Fairy Doors and Halloween Lifestyles

I have heard that there are some people who think that I go a little over the top when it comes to Halloween. However, I can assure you that I do not. It is not possible. I have spent years cultivating Halloween Culture that is good 365 days a year. Yes, I have decorations up all year. There is my large collection of witches, skeletons, and grim reapers. Of course if I am going to have a large selection of skeletons, then they must have a wardrobe that can adjust to the various holidays and weather conditions. As you can see in this picture, sometimes the skeletons just like to relax and chill out indoors. The witches have their own hutch and an ample supply of books and grimoires. They don’t go out much preferring to spend their time developing spells and potions.

Yet, every so often, I cross paths with another creative person who gives me exciting ideas for taking my Halloween lore to another level. Have you ever heard of Urban Fairy Doors? While attending the monthly WiVLA (Women in the Visual and Literary Arts) meeting this week, I heard a fascinating presentation by Elissa Davis. Apparently there are fairies that set up shop around the city. Sometimes they are accessible from a public street and sometimes they are located inside businesses. This door was made by Elissa and remains in the neighborhood where she lives. The fairy who lives here is seldom seen, but does communicate with folks by exchanging notes and trinkets.

There are even Facebook pages devoted to these Urban Fairy Doors. It is not unusual to find pennies on the door steps left for the magical inhabitants. In case you are wondering about size, this door is 1/12th the size of your average front door.

Elissa discussed how she was developing ideas for helping the fairy decorate for various holidays. That’s when my mind started clicking and whirring. How many different ways can one decorate an Urban Fairy Door for Halloween? I have started my list and just have to make a door for my own magical fairy so I can add little skeletons, witches and pumpkins. I have a solid project for this coming October. I will compare and review notes with Elissa since she is the local expert on this subject.

After reviewing several pictures on this topic, I realized that I had walked past an Urban Fairy Village right in my own neighborhood. Every time I strolled past, I was fascinated at how the different aspects of the Village would change. Sometimes little creatures were added and sometimes another door appeared.

The possibilities of developing Fairy Doors in conjunction with my overall dedication to everything Halloween is going to keep me busy for a while. And I don’t need to worry about finding Elissa when I need her advice. She can always be found running the library inside the Jung Center. I can only imagine what Jung himself would say about Fairy Doors, Villages and such.

Thanks Elissa!

Until next time.….

Brownsville Trip #2

During my last blog post, I wrote about the quick trip I took down to Brownsville with my parents. The weekend after that visit, I returned having booked a nice Airbnb to stay there for a long weekend. It was a time of refreshing, healing, and writing.

I headed out onto the highway on Thursday. Of course, I had all manner of snacks along with me. It isn’t a legitimate road trip unless you are eating a bunch of junk food along the way. At least, that’s my philosophy. I have a strong bladder from having been a teacher all my life, so I made only one pit stop at Refugio. I was met there by a seagull who was most upset when I told her I had nothing to offer her.

Back on the highway, I drove along singing loudly in my car. You absolutely must have a good playlist when on a road trip. I have one I labeled as Karaoke and it is great for in car singing. The trip from Houston to Brownsville takes almost six hours without stops.

Arriving at the little studio I rented, the first thing I did after lugging the five hundred suitcases and bags I brought with me — okay maybe it wasn’t THAT many but it sure felt like it — into the space was take in the view. In Brownsville, the Rio Grande river has left behind during its lifetime pockets of river that have been cut off from the main flow over the years. The locals call these resacas. One of the prime real estate assets for property down here is if it has a resaca in the backyard. This little studio did, and it makes for a fantastic view.

This church is on the edge of Refugio. As a child when we would drive by it, I always imagined I might get married here some day.

I spent the first day in the studio. I enjoyed morning reflection and coffee with my cigar outside with that relaxing scenery. I bathed, put on one facial mask and some strong conditioner on my hair. I spent time just reading and reflecting on the very hard situations I’ve been dealing with for the past 3 years. After some time, I took those products off and put on a renewing facial mask. I used the time while it worked on my skin to list out all the people and situations that have been hurtful these past few years and any that came up even from before.

Sometimes you think you’ve processed something but it pops back up, so you have to deal with whatever lingered. After my final bath, I was ready for my Friday night writing group. It was lovely to catch up with everyone and set some intentions for the writing I was planning to do that weekend. Most of it centered on getting out emotions and viewing situations so that I could make better sense of where I was and where I am going. But I didn’t plan to just stay in doors and process feelings the whole time.

The view from the studio of the resaca. Sitting out on the patio to smoke my cigars and take in this natural beauty was a major part of the refreshing effects of this trip.

I made my preparations to head to the zoo and to the beach while I was there. I’ve run out of words in this post to share those experiences, but you can come back when it’s my turn again to post and you’ll find out about my zoo and beach excursions and about the writing and resolutions I came to during that weekend. See you next time!

Oh No, I’m Late!

Well folks, it’s been a busy few weeks over here and unfortunately, I got my dates mixed up and did not manage to get my post written and up on time. Oops!

But, I do have a lot of fun updates!

Someone get me one of these bad boys. Really climbing the ladder of success all the way to the top over here.

First and foremost, after [redacted] months of searching, I have finally landed myself a job. It’s a long term temp position, but I’m finally starting to feel like I’m back in the swing of things, and it feels great. Admin work isn’t the most interesting, but I’m putting on pants every day again and leaving the house to go do something I’m really good at, and that counts more than anything.

It feels really nice to have my brain up and working again, and getting to interact with other people. I’ve been doing my editing work all this time, but it’s definitely not a social job, so I’ve been missing human connection.

Wow. Someone tell antisocial 11-year-old Rachel I just said that. She would be horrified.

Speaking of things I’ve been up to that my antisocial preteen self would have hated, I also went to my first concert in almost eight years!

My best friend and I saw Jukebox the Ghost perform at the Karbach Brewing Co. Love Street Music Fest, and it was such an amazing time. I haven’t 

Me and my best friend!! He’s known me since we were 8, he could tell you all about what a little grouch I was. And he WOULD tell you. With great joy.

been to a lot of concerts to compare it to, but they were really fantastic. 

It’s so funny. When I was growing up, there was nothing more I hated than loud

noises, big crowds, being outside in the heat, and standing up for a long time. This was, of course, all of those things at once, and I had a BLAST.

I really couldn’t say when I changed and started to get over those things, but it’s crazy how different I am from the person I was growing up.

Only in the best ways of course.

I still value the same important things, and I love the same hobbies. I’m still kind and caring and funny and smart. I’m just so much less complainy and grumpy about things. Maybe it’s just me growing up and maturing, but it’s such a relief to be able to have FUN now. I’m able to have so much fun and do so many fun things that I never would have opted into as a kid.

I’m still complainy and grumpy of course. But, like, a LOT less.

Hermann Park Prepares for Earth Day

Here is your first warning sign that you should notice when going to Hermann Park in the second half of April. It’s close enough to Earth Day that all the schools from all over everywhere bring gaggles of children to appreciate nature. Yellow buses line the streets.

It appears as though the children gather in packs. Each group is identified by their colors. Is this similar to a bunch of gangs? I did not get close enough to find out. The group in this picture is heading for Miller Theater. I could hear music playing until all the munchkins got seated for some type of program.

Another batch of gaggles also were observed heading into the Museum of Natural Science. This picture was taken from the top of a hill in the park. I made sure to keep my distance, in order to ensure my safety. I did not venture anywhere near either the theater or museum. Fearless adults communicated with all of the multicolored T‑shirts by bullhorns. That was very brave of them and I think worthy of combat medals.

This is the mountain I climbed up to view the hordes while staying out of harm’s way. There were even safety rules for this vantage point. They included: No bicycles. No swinging from the rails. Please stay off the plants, and most important for today situation: Mind children and dogs. On the way up, I did not see many other people so when I reached the top, I could bask in the fact that it was a cloudy day, and did not swelter in bright sunshine. I didn’t even need to wear my sunglasses.

Walking the trail that wound around this mountain was quite pleasant and since there was a waterfall on one side, much of the noise of the school-age gremlins was literally “drowned out”. This worked for some time until some other grownups discovered my sanctuary. It was at that point that lots of people showed up who actually had the audacity to enjoy a fun-filled conversation amongst themselves. How rude. My silent haven then turned into a party venue and I decided it was time to move on back down the hill. More and more people were heading up to the top of the hill and I apparently made my escape just in time.

There was one last sign that should have clued me in. Even the ducks were aware of what was going on today. These two are far from their normal pond habitat. I found them trying to hide amongst the bushes and trees so the children would not find them and chase them.

In the end, I escaped safely and am able to write this blog. I wonder if my next ghost story will include groups of ghost children in matching t‑shirts marauding around the park at midnight under a full moon. That’s a story idea with possibilities.

Until next time.….….

Bluebonnets and Poetry

I guess I can no longer deny it. Spring is here. The vernal equinox has come and gone. Everyone who celebrates anything during this time of year has celebrated. What more is there to say? While most folks get very excited to welcome all of the pretty flowers and warmer days, I do not. What excites me is that April is halfway to Halloween! Now that will get me excited! However all of my skeletons are resting right now, so I am giving you my annual obligatory picture of Texas Bluebonnets. There are lots of them this year and they actually bloomed early. While temperatures have reached daytime highs in the 80’s, here where I live, Becca, my niece in South Dakota is still dealing with lots of snow.

April is also known as National Poetry Month. I write very little poetry myself. My muse occasionally inspires me to write Haiku, but that’s about it. However, I own many books of poetry. One of my favorites is Devotions by Mary Oliver. And there are any number of poetry readings and festivals around town all month long. The Women in the Visual and Literary Arts (WiVLA) is holding their annual poetry reading on Saturday, April 22nd. It’s called Poetry By The Bay and takes place at the La Porte Library from 11:00 a.m. — 1:00 p.m. If you are a member of WiVLA, there is still time to sign-up to read your own pieces. Or you can just plan on attending this event to hear the wonderful work created by other WiVLA members. I look forward to seeing you there.

For your literary pleasure, here is a quick poem by Mary Oliver that is called We Shake With Joy:

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.

What a time they have, these two

housed as they are in the same body.

However, if you are like me and are excited that we are halfway to Halloween, I will leave you with this picture. Hopefully scenes like this will hold us over until October returns. I’m already working on plans and stories for the annual Haunted Holidays reading event that will be held in November. I know I am looking forward to it. How about you?

The Socially Anxious Actor

I was eleven years old when I performed in my first “real” play. I’m twenty-three now, meaning we’ve officially passed the “more than half my life ago” mark, which I’m realizing now for the first time and it’s blowing my mind a little.

George Orwell’s “1984”, a terribly cheery introduction to the stage. Look at that tiny little baby on the left. She has no idea what adventures she’s got coming.

For my entire childhood, I was plagued with severe anxiety, so the fact that I would A) voluntarily choose to be onstage in front of several hundred people, and B) enjoy it as much as I did, was shocking to anyone who knew me.

At the time, I didn’t understand it either. All I knew was that the second I walked onto that stage, I felt more at home and in my element than I maybe ever had in my life. Looking back now, I think it was the first time my brain was truly silent in a room full of people.

It seems contradictory, to be a person with social anxiety who loves getting up and performing in front of crowds of strangers. It’s not nearly as bad as it was in school, but I still have a very hard time letting myself be seen and fully letting loose or expressing my emotions in front of others (at least, not without overthinking it for the next 3–5 business days). But to me, the stage is a safe space to do exactly that.

The single greatest picture of me ever taken, as Ma Strong in Urinetown with Art Park Players in 2021. Talk about not being afraid to be ugly.

When I’m onstage, I’m playing a character, and the things I do are directed by someone else. So I can be loud, or messy, or ugly, or imperfect, and subconsciously, it feels safe. My social anxiety quiets down and steps out of the way because it can hide behind the idea that it’s a performance, and I can let myself do and be these things because even though everyone is watching me, they’re seeing a character.

And the thing is, it’s not that I didn’t ever want to be those things. In fact, growing up, I wanted desperately to just once be the life of the party somewhere, and have everyone think I was fun, and cool, and laugh at my jokes, and want me to be around them.

It wasn’t even that I was bullied, or was made to believe I couldn’t do that, but social anxiety convinced me that I had dug myself into a “quiet weird girl” hole, and any attempt to break out of that would be met with instant ridicule and judgment.

And that’s why theatre appealed to me. Because more than anything, I wanted - and really, needed — to be seen. I needed some way to let the world know that this other girl, the dynamic, fun, loud, emotional girl, existed somewhere within me, even if I had to shield her behind the invisible fourth wall of a plywood set.

Fast forward twelve years, and I’m an adult now with a pretty active social life, full of friends (none of whom I would have met if I hadn’t joined community theatre after high school) who make me feel that level of safety even when we’re not performing. I’m able now to go to parties and join conversations and laugh and be loud and a little messy and feel more loved than I ever thought was possible, and do all the things I was too afraid to let myself do when I was growing up.

I still struggle with reminding myself that I can be that vulnerable of course, although I’ve reduced the overthinking time to about 1–2 business days, which is definite progress. But I don’t think I would be anywhere near where I am today if I hadn’t put my name on that audition sign up sheet twelve years ago.

Ensemble in Bonnie and Clyde with Stageworks (2018). My first community theatre show as an adult and the start of everything wonderful in my life today. I love this picture more than anything.

Theatre has time and time again given me the opportunity to safely shut off the anxiety noise and openly explore parts of me that have spent so long locked away. With every show I do, every bow I take, another bar is removed from that girl’s cage and it’s just a little easier to bring her to the surface.

I have always been that dynamic, fun, loud, emotional girl. She just needed some stage lighting to guide her way out.

Galveston Beaches and Cemeteries

I’m one of those who has been very hesitant about getting back out there since the pandemic. I’ve been moving slow. Still haven’t gone back into the movie theaters; thank goodness for streaming services. Anyway, when my friend Sabina Gartler decided to take a weekend away at Galveston to look at cemeteries and tour some of the sights, I decided to go. I used to go to Galveston all the time. This was my first visit in three years.

As you can see, my time there started out a bit foggy. This is the view from my hotel room. Seawall Boulevard is just down below, but it is barely visible. Unlike some of my sun-worshiping friends, I really enjoyed these low lying clouds. It gives the city that air of mystery and charm. I sat on the balcony one afternoon and watched the fog roll in and slowly cover everything in a grey mist. Of course then I was ready to go on a tour of Old City Cemetery. Well, we went the next day after the fog had lifted.

For those of you who aren’t aware of the Old City Cemetery, it is one of the oldest in Galveston and actually is made up of seven different cemeteries that were merged into one. It is at least 200 years old, but I suspect older since I saw one gravestone that was dated in the 1700s. After the Hurricane of 1900 when so much of the city and the coast was destroyed, the ground of the cemetery was raised as was the entire sea wall. That’s one of the reasons why some of the graves go down three burials deep. Families were given the chance to move loved ones before the ground was raised. Most loved ones took advantage of this, some did not.

Some of the graves are new and spotless and some do show their age. It is obvious that surviving hundreds of years and several hurricanes since 1900 takes its toll on grave markers. But I think they are kept up as well as any other historical cemetery I have seen. Several years back I took a ghost tour of this cemetery at night around Halloween. I didn’t see any ghosts, but still found the stories of the inhabitants fascinating. As one can imagine, Galveston is one of the most haunted cities in America and there are many ghost tours scheduled throughout the city.

Later when the sun came out, I did venture down for a walk on the beach. I collected some shells. Why? I don’t really know why. I collected 5 of these marine specimens. Is there some gene within the human body that compels us to collect shells whenever we are at the beach? This must be true for me.

But I also found this creative structure on the beach. It fascinated me and I studied it for some time. How was this made? And by whom? My first thought was that this was a Galveston version of Stonehenge. But what genius mind did this? In no order whatsoever, here are my guesses for the builders: Architects, Engineers, Pagans and/or Aliens.

What’s your best guess? Whoever built it knew what they were doing. I looked at this for a long time to see if the solstices and equinoxes would make themselves known. But apparently, I am not as smart as any of the aforementioned categories of geniuses. Okay, I must go back and check to see if this structure is still there. Maybe I should go for the Spring Equinox next week. What do you think? 

Until next time.……

Managing Mental Health and a Freelance Business

One of the really great things about the work I do as an editor is that I have the freedom to make my own hours and adhere to my own schedule. I hate waking up early and have always done my best work late at night (I may be writing this at almost midnight, but shhhh), and I love being able to work around the hours my brain seems to naturally do best with.

This girl has a much nicer setup than me, but I don’t need to take a picture of what I actually look like working at night, sprawled on my bed in my pajamas.

One of the hard things, though, is having to be the one to enforce that schedule. Especially when things like mental health get in the way.

I’ve always made it a point to advocate for destigmatizing mental illnesses, and in past blog posts have certainly alluded to the fact that these past few years have been rough on me, like many others. So, leading by example, I have no problem sharing that I have had some pretty intense struggles with depression and anxiety, particularly over the last year.

Of course, I say I have no problem sharing, but there’s that part of me in the back of my mind going “NOOOO delete this and write something else, this makes you look SO unprofessional, people are going to think you’re falling apart and you’re unreliable!!!”

Which is exactly why it’s so important for me to share, because it’s not any more shameful than a physical illness. If I had chronic migraines, I wouldn’t be embarrassed about them keeping me from work or other life events.

And yet, when it’s a depressive episode or panic attack, it ends up being a big source of shame that I let something that’s “all in my head” prevent me from completing projects on time (and thus I feel unprofessional, and I’m ashamed, and that causes stress, and that makes the anxiety/depression worse, and then we get ourselves a nice little spiral). As always, not something I would ever hold against someone else, but our self standards are never as realistic or gentle.

In a way, it’s nice not having a regular 9–5 in these moments, because it’s much easier to take a day off without having to answer to anybody. I’m my own boss, and I can’t exactly fire myself or have myself written up for subpar work or unapproved absences.

But of course, I do have clients, and I do end up feeling incredibly guilty when I’m not always able to meet the deadlines I promised when I was in a better headspace, or I forget to answer an email and the anxiety of it all makes me put it off even longer. 

And so little time.

If I was injured, or came down with the flu, I would have no problem sending out emails to alert folks that I’m going to be a week or two behind schedule. But it’s not exactly a standard practice to send an email that says “Hey Jimmy, this is going to take me a while longer. Unfortunately I’m having a prolonged bout of anxiety because I had to deal with something triggering in my personal life and now I must lie in bed and watch all of Breaking Bad instead of attending to my work responsibilities while my brain calms back down.”

…Which may or may not have been what I was up to the last few weeks, hence this choice of blog post as I’m getting back to a better frame of mind and playing a great deal of catchup. 

I don’t really have much advice here or a plan of action for next time, other than therapy and becoming more comfortable at least saying, “Sorry, I have a personal matter to deal with.” But I wanted to write this anyway, to let other professionals and creatives know that if they’re dealing with similar things, they’re not alone. All we can do is be gentle with ourselves, do what we can, and nurse our souls back to a place where we’re able to pick back up and get back to our real selves.

And for the record, my Breaking Bad binge truly was epic. Not sure it helped my stress, but DAMN that’s some great TV. And a good reminder that as down or anxious or otherwise stressed as you may be, at least you’re not trying to build a meth empire in Albuquerque.

Sometimes perspective helps.

It could always be worse. At least you’re not this guy. Or, you know, I definitely hope you’re not. Maybe consider a good therapist if you are.

February: What Is This Month For?

Oh my, what time of the year is it? I am beginning to see red heart decorations everywhere I go. It’s got the skeletons all kinds of excited. They have started trying on costumes to decide what they want to wear when I decorate my balcony for Valentine’s Day. It’s so much fun to watch their excitement.

I understand that there are other parts to February that some folks seem to enjoy. There is Ground Hog Day, which seems to be very important in the northern parts of this country. Here in Houston, We are enjoying winter weather with the temperatures resting around 40 to 45 degrees. It’s been rainy and grey, but since I spend most of my time writing stories about ghosts and grim reapers, the weather seems perfect to me. Some parts of Texas are getting ice and snow, but so far the Texas power grid is holding up.

There are two other February holidays that I don’t celebrate. The first one is the Super Bowl. Since I am not a football fan, all I know is that this is a big game with a big half-time show and lots of commercials. Really, that’s all I know. One of the teams will win and everyone will have a party. Then there’s also Mardi Gras. This is another occasion that I know little about except it’s very big in New Orleans and Galveston. There are parades and lots of people party and throw beads at each other. So far the skeletons have not shown an interest in either of these two occasions. I have never caught them tossing a football back and forth; nor have they ever expressed an interest in throwing beads at any of my neighbors.

What I have been spending a lot of time with is my health. A couple of months ago I fell several times. I checked with a neurologist who suggested that I stop doing that and sent me to physical therapy. I also got a lot of tests like MRI’s and an EMG. If you’ve never had an EMG it’s the next best thing to being electrocuted. I still don’t know what made me fall, but I have a long list of things that are not wrong with me. I haven’t had any strokes recently, I don’t have a brain tumor and I don’t have neuropathy. Good for me. Physical therapy is working and I have been using a cane. The fun part is using a cane. I already have one with the head of a skeleton on it. People are nicer to you when you walk with a cane. That alone is reason enough to keep using it. Plus I plan to make it a grand fashion statement.

Picture, if you will, an old broad walking down the street with flowing white hair going out in all directions, dressed primarily in black and using a cane with the head of a skeleton for a handle. Sounds like fun to me and the skeletons and skulls inspire my work.

I saw this picture of Patti Smith on the Art Issue of Harper’s Bazaar and immediately felt inspired. While I don’t think she uses a cane, she has the rest of the look down. In this publication she is quoted as saying:

I’ve survived [because] I want to live. Even in our troubled world. Even with all the greed and stupidity and terrible things that we’re all facing…I want to be alive. I want to breathe. I want to do my work.”

I have never had any desire to grow old gracefully and I’m certainly not going to start now. With role models like Patti Smith, I know which roads to choose in my journey.

Until next time.….…

Becoming the Perfect Adult

When the pandemic hit and we all went into quarantine, I was twenty years old, and had just moved out of my childhood home barely three months before. That means I only had from December 2019 to March 2020 to experience “normal” adult life, on my own in the real world, before everything shut down. I had finally made my big move to join the world, and then the world went dark.

Most of my first year away from my family was spent in near complete isolation, followed by a serious relationship that, without going into too much detail, ended up being even more isolating than the quarantine. 

Now the world has opened back up, and I’ve long since reconnected and made amends with the important people that got pushed away, but three years later it feels like I’m more or less right back where I started in late 2019. I’m back living with family and once again fighting for the ability to support myself and get back out into the world.

I’ve heard a lot of early 20-somethings say the same thing, that the events of the past three years somewhat forced a false start, and now we’re all trying to remember who we were and who we wanted to become before everything was put on pause. It’s difficult enough to figure out your early 20s when the world is normal, and I know I’m not the only one who feels like they’re only a few baby steps into climbing what looks like an impossible mountain.

I’m struggling to figure out the next half of this post, because I’d really like to spend it laying out what my plan is and how I intend to relearn who I was before global isolation and a damaging relationship made me forget, but honestly, I’m still not sure. And that’s okay I think.

Growing up as a massive perfectionist, it’s hard to accept that I can’t write out a step-by-step checklist with “HOW I’M GOING TO FIND MYSELF AND STARTCAREER AND BE THE PERFECT ADULT” at the top of the page and expect it to work. I thrive when I have structure, and the realization that I’m just as much of a mess as everybody else is a truly scary one for me.

But that’s the thing. I’m just as much of a mess as everybody else. There’s not a person in the world who doesn’t feel messy on some level, and it’s silly to think I’d be the one exception. I don’t love my friends or family any less when they’re not perfect. It wouldn’t even cross my mind. Every single organic being in the world is a little imperfect, and it doesn’t make them any less lovable or important.

Four-leaf clovers come from genetic imperfections or developmental errors, and they’re considered lucky. We’ll spend hours in a field seeking them out, not caring a bit about their normal three-leaf neighbors.

My black cat (ironically, an unlucky symbol), Nero, had an infection as a baby that caused him to go blind. He has no eyes, technically an imperfection, and he bumps into things and misses the litter box and one time accidentally headbutted me so hard my lip was bruised for a week, but it doesn’t make him any less lovable, important, or smart.

If we can recognize that in nature and in our pets, we can recognize it in ourselves. I am imperfect, and messy, and certainly very lost after the last few years, but it hasn’t made me any less smart, caring, talented, funny, and creative. I may not have a good grasp of who I am and who I want to be outside of those things, but those are the most valuable anyway, I think.

I may not have a plan, but I am still important, imperfect, and alive. And that’s enough.