we feel we have to do, but that is the result of the choices we made. We tend to forget that we always have the power to choose whatever it is we want to do with our life. And honoring those obligations, no matter how frustrated or stressed it can make us, well, that just makes us good people.

So, today, if you find yourself in a place you don’t to be, or you’re wishing “the day would just hurry up and get over, already,” take a few moments and appreciate where you are.

And have a happy Thursday. 🙂

The trouble is, you think you have time.

In My Father’s Footsteps

(Please visit my new blog … and thanks!)

Scrolling

I opened my WordPress tab this morning, like I do most days.  Colorful photos caught my eye, along with headings for blogs written by friends I have come to know through their artistic creations.

Most days I go straight to my writing tasks, but today I paused to admire the handiwork … and I started scrolling.

I found poetry blogs, and how-to blogs, and inspirational blogs. I found blogs about the Theology of Carrots ( “We hide our best underground”), Carl Jung’s view of the human psyche (“Very often do we see our own faults in others”), and Peaceful Shit (“Just when I thought things were getting good; Good shit never lasts long.”).

This last one made me chuckle, mostly because the author speaks the truth; “good shit never lasts long.”

But if we didn’t have bad shit, we wouldn’t appreciate the good shit. And, as everyone knows, shit happens. And the world goes round and round …..

And I’m scrolling ….

“Validation is for Parking.” This is an interesting insight.

“Frankly, the validity others provide for us has nothing to do with us. It has all to do with how THEY see themselves and their world.”

I agree with the author. We all have our realities, our own perceptions, about life and the world, which we created based on who we are, what we believe, and our experiences up to this point. No one seems the world in exactly the same way.

The author goes on to say that we need to validate ourselves instead of looking for others to do it for us.

“… we need to learn how to embrace ourselves, learn how to live our lives without asking for another’s permission or acceptance. It is our life. Our journey. ”

And I’m scrolling ….

I see my Blog #2, In My Father’s Footsteps, Chapters 31 and 32, with the familiar family photos I use to decorate my father’s stories. I impulsively click on Chapter 32, though the words are firmly planted in my mind. My motives are purely honorable; research, I tell myself. And Validation.

“My dad was my hero. I’m sure most little girls see their fathers that way. And though my relationship with my dad hasn’t always been the best, he was there when I needed him most, and for that, I am very grateful.”

A few years ago, I found a box filled with typed pages, memories about his life, which he transformed into fun and entertaining stories about his childhood, his time in the Navy, being the oldest boy in a Catholic family, and what he thought about life in general.

I changed it up a bit in Chapter 31, letting my mother take the reins to tell the story of how she and my dad met.  (Despite everything that was against them, they managed to hang on to each other for nearly 50  years.)

They were married Oct. 24, 1959. They caused quite a scandal back then. They had both been married before and divorce wasn’t as accepted as it is today. (And besides, my father was Catholic; definitely a no-no for that denomination). Mom had three kids from her previous marriage. Dad had two, but only Tim came to live with them. And after they were married, they had five more.

If that wasn’t enough, they survived a horrific experience when Dad nearly died in a car accident in 1967. And once the older kids became teenagers, they had to deal with drugs, unplanned pregnancies, and the draft (It was the ’60s, after all).

A few years later, they had to go through it all again with the second batch of kids. By this time, they were either too tired to care, or figured that life was too short to get too stressed about it and learned to relax a little.

“’Story of our lives…’ she tells me.  And she is not wrong.”

And I’m scrolling ….

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Butterflies

 

I have a butterfly tattoo on my ankle; a reminder of the changes I have made in my life. Sounds kind of corny and cliché, I know, but it’s a good analogy of  my life.

Twelve years ago, I was broken. I hated my life. I hated my job. I hated me.  I felt lost and alone, and what hope I had left was quickly diminishing.

But something happened that year. My first grandchild, Thomas, was born April 18, and at the time, I was unaware of the impact he would have on the decision to change my life.

Later that year, in July,  I was climbing the 20-plus stairs to our apartment. It was a hot and humid day; one of those days that Iowa’s known for. I had to stop half-way, because I couldn’t catch my breath. I drew air in air in, but I felt like I was suffocating. My heart began racing, and I literally saw my life flashing before my eyes.

I saw Thomas growing up without me. I saw an empty chair at his wedding. I saw him holding his child, and I wasn’t there to tell him how proud I was of him.

But as fast as the visions came, they were gone, and I was back in the hallway of our building, breathing normally.

The thought that came to me was, “I don’t want to die.”

I immediately opened the door of my apartment, took my cigarette pack out of my purse and threw them into the wastebasket.

I tried to quit smoking before, but it was only a day or two before my willpower gave out. But this was different. I knew if I kept going the way I was, smoking two packs a day, I would die. I was sure of it.

I got through the first day, and then the second, and soon I was celebrating a month without smoking.  I felt great! I could climb the stairs to my apartment without stopping to rest. I stopped coughing up crap from my lungs. I could take deep breaths again, and I knew it could only get better.

I was so proud of myself, because quitting smoking was no easy task. I used the patch for eight weeks, and then graduated to nicotine gum. I used the gum for a year and then switched to mints, which I carried in my purse to curb any lingering cravings.

I quit smoking when I found out I was was pregnant with my first baby, but started again as soon as she was born, kicking myself with every drag I took.  By the time I finally quit, I had convinced myself that I would die with a cigarette in my hand.

That is, until I realized I had two choices; I could continue living my life in the prison I had built for myself, or I could break free and do something with my life.

You see, smoking wasn’t my only problem. I had a drinking problem. I used alcohol to self-medicate, to calm my fears,  alleviate the stress, and numb the feelings of shame and guilt that consumed me.

My intention was to just to have one or two beers, to take the edge off, but once I started, I couldn’t stop.  I was drinking a 12-pack of beer a night, and that still wasn’t enough to keep those horrible feelings down.

The night of August 31, 2005, I was sitting at the computer, while my daughter was doing homework. She’d had a rough year and was trying to catch up so she could graduate with her class.

The third time she asked me for help, and I said, “Just a minute, I’m busy,” was her breaking point, and she threw her books against the wall.  She had a history of extreme outbursts, but that’s not what this was. I truly believe it was divine intervention, because what she said next blew my mind:

“I’m sorry you have so many problems, and that you’re so unhappy, but I have problems, too. …”

For the first time, I heard her words. She saw my pain and my unhappiness, and I saw hers. She was reaching out to me the only way she knew how.

She taught me something significant that night, something that has made me get out of myself and really look at the world around me:

“We don’t live in a bubble; what we do affects others.”

I had been so busy worrying about me and focusing on how bad my world was, I wasn’t seeing what my own children were going through.  My selfishness and self-centeredness had kept me from being emotionally available for my children, and now I had to take responsibility for it, and do something about it.

I was hurting, and I didn’t know what else to do but to close the world in on myself. All this time, I had been inadvertently killing myself, because I couldn’t face the pain I had caused others. It had gotten so bad, I couldn’t live with myself.

I knew I needed to take control of my life.  That night, when I went to bed, I did something I hadn’t done in years; I prayed. I asked God to help me. I promised Him that I would do whatever it took to have a better life, to be a better mother, a better person. I begged him to show me how to do it.

And he did.

The next day, I threw all the beer away and got rid of all the empty cans.

A few days later I met someone who introduced me to Alcoholics Anonymous and I started attending weekly meetings. A few months later I ran into a friend, who was also in the program, and she became my sponsor.

God was putting people in my life to help me.

But that was just the beginning.

To be continued ….

 

That’s What Friends Are For

One day a woman found herself in a hole. She looked around for a way out, but there was none. Suddenly, a man’s head appeared in the hole.

“Hello! Do you need help?” he called. He was wearing a stethoscope around his neck and holding a note pad.

“Yes, thank goodness! Please, help me, Dr.!”

The doctor wrote something on his notepad, tore it off, and tossed it down to her. 

“Take these pills and call me in the morning.”

She looked at he paper in disbelief. Then she crumbled it up and started to cry. 

“Hello!” she heard from above. She looked up and saw a man with a white collar. “My child, why are you crying?”

“I’m stuck … I can’t get out of this hole!”

The pastor made a sign of the cross, and said, “Bless you, my Child,” and walked away.

Just when the woman began to lose all hope, a shadow was cast across the the hole. She looked up and saw a face, smiling down at her.

“Need some help?”

Before she could answer the man jumped down into the hole with her.

“What are you doing?” she exclaimed. “Now we’re both stuck down here!”

“Yes,” he told her. “But I’ve been here before, and I know the way out …”

Leaving a Legacy: My Father’s Story, in His Words

In My Father’s Footsteps is the title I chose for my Dad’s story in my new blog, Leaving a Legacy.

At one point, I thought about having it published through Amazon, but I wasn’t sure how I would edit it.  While he is an awesome writer, the story he wrote while recuperating from a knee replacement in 1994, is hard to follow at times. He switches channels a lot. (Now I know where I get it.)

My dad died in September 2008, the same year Cedar Rapids had the flood that heavily damaged the downtown area.

He died peacefully, sitting in his favorite chair, eyes closed, a book on his lap. Though he had been in and out of the hospital with congestive heart failure, it was a shock to the family.

As I was helping my mom clean out the storage room, I came across a box of papers title, “TPMLIFE.” As I read the first page, I realized I held my dad’s life story, which he started in 1994.

I gathered all I could find and took them upstairs to my mom, who told me my brother had the rest of the pages. I put them in order and began the laborious task of transcribing them onto the computer, with the intent that I would share them someday with the world.

That day has some, and though I know not everyone will share the same enthusiasm that has driven me to work so hard to put them online, hopefully some of his lessons learned will make you laugh, cry, and think a little bit about your own life.

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