The Ghost of Halloweenies Past

The first Halloween we were married, Sweetbuns dressed as me and I dressed as him, and we trick or treated my parents and grandmother. I think my grandmother wet her pants.

Sweetbuns as Libby Lu, and Libby Lu as Sweetbuns, complete with jewelry swap

We try to make holidays fun at our place. Even before we were parents, Sweetbuns and I would carve a pumpkin and hand out treats every Halloween.  Sometimes it was hard to do this, while wanting so badly to have a child of our own. In the early days, we were living in a great and festive neighborhood where the adults would also trick or treat. The most popular house was the one that handed out Bailey’s. One Halloween I went back to that house two times.

Here’s why:

We were sitting at the top of the 2 flights of stairs that led up to our front door, handing out candy to the ghosts and goblins. Well, this cute little Dracula came up, and said “Trick or Treat” I dropped some candy in his bag and wished him a Happy Halloween. He kept standing there, then added, “Could I have some more candy for my sister?”

Okay. This is where I wish I could have hidden under a rock.

Under the sea.

40,000 feet down.

I jokingly replied, “OH, now THAT’S a good one! The old could I have candy for my sister trick!” That was when something caught my eye, down beyond our stairs, in our driveway. It was a tiny little wheel chair holding the sister.

A cute little sister, dressed as a pumpkin.

This has to be the number one WORST faux pas I have ever committed, to date.

She and her sweet brother were the recipients of the rest of our candy stash.

Thank goodness this little family was sweet and had a good sense of humor. Otherwise, I’d never be able to repeat this story. They were new to the ‘hood and we became friends with them. Every time we visited, I felt a need to carry bags of candy to the kids.

Man, sometimes I think I was born with my foot in my mouth. This past August, when we were getting Punky ready to leave for college, we were on one of our many trips to Bed Bath and Beyond. The store was crowded and I almost ran into this little old man. He was, what I thought, doing a little impromptu dancing in the aisles. I blurted out, “Having a little dance break?” He smiled and kept dancing.

I mean, gee. I have dance breaks. Doesn’t everybody?

I noticed Punky giving me the look, and then she ducked out behind a display of kitchen containers. It was then that I noticed the man was physically challenged. I joined Punky behind the kitchen gadgets, but she left off to the next aisle like she’d never seen me before in her life. (She can do this easily since we don’t “match.”)

I miss these fun times with Punky, and I’m really going to miss her this Halloween.

One of my friends posted on his Facebook, “So- I’ve been thinking…maybe this empty nest thing is exactly as bad as I feared. I just realized…there won’t be anyone to carve a pumpkin with me this year.” I think you are right, T.C. How about we parents have a pumpkin carving party?

It's Sweetbuns and Punky's tradition to carve the pumpkin each Halloween. (Can you tell that Punky loves her "Dadee" ?)

I’m thinking all empty nesters are missing their little goblins this time of year.

Punky and Sweetbuns having a carving lesson

I have already sent Punky a Halloween care package to Texas. It was decorated on the outside with big Halloween stickers and colors. Inside, there was a costume she had requested, and some ghost treats I made for her and her new college friends. So odd to be at this point, but it’s still fun!

Punky and her Dadee are planning on keeping up the tradition of pumpkin carving by doing one for our Thanksgiving table when she’s home for the holiday.

Time to reminisce!

Baby Angel Punky, complete with wings, halo and slobber. (This was the night she learned to blow slobber bubbles.)

October 31st, 1993 was Punky’s first Halloween. Of course it had to be special. After all, it would be recorded in the baby book and on pages 16-22 of photo album # 3. We had planned on carrying her around the neighborhood to visit with everyone, but that year it was in the 30’s on Halloween night and we stayed inside.

We had waited on Punky for so many years, that our neighbors were almost as crazy as we were about her. One of our neighbors had 3 boys and they would come to visit all the time, passing Punky around, taking turns holding her.

The neighbor kids, dropping in to visit

So, on that first freezing cold Halloween everyone came to us!

In the early years, Punky’s costumes were made by yours truly, before she decided she needed to be Brittany Spears and we turned her hair yellow and she wore outrageous shoes. (There will be no photo here. Sorry. I think she would kill me if I shared.)

One year she was a bunny. The next, a lamb.

Lambsy Punky and the Great Pumpkin

The lamby outfit, I have to say was one of my favorites. She had a little tail with a pink bow around it, and as she walked, it moved. Around her neck was another pink bow with a bell attached.

I have no words. I adore this child.

She was a fairy one year.

OMG, THIS is what I so love about my Punky...Just look at that character telling her D-Dot and P-Pa about her Halloween adventures!

Too much fairy dust for one Halloween. Time to hang up the wings and rest

The year she wanted to be a clown was very, very difficult for me since I suffer from Coulrophobia –The fear of clowns. Buying and sewing the outfit was not bad. Putting on her makeup was not bad. Low and behold, I did okay with this one clown. She was my favorite clown and the only one I could stand to be around.

Punky Clown. (I do NOT like clowns, but this one, I adore!)

Years later, my friend and I took our teen girls and a group of their friends to a raucous and very frightening haunted house here in Nashville. While waiting in line, someone (probably my child) asked this grotesque clown to sneak up and scare me.  For the rest of the night, everywhere I turned, he was in my face. I screamed so much that night that, to the joy of my loved ones, I lost my voice for a full week!

As one of my favorite book characters, Junie B. Jones would say, “I don’t even like clowns. Clowns are not normal people.”

One year, Punky was a Choctaw Indian Princess.

Libby Lu and Punky Do on Halloween. Check out the cool authentic Choctaw dress (hand sewn by a family friend who is Choctaw) that D-Dot and P-Pa gave Punky! I made the Choctaw basket and actually (Yes, you can laugh) ordered the materials and made the not so authentically Choctaw moccasins that you cannot see in this photo.

A few years later, she was a Native American once more.

Punky and her girls as the Village People, ready for the high school Halloween dance.

In the years after we moved from the festive neighborhood, we would go to an annual dinner and trick or treating event at our friend’s home. We had daughters the same age who were close, and we had the best times together! The men would stay back and cook chili, and the Moms would walk around with the girls while they trick or treated. Poor M, Alli’s friend, had a hard time uh, shall I say, staying on her feet, and it seemed that every year she would land in a front yard and we’d all have to help gather up her spilled candy. One year, she grabbed Punky’s hand on the way down and they both landed in the grass. We were all laughing so hard it took a long time to get them back on their feet.

When we’d get back to the house, after grand bowls of chili, the girls would dump all their candy in the middle of the floor and begin trading off what they didn’t or did like.

The Pink Panther and Detective Clouseau (Punky and Libby Lu)

Last year, Punky was Mario. I was Mrs. Potato Head

Mrs. Potato Head.

I shall leave you with this.

May you have an amusing Halloween, and may all of your fond memories with your little goblins keep the laughter in these fun days.  Let’s try not to think of the Halloween parties they will be attending this year on campus.

-Libby Lu

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Writer’s Blockade and a Bit of the Bubbly

It’s been 2 weeks since I last posted. I don’t think anyone has really noticed except a couple of loyal readers who ask when I will write again. (God bless them, they make me feel loved.) But, it really has bothered one person in particular.

Me.

See, after my book was published in 2003, it was like I hit a wall. My writing slowed to a trickle.  There’s a book I have been writing on since 2005. I get it out and rewrite the same 6 chapters over and over and it never goes anywhere. It’s like losing and then regaining the same 5 pounds again and again.

When I can’t write, my creative outlet is art, and I have done some painting and sculpting and fun projects while my writing goes by the wayside, but it’s been annoying that I have had writer’s block for so long.

So, when I began this blog, I was elated to be writing again, getting into the swing of things once more, feeling those creative wires connect. What a gift this empty nest was going to give me! The words were coming to me easily, fast, unexpected. It’s been thrilling to be able to dip into that place in my mind where I can make things happen with words and humor and poignancy and hopefully entertain and help my readers at the same time.

I have half written posts, many notes, lists of blog posting ideas, photos to use, things to consider for later, for holidays, etc. I’m even thinking of finishing one of my book projects.

Well, I was.

Now I’m stuck. Again.

I have not only Writer’s Block (Block= something that obstructs or prevents progress) but mainly what I call Writer’s Blockade (Blockade = to obstruct access to a place) A block would be something like having a computer go on the blitz, or just being too busy to have time to write. Indeed, life has been busy. But a blockade to my writing would be not being able to access that place in my mind where my words are, where everything comes together and makes unorganized and funny sense. It’s what makes me tick, and it isn’t ticking right now.

I’ve tried everything – long walks in the lovely weather, quiet time out under the trees in my back yard, reading someone else’s work, looking at photos, reading over my older works, meditation. Nothing was working. Then I realized something.

I was trying too hard.

 What was fun in the beginning was that I could write without trying. This blog is mine. There is no editor’s deadline. I don’t have to write on a schedule. I don’t have to prove a thing.

There, that took care of the guilt, at least.

With all this soul-searching about my writing, I have remembered that my best work happens when things get tough. Sometimes I have to go to a dark place to find my words. Sometimes everything has to go wrong before I can write my way out of it. Even a huge change, even if it’s good, can bring my words back to me. Like Alli going to college. That worked for a while.

The excellent news is that life has been good. Things have been going well. And maybe I will never write again since things are so good? Should I pray for tragedy?

Um. No.

But on a small-scale, the past 2 weeks have been rather disconcerting, beginning with a nasty cold. I refrain from saying anything’s been bad because I try to be positive, but in retrospect, I could have easily been taken to my dark place. No doubt, I was on my way there. It seemed that everything built up, and then I had just a really bad day. I tried not to think of it as a bad day. I really, really did.

The events of that day:

  • I got a flu shot first thing in the morning. It made me grumpy and gave me a sore throat (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it) and the rest of the day went downhill. Darn flu shot.
  • Bad news came to me from a friend. It’s so bad I can’t talk about it.
  • Dad called to say that my mother took a bad fall and they spent 5 hours at the emergency room. She is home and okay. Wheel chairs were discussed.  I will not lie. It scares me to see my parents’ age.
  • Thinking of my parents aging, reminds me that I’m aging, which reminds me of how my child is growing up so fast. (See how this thing can snow ball if you let it?)
  • More bad news in the afternoon. (Really too minor to mention.) By this time, I realized everyone around me on the shuttle to the parking lot was in a foul mood. I think it really was that darn flu shot we all had.

    Punky's shot of me, and her Photoshop magic. Sweetbuns said he didn't think he'd show this to anyone. I think it's too funny not to share.

Okay. I’d had it. It was a sunny, lovely day. I was going to have to prevent myself from going to the dark side. In order to do this, I had to be productive. I would wash my car. I  stopped by a car wash. I dropped 4 quarters in and vacuumed 2 months worth of leaves from my floorboards. I found bobby pins and an empty Lemon Heads box on the passenger side of the car. It made me miss my Punky. 

Next, I pulled up to do the actual car wash. I dropped in 8 more quarters. For fun, I thought I’d try that foamy brush thing. Oh my gosh it was fun!  The whole car was completely covered in bubbles. I mean thick bubbles. You could hardly tell it was a car! My bad mood was going away! This was so much fun that I lost track of time. I pushed the Rinse button and got about a 10 second rinse when the darn thing cut off! GRRRRRRRR.  I went through the car and there were no more quarters!

Okay. I was in a super bad mood at that moment. I got in the car and drove home.

Bubbles were flying everywhere. The windshield wipers were flinging suds onto the other cars. I looked straight ahead, like this was normal. Like this was really not happening. At the first light, I could feel the stares and could almost hear the laughter from the other drivers on Franklin Road. When I took off, I think I saw a few cars drive around giant bubble monsters in the road, not knowing what they were.

 Go ahead. Laugh. See if I care?

Darn.  Of course all the neighbors were out when I turned onto our street. Of course they would be. They had to see this, since they had already seen all my other strange happenings. (See Mommy in the Skype with Diamonds, posted 9/15/11)

So, I had to get the garden hose out and rinse the car after all. The roofers who replaced our hail damaged roof a couple of weeks ago, had left it in a tangle. I wrestled with it for a good 10 minutes, and muttered a few bad words.

Then I stepped in dog poop.

Then it rained.

Then I discovered I really did have money in my purse I could have used to rinse the car.

That was a couple of days ago. I have been walking lightly, and trying to keep Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen’s song in my head:

You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
don’t mess with Mister In-Between

You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium’s
Liable to walk upon the scene

Today we visited with Punky via Skype. It was a long chat, maybe 45 minutes. It was like we were sitting around the living room. I had just gotten out of the shower. Both of us were in our robes. Punky was in bed. We covered everything from alcohol to academics, from books to boys and everything in between. It was a wonderful visit with our maturing daughter and her great wit.

Punky's screen shot of our conversation and her caption: Just chattin' it up with Mother Theresa

I didn’t realize how much I really needed that visit until we hung up. Sometimes I will not let normal feelings creep into my day because I do not want to be weak. I must learn to let go and cry and be in a bad mood and call a bad day by name, and admit I miss my child and realize it is perfectly okay to do so.

Punky's screen shot of our Skype session last week. Her caption: A family that mustaches togezza stays togezza. Me:Imustacheyouaquestion Punky: But I'll shave it for later!

 

 Finally, I had the courage to view the DVD I made for Punky’s graduation party in May. It was basically her whole life in photos with fun songs. Although I made it 5 months ago, I still have not watched it on the big screen. I think I’ve been afraid, once again, of it taking me to that dark place. I’ve been afraid of crying, of breaking this strong front I’ve been putting on since we dropped her off in Texas.  Well, I got to thinking that maybe it would bring my words back to me. So, I watched it tonight.

Twice.

Did I cry? Yes. Happy tears.

Am I in my dark place? No.

Has the blockade been lifted? I’m thinking it has! (1,680 words later…)

Maybe all I needed was another good cry? Or a reminder that we have had such a good and fun life! What I noticed about all of the 250 + photos in that show is that in most of them, we are laughing. And in all of them, there are happy memories.

And I really can’t stop laughing about the hilarity of my bubble covered car going down Franklin Road in rush hour…

Hand me a pen. I’m feeling better. (Watch out! I’m back!)

-Libby Lu

P.S. Embrace the dark ‘til you see the light!