Community, Memoir

Beware of Halloween

Beware of Halloween.

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Kids will do anything for candy.

Jerry Seinfeld said, “Candy was my whole life when I was a kid. For the first 10 years, I think the only clear thought I had was ‘Get Candy.’ That was it – family, friends, school – they were just obstacles in the way of the candy. I could only think get candy; get candy; get candy.”

I wish I could say that ended when I was 10.

Sometimes my brain works like that now.

For now, forget all the studies about how bad candy is for you.

All that research about sugar rotting your teeth, making you fat, and increasing your cravings for all things not good for you? Forget it.

It’s Halloween. It’s all about the candy.

The costumes are just a means to an end.

As a kid, the more candy you get, the better. The one with the most candy wins.

Get candy. Get candy. Get candy.

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Michigan football coach, Jim Harbaugh taught his kids that Halloween is all about the hustle — “constant hustle, hustling all the time.”

“You can hit the neighborhood in one costume — and better to jog and run from house to house, then you can get more candy than anybody else. Then come home make a quick change into the second costume and go hit those same houses again.”

I thought we were pretty good at getting candy when I was a kid, but clearly we were amateurs. We never even thought of the costume change-up strategy and the Halloween hustle.

We just plotted out the best neighborhoods – the nice, compact ones with lots of houses crammed in them so we could get a lot of candy in a short time.

You know it’s serious trick-or-treating when you outgrow your dinky little plastic orange pumpkin and pull out a pillowcase.

Now, because it’s all about the candy, you sacrifice the clever costume and go with the lame variety like grabbing a bed sheet and cutting two holes in it or putting a patch on your eye and pretending to be a pirate. I once blacked out my eye and wore a baseball cap. Good enough, I thought.

Again, means to an end here.

When our trick-or-treating starting looking like this, my mom did not hide her disgust.

She said, “When you stop dressing up in decent costumes, rummage through the house for old pillowcases, and beg me for a ride across town just so you can get more candy, you’re too old to trick-or-treat. And when kids like that knock on my door, I don’t want to open it. That’s not Halloween. That’s just begging for candy.”

Clearly, she did not understand the kid-crazed mind that can only think one thing at Halloween – get candy, get candy, get candy.

And gathering all that candy was only part of the fun. The other part was coming home, dumping it all out on the living room floor and sorting it into piles — Tootsie Rolls, Tootsie Pops, Lemon Heads, Sixlets, and Mary Janes — all in separate piles.

Then, the negotiations started — – I’ll give you two of my bubble gums for one of your Lemon Heads. The good chocolate stuff like Butterfingers, Baby Ruths and Kit Kats were in the not-up-for-grabs, no-way-are-you-getting-this-pile.

Because kids can’t think straight when it comes to candy, Halloween can be a very dangerous holiday.

For one thing, you have to watch out for candy thieves. They’re so consumed by the need for candy; they’ll just rip it right of your hands and leave you standing there sugar-deprived and deflated.

My brother, all tough and rugged, said that could never happen to him. He would fight off a candy thief lickety-split.

But, then it happened.

His clearest Halloween memory was when a candy-hungry, sugar-obsessed overgrown kid mugged him. Of course he had gone to a different neighborhood to trick-or-treat because our neighborhood was too spread out and the candy potential was too low.

“We were probably too old to be trick-or-treating,” he said, “but we wanted that candy. Between Jon and me, we had a full pillowcase of candy by the end of the night. Then, some big kid came around and tried to steal it. I worked hard for that candy. I wasn’t about to give it up. We tugged back and forth and pushed and punched each other for a while. Finally, after he kid kicked me in the shin, I gave it up. And, Jon, he just handed his over first thing. He didn’t even fight for it. After it was over, I said, ‘Jon, what were you thinking just giving up all that candy? We had enough to get us through until New Year’s.’”

The things we do for candy.

The other lurking danger, according to our mom, was that some sickos might hand out apples with razor blades in them.

Red_Apple

I know, it sounds outrageous, but it was a thing in the late sixties.

Getting a seemingly good old nutritious apple was the worst possible thing that could happen to a kid on Halloween.

They even reported this razor-blades-in-apple danger on the news. That prompted legislators in New Jersey to pass a law that if you booby-trapped your Halloween treats, you’d go to prison.

It was hard to believe our neighbors would put razor blades in apples.

But, then again, we left the neighborhood on a get-more-candy-mission so, we didn’t really know who was giving us what now did we?

It all added to the spooky nature of Halloween.

So, now that I’ve given you some good candy-grubbing strategies and some safety tips, go out and have yourself a Happy Halloween.

Get candy, get candy, get candy.

Just do not get apples.

I repeat, do not get apples.

Happy Halloween.

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Reunited, and it feels so good…

So I lost my phone.

Or it was stolen.

It happened at my class reunion.

As soon as I got back to where I was staying, I realized I had no phone.

I tore my purse apart, looked in the car, and retraced my steps.

No phone.

I returned to the restaurant, looked everywhere, checked lost & found.

No phone.

My phonelessness was, at best, an inconvenience, but it also was a reminder of how much I rely on the darn thing.

Thank goodness, the next day, my sister reminded me about the Find My i-Phone app.

This amazing little app allows you to lock your phone, and then send your contact information in a message to the finder of the phone.

I shared my Mom’s phone number as my contact number.

Within minutes, I received an email saying the phone was located about 10 miles away.

Clearly someone had picked up my phone at the restaurant, taken it home, and it was “on the move,” to use cop language.

Any number of things can happen when a phone’s on the move, according to the police.

It can get sold, or traded, or some nice people might actually realize they have something that doesn’t belong to them, and they’ll call and return it.

I gave the police the address where the phone was located, and they made a visit to The Perp.

Yeah, we’ll call him The Perp to make this more interesting.

Unfortunately, it was an apartment complex with no unit number.

While I was working with the police and keeping track of the emails as the phone moved from place to place, my well-meaning friends and brothers called and texted threatening messages to The Perp.

“Look, we know where the phone is located. You can either do the right thing and call the number we gave you or you can have a little run-in with the cops. Your choice. Have a nice day.”

“My sister needs that phone. She’s flying back to Virginia today and I suggest you call us and give it back.”

Mark, my protective brother, and his cute grandson, Logan
One of my helpful brothers and his cute grandson

My favorite ones were from my high school friend, who had been with me at the reunion.

“Hi, whoever has this cell phone, can you can call me? This is my friend’s cell phone and she lost it and really needs it back.”

No response.

So, she followed up.

“Text me a location so we can meet and I can get the phone back.”

Nothing.

“Look, we have an address from the Find My iPhone app. Honestly, if we can just meet you, you can give the phone back. No questions asked. I’ll get it back to its rightful owner.”

No reply.

“Hey y’all! Are you going to give us the phone back??”

Still nothing.

“It’s really too bad you have my friend’s phone and that you have zero integrity. The police actually have your address, but if you want to be honest and give the phone back to the rightful owner, please let me know. But, remember, the police have your address.”

Nothing.

“Are you ready to turn over that phone to the owner??”

I actually started to feel sorry for the thief…if he even was a thief.

(I’m trying to give The Perp the benefit of the doubt.)

After getting several emails with updated addresses, someone finally called my Mom.’s house where my brother was waiting to intercept the call.

Well, apparently, The Perp was the cleaning person at the restaurant. He found it in the ladies room, and took it home with him, you know, for safekeeping. He planned to return it to the restaurant on his next scheduled shift.

“No, we need the phone today, “my brother told him, “and you can either meet me now to give it back or we can send the police to pick it up.”

The Perp and my brother struck a deal and met in the parking lot of Sam’s Club.

This was all good news except that this meeting went down too late for me to get the phone back before boarding a flight home to Virginia.

So, my brother went to Federal Express to ship the phone back to me.

For the next couple days, I got emails telling me about my phone’s journey across country – Salt Lake City airport, Atlanta airport, Dulles airport, and then various stops along the FedEx delivery route.

I was scheduled to attend a conference in Southern Virginia and couldn’t leave without my phone so Doug tracked down the FedEx truck and picked up the phone from the deliveryman on his truck.

My phone had quite an experience going from that little restaurant to Virignia.

When I finally got it back, I made a video for my family of me tenderly holding my phone while Peaches & Herb sang, “Reunited and it Feels So Good” in the background.

Moral of the story? Get the Find My i-phone app or one that will work on your phone.

And, more important, have loyal friends and family to intimidate, harass, and pester the you-know-what out of The Perp.

And, don’t tell them The Perp probably never got their messages because the app locked your phone.

If you do that, they might feel silly and you won’t have nearly as much fun as I did when I got the phone back and listened to all the voicemail messages and read all the texts.

Memoir

The Power of Music

I have a confession to make.

For my birthday, Doug took me to see Beautiful, The Carole King Musical at the Kennedy Center.

I loved it so much, I cried.

I couldn’t help myself.

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Sitting there in the Opera House, listening to the music I fell in love with when I was a teenager, just touched me in an unexpected way.

It transported me back to about 1972 when I found Carole King’s album, Tapestry, under the tree on Christmas morning. I played that album so much that I wore it out.

My entire family ended up memorizing the album right along with me because I played it so often.

I never imagined then that my obsession over that music would be relived many years later sitting in a theater at Kennedy Center.

I certainly couldn’t have imagined then that I’d be so overwhelmed with nostalgia, gratitude and appreciation for all that life has given me since that Christmas so long ago.

During intermission, I texted my friend, Keri, who shares my love for Carole King. I said, “I have been thinking of you all night. You HAVE to see this musical.”

She texted back, “Carole King defines us and our generation. Tapestry was the first album I bought for myself.”

She would get the tears, I thought.

But, when I mentioned the musical to some other friends later, they just politely nodded, not fully getting why it made such an impression on me.

While others might not have the same response to Carole King that I had, I’m sure we’ve all had times when we’ve heard songs from our past and they’ve brought on a storm of uniquely strong emotions and memories.

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One of my college friends and I used to take turns sharing song titles or albums and then writing essays about what they made us remember.

For him, a Barbra Streisand song brought back tender memories of a childhood friend that tragically died.

For me, a song from the Broadway musical Pippin reminded me of sitting in a New York City cafe with an old friend and talking for hours. It was like I was reliving the experience.

After my daughter, Annie, saw the play Wicked, she came home and started a journal titled, “Moments that took my breath away.”

Her first entry was about the music from the play because it was the first time that music literally took her breath away.

As I looked around the theater last night at the Carol King musical, it was packed with people, like me, who seemed completely wrapped up in the songs and the memories they evoked.

I noticed I wasn’t the only one that shed a tear or two.

It took me back to those angst-filled teenage years when I lounged on my bed – reading and singing the lyrics to songs about love, loss, beauty and friendship and imagining my own future and how it might unfold.

I read an old article in Psychology Today in 2013 that said, “The songs we love become woven into a neural tapestry entwined with the people, seasons, and locations throughout our lifespan.”

Which songs are woven into your neural tapestry? 

I love the quote from Maria Augusta von Trapp: “Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens.”
And this from Colbie Caillat: “A great song should lift your heart, warm the soul and make you feel good.”

For me, my night at the Kennedy Center did all three.

Which songs do that for you? I’d love to know.

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Ode to the Class of ’75

Oh, my dear blog, so sorry you’ve been so neglected lately.

Nothing personal — just caught up in life.

One of the things that kept me busy was my 40th high school class reunion.

Yep, you read that right.

Forty years.

I graduated in The Year of Our Lord, 1975.

I didn’t plan to attend the reunion because I have traveled to Utah too much lately, and one more trip there didn’t sound like a financially wise idea.

Then, the enthusiasm started building for this momentous occasion, and I regretted not making plans to go.

My brother, Kelly, said he’d go if I’d fly out and be his date, so I bought a ticket and flew out the next day.

“I didn’t really mean it,” he said. “Airline tickets shouldn’t be so easy to buy at the last minute.”

Too bad, Kelly. We’re going.

Some things just can’t be missed.

A date with my brother seemed like one of them.

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Kelly and me

I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t nervous to see friends from oh-so-long-ago.

And, it didn’t help that at the last reunion I attended, an old friend greeted me by saying, “Hello Chubby.”

Like. I. Don’t. Have. A. Mirror.

Thank you very much for that self-esteem booster.

Part of me hoped he would be at the 40th reunion — all fat, gray and wrinkled.

But, he showed up– not too fat, unfortunately, but pretty gray and as wrinkled as the rest of us.

My petty grievance about the chubby comment gave way to a lot of fun memories, laughter, and a feeling of connectedness to the people I’d grown up with all those years ago.

My favorite part was watching my brother laugh as he reminisced with old friends.

Kelly & me
Kelly, Jeff, Jay

This brother of mine has had quite a life since high school – not an easy one by any measure.

He’s spent the last 10 years or so in a wheelchair, coping with a life he never planned or wanted, but has miraculous managed not just to endure but also to enjoy.

When one of our friends asked him what happened to him, Kelly spared him the gruesome details of his leg amputation, and simply said, “Oh, Laurie and I both got hit with some challenges. But, we both keep rolling along.”

And, roll along, is what he does.

I looked around at our classmates – many of them quite accomplished in life with college degrees and successful businesses, and I thought — sometimes the measure of a person is not what they’ve achieved on the world stage in terms of academic awards and the accumulation of money and status, but rather, what they’ve endured, what they’ve overcome, and how they’ve blessed the lives of others.

Cathy, Joan, me
Cathy, Joan, me

As I surveyed the crowded room, I thought about the private struggles of the many people I knew well at the reunion.

None of them arrived at the reunion unscathed by life.

They all probably came – like I did — with the worry of what others might think of them and how they might compare to everyone else in the room.

But, we all came – bravely owning our own pasts, pains and private victories.

We all slid in with a bruise here or there like a failed marriage, a major health challenge, the loss of a loved one, or any number of challenges.

And, for just a couple hours on a Saturday night, we rewound the clock to a time when we were young and everything ahead looked bright and promising.

Janalee, me, Debbie, Linda
Janalee, me, Debbie, Linda

We didn’t know then we would face cancer, vascular disease, divorce, death of a companion, or even a tsunami for one of our classmates, but we all got through those things and showed up to tell our tales.

And the end of the night, I talked to Kelly, and his best friend and our classmate, Jay and I said, “It’s amazing what people have been through. Everyone has a story. Everyone at that reunion has survived something hard.”

In his slow, wise way, Jay said, “But, you know, if you have a few good friends, some family, a little faith, and something to look forward, you can get through pretty much anything.”

And like Winnie the Pooh said, “If you weren’t you, then we’d all be a bit less, um… we.”

After 40 years, I was pretty happy with the collective “we” of the great class of 1975.