No costume needed for this Halloween scare

Some of the neighbors go all out for Halloween with spider webs dangling from trees, inflatable green-eyed monsters in the front yard and skeletons crawling up the house. If I really want a good scare, I scan emails in my junk folder or listen to messages on the landline.

Diplomat Joe McDonald has been trying to reach me to let me know that a sealed box worth $8,000,000 has arrived at JFK airport with instructions to be delivered to my doorstep.

If I were to email Joe back—which I will not—I would tell Joe that we live in a safe neighborhood, but $8,000,000 seems like a lot to leave on the porch.

Joe can’t dispatch the box until we pay $155 for a yellow tag.

Hey Joe, rip open the box, take out $155, and leave the box on the porch. We’ll let the trick-or-treaters dip into the cash and be the house that put the treat in trick-or-treat!

I also receive scary emails from people on their sick beds. If I were so sick that I couldn’t get out of bed, I’d be emailing health care providers, not some stranger I found online.

I was recently contacted by someone claiming to be Nelson Mandela’s daughter (from her sick bed). She has $15 million she would like to give me to use for charity. Imagine. A host of international contacts and she chooses me to do business with. That’s just creepy.

If I were to email back—which I will not—I would say that I am glad to assist, but there will be a brief delay while I register as a 501(c)(3).


I also hear from people who want to sell my website. They charge 3 percent “success fees.” I’m more interested in their “failure fees.”

Even if I’m not interested in selling, they’ll pay me $50,000 if I give them the name of someone else. Easy money. I thought that was the domain of Washington, D.C. I guess ghouls just wanna have fun.

Then there are the terrifying messages on the landline. If we dimmed the lights and lit a few candles, we could be a haunted house.

“Your car warranty is about to expire.”

Ha! Beat you to it. Our Explorer has 215,000 miles on it!

“Amazon calling. A $700,000 order was placed on your account. Please call to confirm your account login and password.”

“Your computer will crash unless you call back and let us take it over remotely and provide two credit cards and a bank account number.”

The best one?

“This is the Social Security Administration calling to notify you that due to fraudulent activity, we have issued a warrant for your arrest.”

Heart stopping, but if someone is already on their way with a warrant, why would I need to call back with my name, address and Social Security number?

These messages are as fake as plastic vampire teeth dripping blood. They are laughable. But they can make you batty.


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Playing another round of hide and shriek

We’re thinking about getting one of those Ring Doorbells that notify you on your cell phone every time someone is at the door. A lot of our family and friends have them. They look like a lot of fun, chiming in the background of every conversation and meal, dinging whenever a car, runner or four-year-old on a ride toy passes by.

Plus, we’ve been missing out on the thrill of huddling before a notification of someone at the door after dark, poised to call 911, then discovering it is only an Amazon delivery. A Ring doorbell could be what we need to keep our reflexes sharp.

The real reason we would get one is because our bell keeps ringing but, when we go to the door, no one is there.

Sure, we hear giggling, but we don’t see anybody. We don’t look left or right, just straight ahead like we don’t have an ounce of curiosity or a brain cell to spare.

We close the door. The bell rings again. We open it again. More laughing again. We are about to close the door again when a kid or two or three jump from behind wicker chairs and yell, “SURPRISE! Did you know it was us?”

No idea. Never could have guessed. Not in a million years.

“How in the world did you kids get here?” we ask, seemingly oblivious to the minivan the size of a tank pulling into the driveway.

A 3-year-old pipes up and says, “We walked!”

“All that way on those little legs?”

She nods yes.

“You kids must be tired and very hungry.”

They hadn’t thought of it before, but now that we mentioned it.

“Come on in, we’ll get you something to eat.”

Our kids used to do the same thing to my parents who lived 500 miles away. They’d beg us to stop the car, let them out at the top of the hill and give them a head start. They’d race down the hill, ring the bell and Mom and Dad would open the door feigning shock and surprise.

“You walked all the way from Indiana to Missouri?” they’d ask.


“All alone on I-70?”

They’d nod yes, as though we, the parents, thought that was a fine idea.

“Clear across half of Indiana, all of Illinois, through East St. Louis, across that big bridge that spans the Missouri River and all the way to Kansas City?”


It was an old gag and they never got tired of it. The kids or the grownups.

We have a couple grands who live 50 miles to the south of us and appeared at the door not long ago claiming they had walked.

“You must be exhausted,” we said.

Exhausted nothing. Their eyes danced, their faces beamed and they doubled over trying to contain laughter because they fooled their ol’ grandparents once again.

Nothing more to do at that point but open the door and get the party started.

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All fired up about fall

We all need to muse more and fall is the perfect time for sitting, pondering and reflecting, particularly in front of a fire. So says a piece I read recently. This was good news because all our adult children have outdoor firepits. Lucky for us, from time to time we are invited to join them.

That said, I would never be able to muse around our son’s firepit in the country, as I would be on edge waiting for wild animals to charge out from the woods in the dark, snakes to slither around my legs or bats to sweep down and tangle themselves in my hair. There are firepits that call for reflection and firepits that call for adrenaline.

Fortunately, two other firepits we frequent are tucked into suburbia where wildlife appears by appointment only. We were around a firepit the other night as the sun set and the flames danced.

The air was tinged with a hint of melancholy, which I assume is essential to musing along with any beverage named pumpkin spice. I was thinking how the grands have given us more joy than we could ever give to them (the beginnings of musing) when two of the darlings began arguing over a chair. The tussle escalated and required parental intervention.

Things settled down, then the makings of s’mores arrived. Soon kids were jumping up and down, waving long forks with sharp metal tongs bearing flaming marshmallows streaking against the night sky. The window for musing had passed; it was now time for first aid readiness.

A trail I frequent is lined with trees that form a canopy overhead. In fall, it is like walking through a painting in which the colors continually change. It would be an ideal place to muse, but it’s also the time of year black walnut trees drop their fruits. A ripe black walnut is like a small green tennis ball filled with concrete, then rolled in an oil slick. They hit the trail with a crack and would make a similar sound against one’s skull. You must be wary of what is overhead while simultaneously watching for black walnuts littering the path, waiting for you to trip, roll an ankle, twist a knee and send you spiraling.

It’s hard to be vigilant and muse at the same time. Musing on the trail hasn’t panned out, but my kick-the-can skills, as applied to black walnuts, are top-notch.

The other day I sat on a bench in the backyard to linger a few moments and enjoy the colors. Truthfully, I had paused to check some dings on my cell phone. The wind picked up and gold and crimson leaves spun to the ground. I looked up to see where they were coming from and saw a jet trail overhead. I remembered a flight I needed to book and dashed inside, preempting any and all musing.

I’ve added musing to my “To Do” list. Musing hasn’t happened yet this fall—and it may not ever happen this fall—but perhaps there is now reason to look forward to a long, cold, snowbound winter.

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Almost getting into the swing of things

I had a confession to make on the drive home.

“I almost jumped out of the swing,” I said.

Our son-in-law built a great swing set structure in their backyard. Two swings hang from thick rope anchored to an arbor. The hardware holding the swing is rated to hold 400 pounds. I can’t help but wonder who he had in mind when he calculated that weight load.

In any case, one of the girls invited me to swing alongside her. We pumped and pumped, enjoyed the wind on our faces and sailed higher and higher touching the sky with our toes. We stopped pumping and savored the easy glide back and forth, back and forth.

Swing therapy. If it isn’t a thing, it should be.

All of a sudden, I was possessed with the notion of jumping from the swing.

I could visualize it and even feel it. I could see myself slowing down, waiting for the arc, letting go and jumping.

And then I could see my knees jamming. Both of them, but the left one the most, because it had surgery twice when I was a kid. I was also able to visualize a lot of screaming and the part where they scraped me off the ground and trucked me to the nearest ER where an orthopedic doctor would look at me with incredulity.

And yet, I still considered it.

Oh, the call of freedom sailing.

Time is a tricky thing. The outside of you ages chronologically, but a big part of you on the inside is forever 17. That is the part that plays ball with grands in the backyard, arm wrestles with the ones encroaching on adolescence and lies on the floor hoisting little ones in the air on the bottom of your feet playing airplane.

It is also the part that imagines you are still capable of doing a cartwheel. Step, hand, hand, foot, foot. Done. Or better, a round off. Run, run, run, run, spring, twist, land with a thud, arms in the air.

I see these things in my mind and I can feel them in my limbs. A little voice in my head whispers, “You can do it. You can do it.”

Then a much louder voice in my head screams, “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR EVER LOVIN’ MIND?”

Perhaps. Possibly. Probably.

“I honestly considered jumping out of the swing,” I tell the husband.

“I did it,” he said.

“When? I didn’t see that.”

“It was a couple of months ago when we were all at that park.”

“Was that why you were complaining about your knees hurting?”


“Worth it?” I asked.

The answer was that he probably won’t do it again. At least not from that height.

In the interest of responsibility, let me say that people of a certain age should not jump out of a swing.

But you can still enjoy imagining it.

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