Thursday, October 29, 2009

The House Next Door

Wanna hear (read) a scary story? Well, maybe not scary, but definitely creepy. And absolutely true.

We moved around a lot when I was growing up. My mom always said we were part gypsy. The summer before I turned 11, we moved to a small town in Northern Utah. It was a very picturesque little town, built at the base of the mountains, with an actual Main Street and everything. It was very Stephen King.

When we first moved to the town, we lived in a small house on a quiet, tree lined street. It was a cozy little house, but my mother was in love with the house next door.

The house next door was right on the corner. It was an old white farm house with a black roof, a wrap around porch, and a white picket fence outlining the back yard. When we drove down the street, my mom would sigh as we passed it. To her, it was the perfect house. A dream house that needed a little love, but could be fabulous with the right person to love it. Unfortunately, a large family was renting it at the time, so she was forced to admire it from afar. Or at least, from next door.

One night, late in the summer, I woke up to the sound of the wind chimes clanking in the breeze. My bed was pushed up against the wall next to my open window, which faced the east side of the old house next door. The full moon was shining down, illuminating an open second story window facing mine. I lay there in my bed, watching the sheer white curtains float back and forth in the breeze, dancing in and out of the that open window, to the soft tune of the wind chimes. And as I rolled over, my back to the moon light so I could go back to sleep, I wondered why that was the only window on that house that didn't have a screen.

Just about a month later, we found out the family who lived in the house next door had moved out. No one had seen them leave. One day, they were just gone. And of course my mother jumped at the opportunity. The owners agreed to let us rent the house with the option to buy in about a year. The owners lived out of town, I can't remember if it was a different state or what, but they sent someone to give us a walk through of the house before we moved in.

The inside of the house was even better than my mother imagined. It was built in the early 1880's and was the oldest house on the street. According to the lady who did the walk through, the family who originally built the house owned all the land surrounding it, eventually selling pieces of the land here and there for others to build on.

"Despite what you may have heard," she said, "This house has a good history."

My mom and I looked at each other, our eyebrows furrowed in unison. But we shrugged it off and followed her around the first floor of the house, oohing and aahhing over the claw footed bath tub and mahogany stair rail. Upstairs there were three bedrooms, one of which was padlocked shut. It just so happened, this was the room with the east facing window overlooking the house we were moving out of, the window that I had just looked up at a month ago and watched the curtains breeze in and out.

My mom asked why this room was locked. Our tour guide informed us the owners of the home were using that room for storage and it would not be available to us. My mother agreed that would be fine. With the master bedroom downstairs and two open bedrooms upstairs, there was more than enough room for the two of us and our two mangy dogs, Misty and Magnum.

Excited about the new house and our fresh start, we moved in. The old house had so much character - the decorative moulding around the wide door frames, the quaint kitchen with 1950's era appliances, and the big old apple tree in the back yard. One afternoon a few days after we moved in, I was in the back yard with the dogs, picking apples from the tree. I noticed a gate in the back corner of the yard. I thought it was odd that there was a gate leading to the yard of the house behind us. I walked over to get a closer look.

It was a rickety gate attached to the picket fence that lined the yard, badly in need of fresh paint. But it didn't lead to the neighbor's yard like I thought, I could see a chain link fence marking the perimeter of their property. The gate opened to a dirt path leading to that chain link fence and then turned to the left to reveal a small clearing. A meadow, if you will, covered in tall yellow grass and wildflowers. The chain link fences of the bordering properties revealed this to be an extra back yard belonging to our house. It was maybe a little less than a quarter of an acre in size. And my own secret garden.

I turned to my canine companions and smiled. "Let's go," I said, running ahead a little. Neither of them moved. Magnum actually took two steps backwards, turned, and walked back towards the house. I stopped in the middle of the clearing and yelled after him, but he kept going. I called Misty, but she didn't budge. She sat at the edge of the path with her ears perked and her teeth bared.

"What is your problem?" I asked. "Come on!" She stood up on all fours and began barking at me. I shrugged my shoulders and turned my back to her, walking through the tall grass and picking a few flowers for my mom. As I turned to walk back to the stubborn dog who would not stop barking, my feet stumbled over something and I fell forward, dropping the flowers as I put my hands out to catch myself. The stupid dog still didn't come to my rescue. She started jumping and barking more aggressively, but wouldn't come into the clearing.

I had tripped over a row of crumbling cement curbing half covered by the tall grass. I sat up and looked around the ground. The curbing was about three inches wide and formed a rectangle of about 6 feet by three feet. A few feet over, there was another rectangle. And then another. And two smaller ones a little further way. All five rectangles were in various sizes, none of them the same. I assumed the farmers who built the house originally had kept this area as a garden and the rectangles were used for different herbs and vegetables. I brushed myself off and walked back to the house, my psychotic dog whimpering at my feet. As I closed the creaky gate, a quick breeze blew from behind me and the hair on my neck stood up. I looked back towards the path and shivered, then quickly followed my dog back to the house.

Later that day as my mom and I peeled the apples to make a pie, I told her about the creepy little garden I had found and how crazy the dogs had acted.

"That's weird," she said. "Magnum was barking at a corner in the dining room yesterday." We laughed at how the moving was probably confusing them and how they were never going to survive the gypsy life. But obviously the dogs were not amused. As the months went on, they acted more and more strange. Barking at that corner in the dining room, refusing to go with me into the cellar, and laying in front of the "storage" room upstairs and whimpering at the door.

And then the strange things started happening. The dining room lights flickered a lot. We thought maybe it was because the electricity had been added several years after the house was built, it seemed there were several outlets and switches that didn't work. And then the toilet always flushed by itself. We blamed that on faulty plumbing. And then the back door would open and close by itself. We blamed that on rusty hinges. We blamed the creaky noises on the house settling. We blamed our misplaced personal items on each other. And that time I got locked in the master bedroom closet when I was home alone, we blamed the old door knobs that had to be unlocked with a skeleton key.

And we blamed the faint sounds of a child giggling on the kid next door.

By the time spring had rolled around, we had lived in the house for several months and experienced many odd moments, but all could be explained as one reason or another.

And then the owners came to clean out the storage room. The padlock was so old and rusted, they had to cut it off with bolt cutters. The small room was dark and musty, almost dank. It contained several boxes and an old baby crib in the corner. The original wood floor had been painted over many times, and in several spots the paint was peeling. In the middle of the room there was a large stain on the floor. I assumed that was why they had painted it, trying to cover that stain. At the end of the long room was the window overlooking the house we had lived in first. The sheer white curtains were dingy and frayed. I reached out to touch them, thinking of the night I had looked up from my window next door and watched the curtains floating in and out of the window with the breeze. I pushed the curtains aside, looking at the dirty sill. And my heart briefly stopped beating when I realized the window was painted shut.

"Didn't the family who lived here before us use this room?" I asked.

"No," the owner replied. "It's always been used for storage. We haven't been in this room in probably five or six years."

I stared at my mom, holding my breath. When the owner walked out of the room I told her about the night I saw the window open. She thought I might have been dreaming. Maybe I was, but I really don't think so. We moved out of the house not long after. And it wasn't until then that we heard stories from friends and former neighbors. Stories about other families who had lived there and the things they had heard or seen. No one had lived in that house longer than a year.

Many years later, I was taking a college history class. We were studying photographs dated from the late 1800's. I came across a group of photos of cemeteries and family burial plots. As I leafed through the photos I came across one that literally knocked the wind out of me. It was a piece of land with five plots in various sizes outlined by cement curbing. Other than the curbing, there were no other markings indicating what the rectangles represented. All this time I had ignorantly thought they were different little gardens. But I realized now, looking at this old photo, they were indeed graves.

For years I had dreams about the house. Some dreams, some nightmares. But basically they were all the same. I would be walking through the neighborhood, trying to find the house. Sometimes I couldn't find it. But when I did, I would knock on the door and explain to the person who lived there that I had once lived there, too. Sometimes I would hear voices coming from within the house, telling the new owner not to let me in because I knew too much. Always, I would wake up in a cold sweat, my heart and mind racing.

A few years ago my mom and I paid a visit to that spooky little town. Not much had changed. We found the house easily and parked outside for a few minutes to take pictures. It still looked like a quaint little house that was loved by it's new owners. It did not look like a house full of secrets. We stared at it in silence for a while and then drove away. We did not knock on the door.

I haven't had a dream about that house since.

Do I know for sure what happened in that house? No. But do I know it was something unusual? Something that can't be explained? Something that not many people, even some of you reading, will believe? Yes.

Am I okay with the unknown?

I guess I have to be.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Confessional Vol. VIII - Not On A Monday Edition

Over the weekend I attended a bridal shower where they served lemon squares. I realized I have completely underestimated this fabulous little bar of deliciousness for my entire solid food eating lifetime.

On my drive to work one morning, I checked my lipstick in the mirror on the back of my sun visor. The morning light hit my face and neck just right, illuminating every pore, every freckle, every wrinkle . . . and ever hair. I found a one inch long hair growing out of that spot that is not your chin but not your neck, what is that called?? Your waddle? Anyhoo, there it was, a huge long hair. I was beyond horrified and immediately texted Ubes to ask why he never told me I had a long ugly hair growing from my waddle.

I carry tweezers in my car just for such occasions.

I ate a piece of Boo's left over birthday cake for breakfast this week. Twice.

I'm frustrated with my weight.

I'm putting my Christmas tree up while I pass out Halloween candy on Saturday night.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sparkles

She is tiny and thin with long legs and no hips and it is very difficult to find jeans that fit her well. Especially when the jeans have to be sparkly and/or appliqued with rhinestones, flowers or butterflies.

She likes fashion.

She has the biggest brown eyes you have ever seen, surrounded by long dark lashes. Her eyes get all squinty when she's laughing.

She has a teeny, tiny turned up button nose that she crinkles when she doesn't like something, and a big dimple on the left side of her perfect little mouth.

She laughs loud. And a lot.

She uses hand gestures when she tells a story.

She has the cutest little voice you have ever heard, like a cartoon character.

She loves Milk Duds, bean burritos, pizza, crackers of all kinds, steak and macaroni and cheese. She no longer likes olives after eating an entire bowl of them and then throwing up.

When she grows up she wants to be a teacher.

She likes to wear sparkly bows and jewelry. All the time. The sparkly-er the better

She likes to go to the movies.

She loves to draw, play with Legos, put puzzles together, read books, play with Barbies, watch iCarly, sparkly stuff and all things High School Musical. But she is so over Hannah Montana.

She is quite simply, the most amazing little girl ever.

Today, she is six.

Happy Birthday little Boo. Thank you for putting the sparkle in all my days.

(PS - No you are not getting that cupcake necklace and no I don't think Santa shops at Tiffany, either.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

This post is about so much more than a couple of TV shows....

Three days ago I gave up Gossip Girl.

I was talking to my boss about last week's episode where Lily and Rufus got married. The strangest thing happened in the middle of our conversation, it was like my words were hanging over the space between us and I could actually see how ridiculous they were. How horrifically stupid everything sounded. I just couldn't take it anymore. Blair's constant plotting and whining, Serena's quest to find herself, Lily's refusal to be happy, Jenny and Vanessa's stupid hair extensions. I mean what is up with that? When did it become cool for your hair to look like a tangled, ratty mess? It made me want to rip my own hair out by the root.

I've been complaining about this stupid show since the middle of last season. Every time it ended I would ask myself why I was watching it. I just kept thinking it would get better, it was building up to something fabulous. But no.

I mean seriously, I hung on with ER until the very end. I did not want to be a quitter. I watched every episode of that show from start to finish. Every. Single. Episode. For 15 years. And I am pretty sure for the last three years at least, I was disappointed nine times out of ten.

Why do I do that to myself? Why am I so loyal? I am not getting anything in return. I know enough snobby, self centered, unrealistic assholes in real life. I don't need to spend an hour watching fake ones on TV. Oh no. I was not going to let Gossip Girl turn into my new ER.

So I quit. I came home and deleted Monday's unwatched episode from my TiVo. And then I deleted it from my Season Pass Manager. It's gone. Won't ever record again. And I am so over it.

Now I am thinking about giving up Grey's Anatomy. Because it's turning into the same thing. There is no joy in that show anymore. I'm giving it a few more episodes, we'll see how this whole Mercy West merger thing goes. But if I don't see results soon, boom! I'm pulling the plug.

So all of this has got me thinking. If it doesn't serve a purpose any longer, why do I hold onto it? Why is it usually so difficult for me to let go? Why do I keep the clothes I don't wear, the stuff I don't use . . . the friends I don't have anything in common with anymore?

Why is it so hard to hit delete?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Faulty

I realize I spend a lot of time here complaining about the stupidity of others. This may come across as me thinking I am superior or whatever, but I can assure you that is not the case. I have faults. I do. Believe me, there is no one out there more aware of those faults than this girl right here. I mean I am with myself all day. There is no one more sick of me than I am. Oh, trust me on that one.

So a few weeks ago I was reading one of the blogs I frequent and she had this really cool post listing some of her faults. I loved the introspection that occurred after I read it. And since then I have been sort of cataloging my own. Here's a list of the ones I can think of right now:

I am forgetful - I can never remember if I locked my car or the house. I forget to send in lunch money for the kids until they are completely out and the lunch lady is threatening to make them eat a cheese sandwich. If you let me borrow something, you need to remind me to give it back to you. Oh I will remember I have it, I will just never remember to return it. If Ubes asks me to run errand for him, 9 times out of ten I will forget. Even if it's on my way home. I leave cabinet doors and drawers open. Not because I am too lazy to close them, but because I walk away and forget to close them.

I am easily distracted - I will leave the water running in the sink to do dishes, and go into another room to put something way, get sidetracked with something else and will forget about the water. (See? Also counts as forgetful.) I will be cooking dinner and will run upstairs to check my email or look up a recipe and next thing you know the kids are yelling the house is full of smoke and the chicken is a little too Cajun. (I do this at least once a week.)

I'm a terrible driver - see above about being easily distracted.

I'm a procrastinator - I work best under pressure. But I put everything off. And every year at Christmas I say I won't do this, but I am always up until all hours of the morning on Christmas Eve wrapping presents that are just going to be ripped open in a few hours.

I have no filter - I say the wrong thing at the wrong time all the time. My thoughts turn into words and the words get a mind of their own and just come flying out of my mouth before I can stop them. And most of the time the inappropriate things sound so much funnier in my head...

I can't hide my emotions - My face will tell you exactly what I am thinking at all times. I'm an eye roller. A face maker. A loud exhaler. An eyebrow raiser. A smirker. Oh yes, I am definitely one who smirks.

I'm loud - I don't have an inside voice. At all. I talk loud, especially if I am excited. I react loudly. I laugh loud. I get more loud when I am angry. And I get super pissed if we are having a conversation and Ubes says "Why are you screaming at me?" Most of the time I am not aware I have raised my voice so much. Sometimes when I raise my voice, I also raise the octave. So I squeak. And Raia will say to me "Sweetie, only dogs can you hear now."

I can't bake decent brownies to save my life - No matter how many times I try they are either too crispy around the edges, not done enough in the middle, too gooey or too flat. And they never cut into nice squares, the edges are always too jagged. And yet I can't give up on my dream of perfect brownies. I keep trying. I use different pans and different brands of oil and different brands of eggs. But no. Every. Single. Time. Bad brownies. It's so disappointing.

I have unrealistic expectations - I don't thing I need to explain this one.

I like chick flicks - Even though they are all dumb and all the same. I can't help it. I love them. You give me the whole boy meets girl, girl hates boy, they fight, and they realize they love each other in the end - I am so there. You throw Meg Ryan and a box of milk duds in and I am in Heaven for two hours.

I am chubby - see "milk duds" above.

I am unorganized - Actually I should change this one to I am overwhelmed. I let things get out of control and then I have big mess I don't want to deal with. But I am tired of this and slowly I have been making a dent in this one.

I have the disease to please - I have a hard time saying no. I do things I don't want to do. I volunteer for things I don't have time for. This adds to the feeling for being overwhelmed. I tend to take on too much. This drives Ubes CRAZY. And then I am torn. Knowing my disease to please is going to end up displeasing someone. I don't deal with this well at all.

I worry - Even though I may not have control over something, I still waste the energy on worrying about it. There are times when I constantly have a knot in my stomach about all the things on my mind. And yet I am the first one to tell someone not to worry about stuff. I don't practice what I preach. Which I guess could be a fault all its own.

And finally....

I can be too hard on myself. See also Unrealistic Expectations.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Revelations

There are many people who believe we are living in the end of days. That the prophecies of the book of Revelations are unfolding before our eyes. Earthquakes. Famines. Wars. These are all things we cannot deny. They are happening.

And this weekend, I experienced one of these prophecies. A plague, if you will. A sure sign that the rapture is near.

Stirrup pants are on the racks at Old Navy.

God help us all.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Downtown! Everything's Waiting for Yoooouuu!

Last month, one month ago today to be exact, I turned a big whopping 38. I know, right? The number is just so overwhelming. Like, I'm gonna be 40. Any minute. Well in two years, but still. Forty. (Shudder.) That's, like, old. My mom turned 40 the year I got engaged to Ubes. Weird, right?

So anyhoo. I am a sneeze away from 40, but deep down inside I still feel like a kid. I still laugh at fart jokes and get excited about going to Disneyland and occasionally stamp my feet when I don't get my way. Sooooo not the behavior of an almost 40 year old.

A few years ago Dee was telling me how she was going to host Thanksgiving at her house for Schlampe's family. She was going to make a big turkey with stuffing and mashed potatoes and yams and green bean casserole and the whole enchilada. And I remember looking at her in awe and saying "Wow. That is such a grown up thing to do." And she nodded nervously and said "I know." There we both were, married with kids and mortgages and everything, and being a grown up meant cooking a turkey dinner.

So today I had a grown up moment of my own. I had to go downtown. Yes, with the big buildings and stuff. When I was little, I would sometimes go downtown with my Grandma to run an errand. She would get all dressed up and put on pink lipstick. I wore jeans, black Converse and MAC lipglass. Times have changed, Grandma.

I'm not going to lie to you. I was nervous. I hate going downtown. I hate the one way streets and the traffic and the homeless people. Wait, I mean I don't hate the homeless people. I hate seeing them. I hate how they make my heart feel heavy and how I wonder when they last ate and if they are too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter and why don't they have families who will help them. See? Codependent, party of one please.

So where was I? Oh, right. Downtown.

The only time I ever go is for a sporting event, and then I always have Ubes with me. But there I was, all by myself, cruising down the freeway towards all those streets named after presidents, and wondering where in aych ee double ell I was going to park. Because without that mustached guy in a wife beater waiving me in with an orange flag and holding out his hand for a ten dollar bill . . . dude I have no idea what to do. Isn't that sad? I am a 38 year old woman who has never used a parking meter. And I suck at parallel parking. I mean jeez, I suck at regular parking. Me trying to go parallel is just a You Tube moment waiting to happen, you know?

So after driving around the block four times, I finally saw an open meter with a wide enough space where I wasn't going to humiliate myself. I didn't even have to reverse and straighten it out. I am so awesome! I stood there staring at the meter for a few seconds wondering if it only accepted quarters or what. And you see, there are no instructions. They don't make it easy on you. They just assume you are not a dumb ass and have put money in a meter before. Which made me feel like even more of a dumb ass. So what did I do? I copied off the guy next to me. I watched him nonchalantly slip coins in the back of the meter. The back, duh! Why isn't there an arrow or a sign or something? Someone needs to come out with "Parking Downtown for Dummies." It would be huge.

I fed my quarters in the back, hoping it was going to be enough for the ten minutes I needed to run my errand, looked around to see if anyone was laughing at the moron who didn't know how to feed a meter, high fived the homeless guy watching me and then skipped off down the street. When I came out, my car was still there and I had like an hour left on the meter. That's right. Don't say I never pay it forward. And whom ever was fortunate enough to get that space after me, you are welcome!

So yeah. I went downtown all by my big girl self today. I feel like a grown up bad ass. I just might be ready to attempt a whole turkey dinner. But minus the yams and green been casserole. Because those are just icky.

Monday, October 5, 2009

High/Low - Neglected Blog Edition

Yeah, I know. I have totally been MIA. I would also like to acknowledge that I have skipped Monday Confessions two weeks in a row. Honestly I am running out of stuff to confess. I'm not much of a bad girl, you know?

It's been more than a week since my last post. I hate that because I love writing and getting all my thoughts out of my head. I had no time this week, plain and simple.

It's been a bit of a roller coaster lately. I'll talk about it more in a later post, but Ubes and I have been dealing with a lot. One thing I am grateful for is that we deal with "it" together. After 15 years of marriage, we have learned to grasp hands, plant our feet firmly, look into the eye of the storm and say "Bring it, Bitch." We know that as long as we commit to tackling it together, we'll make it through stronger, no matter the out come. Sometimes the out come sucks. And it helps that we can look at each other and say "Yeah, this sucks. But I am grateful I can enjoy this suckfest with you by my side." Isn't marriage the best?

So with that I say let's play some High/Low! Who's with me?? Oh shut up, we're doing it anyway.

Last week's Lows:

  • Short staffed at work. I left every day exhausted and in various stages of irritation.
  • Two sick babies. First Mac, then Boo. Took Mac to the doctor and the words "possible swine flu" were mentioned. Awesome.
  • Missed Katie's Sprinkle because of babies sick with possible swine flu.
  • Have a good friend who is suffering from a wounded heart. This makes my own heart heavy. Being co-dependent is a bitch. I think I'd rather have swine flu.

Last week's Highs:

  • Looks like the end of a long battle that has been going on since January. Huge sigh of relief.
  • Ubes has been working his hot little booty off and is finally starting to reap the benefits of his labors. Yay Ubes!! I am so proud of you and so thankful for all you are doing for your family!!
  • Won $37 at Bunco. Yeah baby. I am thinking of going pro. Because I am that good. And there's so much skill involved in this game.
  • Spent Saturday hanging with the lovely women of Ubes' family. Ubes cousin is getting married in just a few weeks and we threw her a lovely shower. It makes my heart smile to see her so happy. I love this woman, she is one of my most favorite people in the whole world. And my baby Boo is going to look so beautiful as her flower girl. I can't wait to share this day with the bride and groom!
  • We started planning our next Euro Trip with Dee and Schlampe! We are thinking next fall. Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin and Copenhagen. It's all in the beginning stages, but something to look forward to!

So that's it for now. I know this is a lame post, my apologies. I'm exhausted and not that interesting right now. Peace out.