Confessions of a Halloweenie

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I hate Halloween. There. I said it. I know that due to its recent rise in popularity admitting such hatred is paramount to hating Christmas (which I may or may not be guilty of as well) but I really, really, really hate Halloween.

It might seem hard to hate a holiday that is focused upon the gross overconsumption of sugar and in the case of the older ghouls, booze, (…These are a few of my favorite things…) but I do. And it’s probably difficult to fathom that having been a professional costume designer for a large chunk of my life, I would so actively despise the season of donning costumes, but I do. My level of hatred for Halloween is on the same level of Eagles fans’ hatred for the Dallas Cowboys. (And as a bleeding-green Eagles fan, I promise this is some serious revulsion.)

My reasons for hating Halloween falls into 3 major categories: Costumes, Scary Things and Candy.

  1. Costumes

It’s all so complicated now. Gone are the days of slappin’ a sheet over your head, cutting a couple eyeholes and hittin’ the streets with a pillowcase to collect the goods. (Though my mother never allowed this as sheets weren’t cheap so “You’re not going to ruin them.”) I once had a Lucy from Charlie Brown costume that left nary enough room to breathe through the plastic mask and the coordinating plastic smock was so flammable that my mom kept steering me clear of all jack-o-lanterns so I wouldn’t melt. It wasn’t great but it served the purpose for the 3 years my mother made me wear it until I outgrew the plastic smock. Sure, I was oxygen deprived when I got home but I wasn’t spending a year’s college tuition on a costume for one night. Nor was I competing in some unspoken parental contest for the best costume. (Don’t think I didn’t see you over there lady, eyein’ up my kid’s costume…)

As counterintuitive as it seems, costume designers are generally not fond of Halloween. People steal your crap or expect you to whip them up something at no charge because, “You do costumes? Cool. Can you make me a giant Velociraptor-Meets-Headless Horseman costume for free?” Hells no fool. Do you expect an accountant to do your taxes “for free”? I didn’t think so. But when it comes to my own kids, I’ve made every costume for their entire lives. From Nugget’s pirate costume requiring a “hooker” (We eventually realized he meant hook) to Number One’s choice this year – the murderous Viking. If they can dream it, I’ll find a way to make it happen (though I often need to remind them I’m not Dreamworks.)

What I can’t deal with is adults in costumes. Why? Because it’s too damn hard to tell who’s wearing a costume and who just looks like that anyway. For example, the other day, Number One and I pulled into Dunkin for replenishment (Because we’re in New England so…Dunkin…) and we spent the next 10 minutes trying to decide if the lady who waited on us was in costume or if she just looked like a witch naturally. And it wasn’t just that one woman. It happens everywhere you go in the week leading up to Halloween. Is that a mask or is that your face? Did you mean to wear your make-up like that or is it a tragic error? Should I tell you? Is that a fashion failure or a costume? Do I compliment you on your costume and risk humiliating one or both of us?

People, I beg you, do not put me in this position. I have neither the tact nor the self-control to handle these situations without intense embarrassment to us both.

  1. Scary things

With Halloween comes bloody stumps, dripping goo and splattered gray matter everywhere. Lest we forget, there are also scary movies, spooky spectacles and terrifying haunted horrors that are on television, billboards and in every store from the place I buy my hardware to the place I buy toilet paper. These images stick in the minds of my offspring and reappear just as I tuck their little bodies into bed minutes prior to Mommy’s chill time. Thanks to Halloween, I spend a large chunk of autumn sleeping on a sliver of Nugget’s bed, talking an insomniac Number One down and forgoing large chunks of my badly needed Mommy chill time.

My children, like their mother, are giant wusses. Back in the day, when my crew gathered around the television to watch rented VCR tapes of classic flicks like Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and Friday the 13th, I was the one volunteering to throw more corn into the air popper, or grabbing another round of Crystal Pepsi – from the store 5 miles away. If things got too tense and I ran out of errands to keep me from actually watching the terror, I’d fake an early curfew or, if necessary, diarrhea. As Nugget says, “Scawy suff is da wurst!” Preach little man.

  1. Candy

If the social confusion and terror inducing festivities were not enough, there is the candy. Starting in September, every store moves out the school supplies and swaps in bite-sized bits of chocolatey-peanuty-gooey-fatty goodness. As a woman of girth, I do not need this. I’ve been in a long-standing battle with an extra 20 pounds since the birth of Nugget, five years ago. (Spoiler alert – so far the 20 pounds is winning.) The last thing I need is to be met by pocket-sized temptation at every turn.

In my brilliance, I usually start my newest life change in September making my dive into a carb-free or sugar-free or fat-free or whatever-free lifestyle I’m pursuing in full swing just in time for Halloween. Try as I might, things always get ugly when Fun-Size arrives.

Then there is the battlefield that engulfs our home as soon as we return from the trick-or-treat trail.

“Mom! He took my candy!” Nugget screams even before he’s shed his costume.

“No I didn’t.” My husband, the Turk, retorts.

“Mom, Baba always takes the good stuff. That sucks.” Whines Number One Son.

With chocolate fingers and a guilty smirk the Turk replies, “Taxes. You live in my house, you pay taxes.”

This battle rages on until the last bit of candy is finally gone weeks later. The Turk claims it to be a good dose of reality for our future taxpayers while the kids loudly lament the injustice. While the Turk is blatant about his thievery, I like to keep mine on the down low, sneaking a piece when the goods are left unattended. Either way, every Halloween sends the Turk and I both a little further down the diabetes track.

So yes, I hate Halloween and I think my reasons are pretty valid. But for another year, I will suck it up. I’ll dress my offspring in so many layers they can barely move and follow behind as they cover more miles in one night than their legs knew possible. I’ll watch their sugar highs rise and fall and shield Nugget’s eyes from “scawy guys.” And when it’s over I’ll pair my wine with a side Mr. Goodbar and check off another year.

Happy Halloween!

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Hair Today, Bald Tomorrow

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When I was a kid, my mom had a cousin that was always surprised. She wasn’t actually surprised; her eyebrows just made her look that way. She drew them on each morning with the cosmetic equivalent of a Dixon Ticonderoga pencil and while I’m sure she thought herself to be the poor man’s Dolly Parton (she had huge hooters she liked to display.) she looked more like a stunned Muppet.

In addition to her cosmetic prowess, Eyebrow Ellie (Not her real name because my mother is already going to kill me for this so the least I can do is change the name.) also made some bold follicular choices. She sported frosted tips a good ten years after frosted tips had fallen by the wayside with the rest of Iowa’s fashion elite. She also enjoyed a solid beehive twenty years post trend. Couple all of this with those eyebrows and the fact that her family’s lifestyle back then considered “unkempt” would now make a fantastic episode of Hoarders and it was no wonder Eyebrow Ellie and the clan weren’t invited to Thanksgiving Dinner.

I give you this tale of Eyebrow Ellie because due to this past week’s fashion mishaps, I fear those genes are not as far removed as I’d hoped. It all started with some eyeliner…

For three days I’d been using a new eyeliner completely unaware of the horrors I was unleashing on each person who looked me in the eye. I assumed I’d purchased black eyeliner. I assumed that when the label said “darkest midnight” that meant black much like “gravel” means gray in nail polish or “blush” means pink in lip gloss. I also assumed that if my husband, the Turk, saw his middle-aged wife walking around with turquoise blue lines across her eyelids, he might let her know. As I learned in 7th grade, the first three letters of assume spell ass.

As I returned from my run the other day, (Ok, it’s mostly a walk now because I’m old and fat with bad knees but in my heart I’m running so I will continue to call it a run.) I was about to do a quick touch-up before running off to do errands. As I looked in the mirror, I was struck – what in the hell are those turquoise blue lines and what is that blue crap running down my face? I dabbed and dabbed and it wouldn’t budge. Suddenly I was a suburban mom with a prison tattoo dripping from my eyes. I knew that 2 hours prior I had applied black lines before applying black mascara. What I didn’t know was that those black lines were only black until they dried and then they became as blue as a peacock’s ass.

I quickly whipped out the container and read the bottom. “Darkest Midnight” it read on the bottom, but then with the power of my bifocals I saw that third word…”blue” There on the bottom of the tube in letters bold enough for an old broad to read with her bifocals, it said Darkest Midnight Blue. I’ll be damned. For three days I’d been walking around in this lie and not one person thought to tell me.

I flashed back to 6th grade when I tried pink eyeshadow and it took me nearly a week before I realized my trendy new make-up make me look like I had pinkeye. Why didn’t someone tell me pink make-up was for lips and cheeks only? It’s understandable to commit make-up errors when you’re 12 and new to the process but make-up faux pas deep into one’s 40s was just embarrassing. The Eyebrow Ellie genes were obviously bubbling deep within.

Fast-forward three days. I finally replaced my trendy turquoise eyeliner and was feeling good. The only thing I needed was a little hair trim and I would be ready to take on Naomi Campbell for diva dujour. Being new in town, I had no choice but to take a shot in the dark.

“What will we be doing today?” the chirpy stylist who bore a striking resemblance to a 7th grader asked as she strangled me with the cape.

“I just need a couple inches off the bottom. Blunt cut. Nothing fancy.” I’m a low- maintenance gal who requires low maintenance hair. I believe I spent my life’s worth of hair styling hours back in the 80’s when I washed, dried, crimped, curled, teased then sprayed for hours each morning.

“How about some layers or feathering?” She asked, eager to try out her obviously newly acquired skills.

“Nah, I’m cool. Just the trim.”

The newbie hairdresser proceed to spray so much water onto my hair that I began to drip. She attached no less than 75 clips to section out my hair and combed with enough force to delouse me if needed. (PS-Totally not needed. My worst nightmare is a lice infestation.) This was where I should’ve left. This was where a sane or vain woman would’ve whipped off that cape and fled. But after those years in Turkey I am well versed in horrific salon experiences so I decided to roll the dice.

The rookie kuaffor began to cut…and cut…and cut until soon my shoulder length hair was up to my chin. I tried to be cool. I tried to be mature but somehow my mouth didn’t get the message. “I’m good. Just stop!” I blurted out.

“Oh.” She seemed surprised. “That’s good?”

“Let’s just say it’s done.” I confirmed. “But can you dry it? I look like I just got out of the shower.”

The noob missed my insult and began to dry my obscenely thick hair on cool with the strength of a 90 year-old. After a few minutes, she stopped the machine and confidently said, “There we go. All done.”

It seemed this new stylist and the rest of humanity have different concepts of the idea of dry but I needed out so I fled, leaving a trail of drippings across the parking lot.

Looking in the car mirror while trying to dry my locks via car heater, I muttered, “At least it’s not as bad as the time they gave me the Victoria Beckham cut in Turkey.” (Full-disclosure, that was the time period where they gave everyone the Victoria Beckham and it looked horrible on everyone…except Victoria Beckham.) But that’s when it happened. It wasn’t as bad. It was worse. Sliding my glasses on and smoothing my shorter-than-chin- length bob I realized how bad it was. I’d been forced into the Velma zone.

A surly, know-it-all, brunet with horn-rimmed glasses and a little beef on her thighs – much like yours truly- lives in a dangerous spot when wearing a bob. The slightest bit too short and you go from avant-garde to straight up Velma from Scooby Doo. Lest we forget, Velma wasn’t the hot one. Though she saved their asses repeatedly, nobody liked Velma and now, thanks to the new girl at the hair salon, I’d been Velmaed. The only positive I saw in this situation was that at least I wasn’t Velma with turquois eye-liner.

On the brighter side, if my boys need me to draw on prison tattoos for Halloween I’m all set. I have a few nasty eyeliners to use up. And as for me, I’m just one orange turtleneck away from a fantastic Halloween costume. Perhaps I can use Eyebrow Ellie’s genes for good.

Bloggin’ and Boggin’, It’s Cranberry Time!

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As a kid in Iowa, New England might as well have been a different country. My school wasn’t down with geography but as I’ve learned, that’s a trait shared by many land-locked education systems. (I think it’s jealousy.) Everything I knew about New England could be boiled down to four things:

  1. Pilgrims landed there.
  2. Paul Revere and the Boston Tea Party happened there.
  3. Everyone hated their football team.
  4. Cranberries came from there.

The latter was something I knew because even as a kid I loved cranberries. My mouth watered when Mom opened the can and jiggled out the gel every Thanksgiving. (Shut up, that was classy in the 70s!) When most of the family turned up their noses, I scarfed down the extra tart cranberry relish made by Grandma Pete every Christmas. And thanks to an unsubstantiated claim by a small-town doctor regarding my mild kidney issue, my mother poured bottles of cranberry juice down my gullet for the first ten years of life to my joy.

As a kid, I’d seen photos in magazines of people standing in the water, scooping up cranberries and found it fascinating. My dad and uncle harvested corn and soybeans every fall with huge combines, filling truck after truck but that wasn’t fascinating. It was boring old farming. Maybe if the corn was the perfect shade of red and Dad scooped the corn out of a pool my interest would’ve been piqued but otherwise – meh.

When my husband The Turk told me our new home in Massachusetts was in cranberry country, I was pretty psyched. I wasn’t sure what cranberry country would look like but I was ready for the adventure. As I’ve discussed earlier (here it is in case you missed it) the downside of cranberry country is the plethora of snakes (The little bastards love the bogs but sometimes take a wrong turn to my front steps.) and the sand – sand that is enough to drive a mother crazy. Otherwise cranberry country is beautiful, consisting of lots of low-lying bogs filled with little bushes about 8 inches high everywhere you turn.

From the moment we landed in cranberry country this summer, I’ve waited for harvest season. I wanted to see if the images on TV and in those magazines were legit and more importantly, I wanted to see cranberries harvested for real. I asked everyone I met if they knew a cranberry farmer but came up empty. I considered putting out a call on the local Facebook page but that seemed a bit psycho and as we’re new in this little town, I’m trying to keep my crazy on the down low.

September came and went and I didn’t see a single bog harvest. The bogs were turning that beautiful shade of red but not a single one was flooded and filled with people in waders. Every errand I’d run would turn into a bog-stalking mission and every trip came up empty, until yesterday.

I’d just dropped Number 1 Son off at school following a doctor’s appointment and was cruising home when I spied it, a flooded bog! I slowed just in time to see the tell-tale floating crimson circle. PAYDIRT! I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by even if it was on a major thoroughfare. I whipped a quick U-ie and headed back with the lone intention of snapping a few photos. My scientific nerdom has long filled me with fascination about these berries and this coupled with my dangerous level of curiosity led to what happened next.

I couldn’t get a good photo and besides, was a photo really enough? I saw an open driveway and skidded in. I tried to look sane but when the woman standing there shoved her small son protectively behind her I realized I’d failed. The day-long drizzle had my hair frizzing like a cartoon crazy and thanks to the damp cold, I had on so many layers my ensemble was only missing a shopping cart.

From the men knee deep in water to the woman loading the truck, their expressions were universal – What the hell is this nut job doing and is she packin’ heat? Immediately I tried to prove my harmlessness.

“I know this sounds crazy, but I’ve never seen a cranberry harvest before. We just moved from Indiana.” (I think I was better before I offered up the Indiana reference but I kept going.) “Can I just take some photos to show my kids?” When you throw in a reference to motherhood you’re always legit.

The farmers were more than amenable to my request causing me to think back to my own dad and what he might have done if some crazy New Englander stopped off in his cornfield and asked to take photos because she’d never seen corn harvested before. I knew what Dad would’ve done and that’s what led me to my next action – “So, how does this whole thing work?”

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Public interest is something that a farmer cannot resist. Farming is a thankless job so even if some lunatic woman shows interest, a good farmer will take the PR opportunity. He and his partner (a bad-ass female in chest-high waders) explained the entire process.

They use a machine to knock the berries off the bush to the ground.

-They then flood the blog with knee-deep water and the berries float on top for harvest.

-Berries are corralled with a black rubber barrier about 6” wide and dragged to shore.

-A huge pump pulls the berries out and dumps them into a truck.

-The truck takes the berries to the Ocean Spray plant on the other side of town and then returns over and over until the bog is empty.

It’s not all that different than harvesting corn but when you add the colors and the whole flooding process and even the word “bog” it just seems cooler. As the farmers in the bog pointed out, you don’t realize how cool it is until some crazy woman recently relocated from Indiana whips her car off the road to take photos and ask a gazillion questions.

I told them about growing up on a corn farm and we soon found that though the crops and processes are vastly different, the rest is basically the same right down to the cranberry farmer’s wife and young son bringing him lunch like my mom and we kids once did.

The Turk didn’t share my excitement, nor did my boys but that’s ok. If my dad were still alive he would’ve loved it and that was enough. My nerd bucket is filled and the farmers even told me Ocean Spray was hiring this week if I was interested in getting in on the packaging end of things. I’m giving it some thought. I do look fabulous in a hairnet.

So this Thanksgiving buy an extra bag or a couple more cans of cranberry goodness. I gotta keep my new found people in business. We have to support our farmers be they in a field or a bog because without farmers we’re all screwed.

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