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Archive for September, 2020

carved pumpkins

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October 1st is literally just two days away, and I couldn’t be more excited because I am celebrating Halloween all month long. Inspired by my friend Kelsi, I created a list of activities to commemorate my favorite holiday. To start the spooky season off on the right foot, I will be donning Halloween socks. Pins, earrings, and other fall/Halloween accessories will be worn to add a little magical flair to my otherwise uninteresting wardrobe.

I am currently reading NOS4A2, a horror novel written by Joe Hill and Ghost Squad, a ghost story by Claribel A. Ortega. Other books on my list include Witch Catcher, a fantasy novel by Mary Downing Hahn and The Collected, a horror novel by K.R. Alexander. 

Halloween BookIn addition to books, I have several short stories to devour throughout the month. I will begin with two tales of mystery and horror by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Purloined Letter” and “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion.” Other selections will be taken from A Newbery Halloween. The stories that I have chosen from this collection include “The Baddest Witch in the World” by Beverly Cleary, “Witch Girl” by Elizabeth Coatsworth, and “The Year Halloween Happened One Day Early” by Virginia Hamilton. 

October would not be complete without the return of all things The Walking Dead. Sunday, 04 October is the air date for the long-awaited Season 10 finale of The Walking Dead followed by the premiere episode of the newest spin-off series, The Walking Dead: World Beyond. The following Sunday, 11 October welcomes the return of Fear the Walking Dead for its 6th season. Zombies, zombies, and more zombies!

My hubby and I will be attending the screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Columbia Theatre in Hammond on Friday, 09 October. The following week, my friend Helen will be visiting from Colorado, so we will celebrate one of the nights with a Halloween cocktail

The month-long celebration will also include numerous movies, 13 to be exact, for frightfully delightful cinematic pleasure. I will watch them in no particular order; however, I plan to watch Sleepy Hollow first. The first four movies on my list were influenced by Kelsi’s horror movie marathon list. 

Movies:

  1. The Haunted Mansion
  2. Train to Busan
  3. Hocus Pocus
  4. Color Out of Space
  5. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  6. Sleepy Hollow
  7. Salem’s Lot (1979)
  8. The Innocents
  9. The Ritual
  10. The Vatican Tapes
  11. Death Note
  12. House of the Witch
  13. Dark Skies

Dear reader, if you are interested in more Halloween fun or want some inspiration to create your own Halloween Fun list, check out Kelsi’s blog post “Happy First Day of Autumn!” How do you celebrate the Halloween season? I’d love to hear of anything else I can add to make the upcoming month more spooktacular. Happiness!

“Every day is Halloween, isn’t it? For some of us.” ~ Tim Burton

light landscape sky sunset

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Autumn officially commenced on Tuesday and brought cooler temperatures with it. While the summer of 2020 was not how I originally envisioned spending my break, thanks to COVID-19, it turned out to be fairly pleasant. Back in June, I created a list of acceptable activities I could participate in while following the constraints mandated as a result of the pandemic. With the exception of planting new flowers in my garden (still weeded and watered existing plants), I participated in all of the activities on my list and added some additional ones. 

Bushwacker

Bushwacker

Social distancing limits socializing with people “in person” which is difficult for me because I greatly enjoy socializing with people in person; however, I did get to spend some “in person” time with my parents and a few friends. My hubby and I had a couple of drink nights with Shelly, her hubby, and additional guests (her mom, Mr. Mike, and our friend Karen). In June, we drank bushwackers (not a new cocktail for me, but new for my hubby) which are super yummy because they contain ice cream.

Jaguar Juice

Jaguar Juice

In August, we had two drink nights which featured two new cocktails, a Strawberry Cream Martini and Jaguar Juice. In addition to in person hangouts, I attended quite a few virtual improv hangouts this summer. And, thanks to my friend Brian, our improv group recently had two celebrity guests attend our hangout for Q and A sessions. One Tuesday night, Greg Proops hung out with us. The next evening, Jonathan Mangum joined us. Both have appeared on Whose Line Is It Anyway? and shared so much terrific information and encouragement with us.  

I scrapbooked a fair amount this summer on Andrew’s Ireland scrapbook. I have some journaling to complete on a few of his Ireland pages as well as his Wales pages, and then I can move on to his adventures in London.

Rock of Cashel

As I wrote in my last post, I enjoyed my “Summer of Poe.” Even though I didn’t get to read Poe’s entire body of work this summer, I plan to read the remainder of it in the near future. 

Chicken TaquitosChicken QuesidillasI did try my hand at some cooking this summer. I made chicken quesadillas, baked chicken bacon ranch taquitos, cranberry pecan chicken salad, crispy air fryer chicken tenders, and meatloaf with brown gravy. Yes, I know…lots of chicken. The recipes that I tried are basic (not many ingredients) because I don’t really enjoy cooking. Also, whatever I cook needs to also appeal to Andrew’s taste buds. Thankfully, he is not as picky as he used to be as a youngling. Out of everything I tried, he did not like the chicken salad which Barry and I absolutely loved. Since the summer is over, I have no desire to try any new recipes for the remainder of the year. 

Chicken Salad

As for exercising, I stuck with walking all summer. Rain or shine, I have not missed one day since I started back in March and hope to continue my streak. As for my weight loss journey, I wound up not taking it, even after all the preparation to start on June 1st and attempting to recommit in July. I also haven’t done much running. I dropped the ball, and I have had to reconcile myself with the fact that it may not happen this year. I’ve felt fragmented since all this COVID stuff has started, and I haven’t been able to focus on any one area for any length of time. I have too many irons in the fire, and I know I need to schedule my time better in order to get to everything I want to accomplish both personally and professionally. But, we all know, dear reader, that time management is my kryptonite. In fact, instead of taking items off of my plate and putting them on the back burner for a little bit, I have added more items which requires more time.  In addition, I’m not doing so hot on my 20 for 2020 list. Although, I still have a glimmer of hope that I can knock a few items off of my list in the remaining quarter of this year. We’ll see what the next three months have to offer. 

Despite not seeing friends I usually see, not doing activities I normally do, or not meeting goals I generally meet, I am grateful that I still had a summer break. My summer was different, dear reader, but much of it was also restorative, relaxed, and simple. And, sometimes, that is the blessing. Happiness!

“When summer gathers up her robes of glory, and, like a dream, glides away.”     ~ Sarah Helen Whitman

Kentucky

at my Uncle Manuel’s home in Nicholasville, Kentucky

 

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Reading is my favorite way to pass time, so I added a new reading goal for 2020 inspired by Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project. In 2019, as part of her yearly Design Your Summer and 19 for 2019, she took a literary adventure with Summer of Proust. After reading her blog post “Reflections on My ‘Summer of Proust'” and seeing how much she enjoyed reading all the works of Marcel Proust, I decided I wanted a “Summer of Poe” and put it on my 20 for 2020 list (#16). What a fantastic idea!

Edgar Allan Poe is one of my favorite American authors. My love affair with Poe’s work began in the 8th grade when I chose to recite the poem “Annabel Lee” for my Reading class. Throughout high school and college, Poe was assigned literature for English classes which always brought me considerable joy. As a junior high English teacher, I felt it was only fitting to impart my love for Poe to my students. For years, my students and I read and discussed “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Black Cat,” and “The Raven.” Therefore, choosing to spend the summer reading one author’s work was a no-brainer. 

PoeUnlike Rubin, I did no preparation prior to reading Poe’s work like she did for Proust. In hindsight, I probably should have done a smidge before starting my own literary adventure. From the beginning, I knew the odds of me reading everything written by Poe in one summer would be impossible. One reason, his writing is challenging. I personally cannot read his work quickly. Another reason, because his writing requires so much concentration on my part, I knew I would also need to read other books written by other authors that did not require so much mental effort. Therefore, I chose to read The Edgar Allan Poe: Anthology of Classic Tales since it did not contain a complete collection of Poe’s stories and poems, and it was given to me as a gift from Andrew. To my dismay, while perusing the table of contents, I soon discovered that over my lifetime I had only read six of his short stories and two of his poems. Thankfully, that is no longer the case.

I chose to read all of the short stories, poems, and the one novel, which were organized by genre, in the order presented in the anthology.  It was wonderful to revisit tales that I was familiar with like “The Fall of the House of Usher” (still scary after all these years), “William Wilson,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Masque of the Red Death” (haunting), “The Tell-Tale Heart” (never gets old), “The Black Cat,” “The Raven” (nevermore), and “Annabel Lee” (beautifully written poem about death). If you notice, dear reader, the tales of Poe that I have previously read over the years are included in the horror genre. And, I must confess, his short stories and poems in this category are quite riveting and are probably my most preferred of his writing. Of my new horror favorites, two are revenge stories, “The Cask of Amontillado” (confirms that I will never visit catacombs) and “Hop-Frog” (never underestimate a jester). “Morella” and “Ligeia” are equally creepy and best read during the day. 

My leisurely excursion through this treasury revealed to me that Poe was so much more than a horror writer. He is credited with inventing the detective story, and the two stories in this collection, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” are suspenseful and quite enjoyable. There are seven short stories and his only completed novel under Adventures of Sea and Sky. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the short stories, especially “The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall,” “The Gold-Bug,” and “The Oblong Box.” “Mellonta Tauta,” which is set in the far future seems to eerily parallel our current societal times with the past of the narrator who is writing letters while on a balloon flight.  His novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, is about the adventures and misadventures of Arthur Gordon Pym on the high seas. While it took me a long time to read, this novel is interesting and entertaining. At some point in my lifetime, I will revisit it. Surprisingly to me, until I read this compilation, I was unaware that Poe wrote humorous and satirical stories. There are only three of those types of stories in this book; however, in my other book Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, there are a total of 25 stories. Of the three that I read, I adore “The Spectacles” and “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether.” Both are incredibly amusing. I cannot wait to read his other stories in this genre. Finally, there are only four poems in this collection, and I fancy all four of them. When checking my other book, Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, it revealed a total of 55 poems. All gems, I’m sure. 

My “Summer of Poe” was a huge happiness boost and has made living through a pandemic more bearable. Clearly, I still have so many more stories and poems by Edgar Allan Poe that I must read, so another “season” of Poe is necessary. In the meantime, I will delight in the stories and the poems that I have read by Mr. Poe as I venture into a realm of other books by other authors awaiting my discovery. Have you, dear reader, ever devoted a period of time to reading a certain author or genre? If not, would you consider it, and which author or which genre would you consider? Happiness!

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe Collection

 

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Today is National Positive Thinking Day. 2020 has been a doozy of a year, and it just keeps on giving and not in the most positive ways, so we could all stand to benefit from a bit of optimism. According to an article on optimism in Psychology Today, “Research shows that, on average, human beings are hardwired to be more optimistic than not.” Optimism significantly improves experiences, especially unfamiliar ones.

I consider myself an optimistic person which is not to say that I have never experienced the doldrums. However, I actively seek out opportunities or implement routines centered around positivity. Thinking positively helps me persevere during the rough patches that spring up from time to time.

Here are a few ways I cultivate positive thinking in my life.

Develop a Gratitude Attitude

Gratitude JournalPracticing gratitude or exhibiting a gratitude attitude is a terrific place to start with implementing more positivity in your life. It is quite difficult to be pessimistic and grateful at the same time. Keeping a gratitude journal and listing 3-5 items daily is a wonderful way to reframe a “bad day” since focusing on the good as opposed to the bad makes for a happier outlook. The majority of items that I list in my gratitude journal do not always reflect major experiences from the day. Many days I am grateful for the ordinary, the mundane, or things we take for granted. Hot showers, ketchup, the sound of birds on a morning walk, and a smile from a stranger while he/she holds the door open for you at the post office are all reasons to celebrate a feeling of gratitude.

During the summer, I started listening to The Gratitude Diaries podcast hosted by Janice Kaplan. Kaplan spent a year exploring gratitude and eventually wrote a book about her experience. Her podcast episodes are short (5-7 minutes) and air every weekday with a range of topics and useful tips that will help you start your day with a gratitude attitude. Being grateful equals feeling happier and more positive.

Daddy Nail GunExpress your gratitude towards others. It could be as simple as a verbal thank you, a note of gratitude, a small token of appreciation, or springing for lunch or dinner. Expressing thankfulness through words or actions is a positive gamechanger for both you and the recipient of the gratitude. My Daddy came over yesterday and helped my hubby install crown moulding in the entryway of my house. I always appreciate my Daddy (and my hubby) and his talents, and I make sure he feels that appreciation. Since the crown moulding has been installed, the bookcase that my hubby built for me will be put in the entryway, providing me with more shelf space for my large book collection.

Monitor Your Thoughts

Reframing your thoughts about a situation can lead to a more positive outlook. Sometimes life gets hectic whether at work or at home, and the demands during that period get overwhelming. Burnout, negativity, and a feeling of helplessness can creep in easily. If I am not careful, I am susceptible to falling prey to the negativity demon; however, I now view these times as a “season of sacrifice.” This point in time is temporary, and there is eventually a light at the end of the tunnel. Generally, I mark the ending date of my all-consuming task on my calendar to give me some clarity. If the season of sacrifice is at work, I may give myself permission to lower the bar at home. Taking pressure off of myself in another area of my life keeps me on track to complete whatever needs my immediate attention at the time. I may have to say no to some things to allow time to recharge my mental batteries.

Right now, we are experiencing a global season of sacrifice. My hubby and I have not been to a movie theatre since 26 January when we went to see Doolittle. Today, we are going to see Tenet, and I’m over the moon. Yes, we have to wear a mask, but I don’t care. It is a small sacrifice to make in order to experience an activity that I enjoy immensely. Having a type of entertainment to look forward to is a huge happiness boost and keeps dullness at bay.

Don’t catastrophize! Instead, embrace the unknown. Try to focus on the unexpected blessings that show up along the way. While the pandemic had us sheltering in place for longer than we could ever imagine, it also gave us an opportunity to evaluate the aspects of our life that are really important and valuable, such as relationships, while allowing us to slow down to notice the wonders of nature or rekindle an appreciation for being at home.  I started walking again and haven’t missed a day, yet. I love walking outside. Sometimes, I listen to a podcast or music, and other times I listen to the natural sounds surrounding me. I always feel happier and hopeful after a walk.

Imagine the Possibilities

Engage in activities that will allow you to think more positively. Here are a few examples of activities that make me happier.

  • Develop a spiritual or religious practice.
  • Develop a self-care routine that makes you feel physically and mentally strong.
  • Read books, watch programs/films, or listen to podcasts about happiness and positivity.
  • Do a nice gesture for someone.
  • Cultivate relationships with optimistic people.
  • Explore nature.
  • Create something!

Life is short, dear reader. Yet, we can choose how we live that life. Even though today has been declared National Positive Thinking Day, we can live positively every day. So, how do you choose to think? I would love for you to share your thoughts and any tips you have for thinking positively. Happiness!

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” ~ Winston Churchill

Kat in Kentucky

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