The Horrors That Grew Me – Ghostly Encounters

I’m not sure how old I was when my grandmother told me the story about the time she saw a ghost at a friend’s house. I couldn’t have been a teenager yet. This was the same grandmother who bought and taught me how to work an Ouija board, instead of the getting me the vampire books I’d picked out, for my 13th birthday. Pretty awesome, grandma, huh?

Now, before someone gets all up in arms about the DANGER!DANGER!DANGER! of using an Ouija board, I was then and am now, fully aware of what some people say and truly believe. 99% of my experiences have been positive. Maybe it’s because I always approached it in a positive, respectful, and empowering way. I didn’t go in full of fear or anger or anything that might draw in the negative. I honestly don’t know. As for all the talk I’ve heard about demons and all that. Meh. Angry human spirits, absolutely. Demons? No. Maybe that’s something that was instilled in me by my grandmother during those early lessons.

Needless to say, this whole believing in ghosts thing has always existed in my life. I’ve never known what’s it’s like to not believe. Maybe that’s why I’ve had what might be considered an above-average amount of experiences with it. I can totally understand why others don’t feel this way and I’m fine with that. I’m not here to try and change anyone’s mind. I’m here to tell you some stories.

My first experience, that I can remember, happened at a friend’s house. You can read all about it over at Thomas Gunther’s website where I answered his question, “What Scared The Hell Out Of You?”.

Another incident happened while my first husband and I were exploring an abandoned brick house back in the late 1980s. We weren’t looking for ghosts at all, just wanted to check out this old place. While we were doing so, I heard what sounded like an old woman humming. The image of a woman sitting out on the front porch sitting in a rocking chair popped into my head. Just sitting there, humming to herself and rocking. It was a very peaceful, happy feeling.

While with a group of friends, again, exploring an empty house that was anything but empty, I walked into the dining room and it felt like my whole chest constricted and the air got very heavy and tight. As soon as I’d leave that room, the feeling would stop. Never saw or heard anything, but that sensation was enough for me to know something, or someone, was not happy about having their house invaded by strangers. I avoided that room as best I could during the rest of our visit.

In 1994, while looking for a house to buy, we found another old place. It had a For Sale sign out front so we stopped to see what we could see through the windows before calling the realtor. While standing at one corner of the property, I heard footsteps coming around from the other side. I assumed it was my husband so paid it no mind until I turned and looked. It wasn’t him. It was a woman dressed in an early 20th-century dress, white or some other light color, with her dark hair pulled up in a Gibson Girl-style. We made brief eye contact, she smiled just a little bit then was gone. It was that fast.

Although we ended up not getting that house, we did find one the following year that met all our criteria, including a resident ghost. Our first encounter with the man we’d later call Herman, happened only a month or so after moving in. It was late February or early March and we woke one morning to find the door between the kitchen and back room wide open. We thought nothing about it at the time. One or the other of us probably hadn’t closed it all the way. It was (and still is) a tricky door to get shut. The door was closed and checked that night and off we went to bed. The next morning, it was open again. Now we’re starting to wonder. That night the door was closed, locked, and tugged on to make extra sure it was completely latched and tight. Good to go, we headed upstairs to bed.

It wasn’t an hour later when we heard a click and a the familiar squeak of that kitchen door opening. In the darkness of the bedroom I said, “Did you hear that?” “Yeah.” “You going to go check?” “Nope.” Sure enough, the next morning the door was open yet again. It was creepy, but not overly scary for some reason. My husband went to the door and said, “Okay. We get it. We know you’re here and we’re okay with that. You are welcome to stay, but can you please stop opening this door?” Guess what? That door has NEVER opened on its own since and that was in 1995.

Other things have happened over the years. Electronics going on and off as they wish, the sound of the front door opening followed by footsteps through the dining room before continuing up the stairs, and various children’s toys rolling out of room where no child was present. During our first year at the house, a woman came to the door one Saturday afternoon.  Of course, the place was a mess. She said she’d heard someone had bought the place that had been empty for three years before we came along, and it was getting fixed up again. She told us she lived there in the 1970s and hadn’t been back since moving out in her late teens. As she reached the top of the stairs, she stopped and looked into the room we were using as a spare and said, “Oh… this is the room Daddy died in.” You guessed it, Daddy’s name was Herman.

So, there you have it, some of the ghostly encounters I’ve had that have certainly inspired me as a Horror writer and an overall lover of things that go bump in the night.

The Day I Wore Fangs

I seem normal enough on the surface. I don’t have crazy or colorful hair. I don’t dress in any shocking manner. The only piercings I have are in my ears and the few tattoos I have aren’t seen all that often. Yup, just a normal, everyday kind of gal …until you start asking around, that is.

If you were to approach some of my childhood friends, mainly from my high school days, you’d get the inkling that maybe this normal thing is all an act. Or maybe I’ve just outgrown the black fingernails, eyeliner, and lipstick. Maybe dressing all in black every day, muttering in Latin, and sitting in the corner of the school cafeteria at lunchtime alone with my nose buried in some sort of occult-themed novel or research book was all just a fad; something I’ve grown out of as my mother so fervently prayed I would.

Or maybe in my dotage, I’ve just toned those things down a bit, just a bit. I still have my moments, like the day I wore fangs.

It was about ten years ago, making me about forty years old at the time.

Ever since I first began watching all those vampire movies, I’ve wanted a pair of realistic-looking fangs. I wondered how Hollywood did it. I considered talking to my dentist about it, but never did. Even if had dental insurance, I’m pretty sure they’d not cover something like that. I attempted to craft my own numerous times, adapting those cheap plastic things, buying different sorts every October hoping against hope that at last I’d found The Ones! I even tried to make some out of wax, but nothing had that real look I was striving for.

And then, the internet and online shopping happened. I found a site that looked promising, vampfang.com , but I didn’t get my hopes up too high. I’d been disappointed before. $30 seemed an awful lot for fake fangs, but my primal urges screamed out for satisfaction. I ordered them. They arrived in a little coffin-shaped case. I remained skeptical.

One day while I was home alone, I decided it was time to put that $30 to the test. The results? Amazing! I couldn’t have been happier! Not only did these fangs look real, they allowed me to drink (no, not blood – I’m not QUITE that off) as long as I was mindful and to eat, though somewhat awkwardly.

The following July, I bought them in October, I decided to step up my game. I was no longer satisfied to just wear them around the house and yard. It was time to go public and what better way than to just pop them in on a Friday morning after brushing my teeth while getting ready for work?

I don’t work with the public much, but I do have a few office mates. My goal was to just act natural and go about my day, not to flash the fangs at everyone I met or spoke to. Let’s see who notices! There’ not a lot of chit-chat in my office, but my boss did eventually take note. She rolled her eyes and laughed. “Only you, Pam,” she said. “Only you.” By the end of the day, half a dozen people were aware I was in vampire mode.

It being the Friday after payday, it was also grocery day! Directly after work I headed over to one of the bigger grocery stores in town. No one noticed as I picked out my fresh fruits and vegetables, coffee, milk, butter, and eggs. I was paid no mind at the check-out as I unloaded the cart and helped bag things up. And then the cashier, a young man in his early-mid-20s, told me my total and glanced up. I gave him a slight smile as I opened my check book. There was a flicker of surprise in his eyes. His mouth dropped open for a fraction of a second, then he looked away and refused to make further eye contact.

A few minutes later, I pushed my packed cart out of the store and towards my car, wondering about the conversation that likely arose from the lad’s encounter with the normal-looking lady with fangs who had just exited the building.

I did this several more times, but the first time was the sweetest and most memorable. Now I just need to get some of those weird-colored contact lenses …maybe something along the lines of lizard eyes.

 

Adios, 2016!

Or “Good riddance!”, as so many of my friends have shrieked at the top of their lungs, or typed IN ALL CAPS on social media, whichever the case may be. Okay, yeah, I get it, sort of. Your favorite celebrity died, your preferred politician didn’t win, or your team lost their Big Game!  It’s HORRIBLE! It’s the end of the world as we know it! Gloom, despair, and agony on me.

I could go off on everything that was bad about 2016 easily enough. I could sob over still not finding a ‘traditional’ publisher for my novels. I could bemoan the fact that online sales suck and that I’ve typed my fingers to bloody stumps asking for folks to at least post reviews. I could go off on a tangent about how unfair it is that people who have held a very good paying job for 5+ years can’t afford to buy a house while other people who haven’t worked a lick in that same period of time get all these special treatments when it comes to housing. There’s a rant out there about a-hole bosses who take advantage of their employees to the point that they are driven to physical illness and end up having to quit a job they otherwise loved. I could cry over the deaths of a myriad of celebrities that I liked. I could cuss and stomp my feet over the unfairness of our elections. I could begrudge how the Carolina Panthers lost the Super Bowl and that the Cleveland Indians didn’t win the World Series. But, I’m not going to do that, because I’m an optimist and I’m pretty sick and tired of hearing the “Apocalypse Is Nigh” from every other person on Facebook. I refuse to be one of ‘those people’.

Instead, I’m going to look at 2016 as the year I made more progress on my writing career, with or without the advantages a publishing house could give me. I’d love to have help with advertising and promotions and setting up signings, readings, and sales. I could be a lot further ahead of the game if I had all that, sure, but I don’t. I did the best I could with what I DO have. I did a Book Club talk and I had three signing events where turnout was good and sales were more than I’d actually imagined they’d be. That’s more than I’ve ever had before and I’m truly grateful. I made some new friends and got some great advice and some much appreciated help from far more successful writers than I.

I got remarried! That’s pretty darned awesome. I met a man against a whole lot of odds who was willing to pretty much give up his whole life 1400+ miles away and move up to this Arctic Backwoods Wasteland so we could be together. After living together for almost three years, we tied the knot on a beautiful day in August down by my parent’s pond with an amazing view of the valley below. It was small, only forty people, simple, and very casual and laid back. I’m not even going to mention those few things that didn’t happened perfectly as planned because they don’t matter. The end result is the same.

Life has been very good to me and mine in 2016. Most of the time things went how we hoped. Sometimes, not so much, but at the end of it all, we are happy. We have a place to live, food to eat, and warm clothes for winter. We have family and friends that love us, support us, and encourage us with our dreams. We have love. We have happiness. We have hope.

That’s how I’m ending 2016 and that’s how I’m going to enter 2017.

Thank you to everyone who helped make 2016 so amazing! May you all have a wonderful and prosperous new year!

A Blessed Day.

It’s the kind of tired you have at the end of a very good day. It’s a tired that leaves you smiling and satisfied and grateful for all that you have been blessed with. You’ve been up and going almost non-stop for the past twelve hours; visiting with family and friends, eating more food in one day than some people see in a month, receiving wonderful gifts, seeing the smiles of joy on the faces of the people you love as they open their gifts, everything just seemed to go right, and laughing, laughing until tears stream down your cheeks and your stomach hurts.

It’s the kind of tired when all you want to do is cuddle down in comfy pajamas, but knowing that when you go to sleep, that wonderful day is going to be gone when you wake up again. Yet, you yawn and know eventually you’re going to have to do it. You’re going to have to say, “Goodbye and good night,” to that wonderful day and hold on to everything that is was and meant to you.

This was my blessed day and for it I am truly grateful.

 

Write What You Love: The Joys of Genre Hopping

Back in November of 2015, I blogged about The Horror of Women . It dealt with the difficulties women have getting published in the Horror Genre. Though I still struggle with the reality of that whole situation, I’d much rather write horror than what I was initially published in, erotica.

For centuries women have been viewed by the publishing world as inferior writers. For that reason they have used more masculine or gender neutral nom-de-plumes . What many people may not know is that some of their favorite female authors have also written in multiple genres.

Judy Bloom, known best for her “Fudge” series took a walk on the trampy side with her novel, “Wifey”. Anne Rice took a side trip from her witches and vampires to explore kink with the “Sleeping Beauty” trilogy.  Joyce Carol Oats wrote gothic horror, murder and crime fiction, romances, historic fiction, fantasy, realism and surrealistic novels. All these woman are successful writers who dared step outside of their comfort zones and explore beyond the old adage of “write what you know”. I’m more inclined to write what I enjoy writing and I’ve had several different loves.

As a young adult I dreamed of writing Children’s fiction and even took college level classes in Children’s Literature and Illustration to pursue that goal. Somewhere along the lines for reasons that are unclear to me, my first novel turned out to be in the Fantasy genre. Beyond what was require of me in high school and the reading of The Hobbit, fantasy’s not my thing. On an awkward dare from a friend, I began writing erotica. I never saw that one coming (pun intended). Five published novels later, I’d had enough.

Having always loved murder-mysteries, horror, and anything to do with the paranormal, that was my next genre pick. This, I feel, is where I truly belong. Witches, ghosts, and bogeymen, oh my! In 2013 I saw my first paranormal murder-mystery published and was on cloud nine until, about six months later, my publisher announced they were going out of business. Now what? I already had another novel done and in the editing process for these people. Heartbroken, but knowing this was where I wanted my writing to go, I carried on and finished the second book and began the whole query, query, query, submit, submit, submit, rejected, rejected, rejected process all over again.

Had I messed up? Should I go back into the closet and return to the erotica where I was still seeing decent sales and a monthly royalty deposit in my account? Don’t get me wrong, the erotica was fun to write and I learned a great deal about some aspects of the publishing business, but my heart and writer’s soul wasn’t into it. No. I just couldn’t do it. I’ve never felt so creative and productive and pleased with my writing since making the genre hop. With fans of the first murder-mystery contacting me at least once a month over when I’d have another book out, I realized it was time to change tactics … again. The traditional publishing Gods were not with me. I was letting everyone down. I had to do something drastic and decided to self-publish.

Because of that, I had the pleasure of being invited to five author events in 2016. I’m hoping to do at least that many for 2017. It’s rather difficult to peddle your erotic-wares in public knowing your mother’s pastor is likely to walk by and say hello or you’re going to see old friends and teachers and try to explain how you know about “those sorts of things”.  It’s called research, people. As I’ve said before, I like vampire and murder-mysteries, too, but that doesn’t mean I believe I’m a vampire or that I’m going to go out and murder someone. Sex may sell, but not in a small town family-friendly community center or a privately owned bookstore. It’s a lot easier when it’s a murder-mystery or something about haunted houses or Shadow People or urban legends.

With three paranormal novels now out and another on the way later in 2017, I may not be raking in the dough as much as I one day hope to, but I’m having a lot more fun and I’m getting much needed exposure. I’m mingling, setting up displays, doing book talks and signing and, though I write under my maiden name, I’m not really hiding behind a pen-name anymore. I’m being myself and sharing my love of the macabre.

I’d still love to put out a Children’s book, too. Maybe I will one of these days.

If you’re considering writing something different than what you’d normally do, do it! Don’t limit your imagination to a single genre. You have a slew of successful female (and male) writers who have already dared to be different. Georgette Heyer, who is better known for her romance novels, has also dabbled in detective fiction. Children’s book author Sonya Hartnett wrote a rather sexually graphic novel that created a bit of a stir. You’re in good company no matter where you decide to let your writing take you, just don’t be afraid to explore.

Taking that step could very well lead you exactly where you want to go. Start walking!

In Search Of… Horror.

Visited our local *Buns & Noodles store this afternoon. As we wandered the aisles I came to realize something I’d never noticed before and frankly, I’m annoyed.

We always seem to gravitate towards the YA section first so Jim can see if Cousin Scott has come out with something new we’re unaware of. He’s sneaky like that. This time I wanted to check out Book #3 of the Peculiar Children series. I’m in the middle of #2. It’s only available in hardcover now so I’m going to wait for the paperback. Sorry, I’m cheap like that.

After the Young Adult section, we’re on our own. They have the Children’s section, the Romance, and the Sci-Fi sections. There’s History, Mysteries, Cooking, and Self-Help. Manga and Graphic Novels have their own section as does Religion, Travel, and Crafting.  All of these are nicely labeled with big, bold signs over the tops of the shelves making them oh-so-easy to find. What they do NOT have is Horror section. WTF B&N!? If I want to find Horror I have to search through the ‘Fiction & Literature’ section. How much more vague can you possibly get?

I’m aware of a good many Horror novelists, but I sure as heck don’t know them all and those that I am most aware of, like Stephen King, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, and Peter Straub have been around for decades and are maybe considered a bit Old School. If I’m looking for something or someone new, I’m rather clueless. Directing me to the ‘Fiction & Literature’ section isn’t going to be very helpful. And for as much as I love to browse a bookstore or library, damn it, at least let me be in the section I am most interested in so that I know that every book I pick up is a Horror contender.

I ended up getting Stephen King’s “Doctor Sleep” because I’ve heard of him, know he’s good, and know he mostly sticks to the Horror genre with a few exceptions. I’d love to have given a lesser-known writer some business, but pft … damned if I have the time to stand there reading every single back cover of very single book that looks like it might be what I’m interested in.

*Barnes & Noble and all you other bookstores, big and small, can you PLEASE create a Horror Section? I and so many others like me would truly appreciate it.

They Who Scream The Loudest, Win.

I took my final stroll down Dark Hollow Road on August 9th, as in I finished the first draft. My practice is to then put it away for at least a month, no peeking, and either move on something else or not write at all. It’s not been a month quite yet and well, I DID edit a couple of chapters of DHR, but that’s it.

Apart from working on settings and characters notes for The Witch’s Backbone I’ve kept the writing down to a dull roar. But now, while on my honeymoon, new fodder has risen to the surface.

We’re staying in one of many of the places that offer cabin\cottage rentals up along the St. Lawrence River in Upstate New York. It’s a cozy little place and for a few days we were the only ones here. Nothing really creepy about it at all, well… not to the normal-minded person but then I have never claimed normalcy.

As we opened the screen door and stepped onto our little closed-in porch, I looked at the old tongue-in-groove door and the slightly bent numbers nailed to the front, 14. Cabin 14. Helpless to The Muse and her methods, the ticklings of another book started to arise. Jim and I both took pictures of that door and I began my mental and literal note taking.

After dinner last night, we took a walk down to the river to watch the sunset and as we strolled back I said aloud, “I don’t see a Cabin 13. I wonder if they skipped it like some buildings skip a 13th floor?” This morning I looked it up on their online map of the accommodations. Sure enough, there is no cabin numbered thirteen. Technically speaking, WE should be in Cabin 13, yes?

Me being me finds this all quite amusing, of course, but now I face a dilemma. Do I work on The Witch’s Backbone as planned or do I delve deeper into the world of Cabin 14?

I guess whoever screams the loudest while I’m working on edits and rewrites for Dark Hollow Road will determine the answer to that question. Let the characters fight it out!

 

 

Hot Off The Press Bride

It’s been a busy, busy week here.

Jim’s mom from Texas arrived Tuesday night. Wednesday we went to Owego, NY (Voted The Coolest Small Town In America in 2009 by Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel Magazine) and walked around the shops and along the river walk. Followed by lunch at my parent’s house just outside of the small town of Berkshire, where I grew up. I was sure to take her back home via the back roads where the rolling hills packed with trees and acres upon acres of field corn amazed and delighted her.

Thursday we headed up to Cornell University where I gave her a quick tour of central campus and stopped in to visit some of my co-workers for a few minutes at Olin Library. We made a pass through Wee Stinky Glen, the Cornell Store, and Sage Chapel. Neither one of us was up to climbing the spiral steps up to the top of McGraw Tower. For dinner we took her down to Beeman’s in Sayre, PA – just so she could say she’d been to Pennsylvania, too while she was up here.

Friday morning was pretty quiet and relaxing. I headed down to Waverly that afternoon to get some things I’d ordered for Saturday. Getting home, I packed up an overnight bag, and what few things I needed, gave Jim a kiss, and had to smile when he kind of pouted and said, “I don’t want you to go.” It was so sweet.

Saturday, of course, was the BIG DAY! That’s right, THAT Big Day! After meeting in the virtual world of Second Life in January 2012 and living together since January 2013, Jim and I finally made it official and got married FOR REALS! Things didn’t go exactly as planned, but darn close and I’m not going to let those few things that weren’t perfect bother me. I’ve said from the start that the only thing that really mattered at the end of the day was that we were married, everything else was just icing. The weather cooperated, no family feuds broke out, no one drown in the pond, and the icing on the cake was really quite delicious to boot!

GRD_9363

The Newlyweds!

 

While all these shenanigans were going on (literally) my newest book, NO REST FOR THE WICKED was released on Amazon! I’d approved the final proof the day before, kinda half hoping it would be ready on the wedding day, but in all the mayhem I quickly forgot about it.

Today, now that we’re home again for a bit before seeing my new Mother-in-Law off at the airport tpmorrow, wishing her as easy a trip home as she had coming up here, and heading off on our honeymoon later that afternoon, I finally checked my email after over 24 hours. And there was the announcement.

So, lots of things to be happy about here. Head on over to Amazon, buy a copy of the book, and make this Hot Off The Press Bride even happier than she already is.

No Rest For The Wicked

LATEST RELEASE!!!!!

Alice Is Coming To Town

… and for a mere $725 I can get a front row ‘INSANITY PACKAGE’ for a once in a lifetime experience. Now, I like Alice Cooper just fine. In fact, funny story, one of the odd things future hubby (11 days to go) and I have in common is that we’ve both dressed up as Alice Cooper for Halloween. And we’d love to experience his brand of theatrical musical madness in the almost intimate theater (less than 4000 seats) he’ll be performing at next month less than an hour’s drive from our front door, but… $725?!

The Insanity Package does sound pretty damn awesome, I’ll give you that.

FrankenAlice       HeadlessAlice

One front row ticket. VIP early entry into the venue. Exclusive after show Meet & Greet with Alice Cooper. Personal photograph with Alice Cooper. On stage tour prior to Alice’s performance – including a photo with the FrankenAlice and your head in Alice’s guillotine! Autographed Alice Cooper Certificate of Insanity. Official Alice Cooper set list. Specially designed Alice Cooper tour shirt. Alice Cooper tote bag. Collectible limited print, Alice Cooper for President tour poster. $50 merchandise voucher to the official Alice Cooper online store. A chance to be chosen to be on stage with Alice Cooper and toss balloons at the end of the show!

But…$725?!

I’d be happy with a couple of those Gold Circle ($75) tickets. First ten rows ain’t too shabby. Again, small venue. We’d be right up there.

Sadly, as with so many things we want to do in life, the timing is bad.

Almost-Hubby had this to say: “Let’s spend the $1450.00 for the two of us on a guitar and Amp and I’ll put on a top hat and play School’s Out.” Now, I’m not negating the musical abilities of my Old Man, but I fail to see where I’d get as much enjoyment out of this idea as he would.

SigningJim  <-NOT Alice Cooper.-> alice

Where’s the boa constrictor? Where’s the guillotine? Where’s the straight-jacket, the smoke, the baby dolls, bloody dismembered body parts and the gallows?! Really, Jim? You think I’m going to fall for this just so you can get a new guitar and amp? I love you, darling, but… no. Besides, my favorite Alice Cooper song is Welcome To My Nightmare, not School’s Out.

It’s pretty clear at this point neither one of us will be spending the night with Alice Cooper any time in the near future. Which, kinda sucks, but whatcha gonna do? That’s life. We all wish for a lot of things and as much as I wish this could be a thing, it  won’t be and I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

Though probably not as outlandish as an Alice Cooper show, our honeymoon is looking like it will be quite the experience, or as we like to call these sorts of things, An Adventure. I finally read the pamphlet that came with our cabin reservation confirmation letter last night to discover that the cabin we reserved on the St. Lawrence up in the Thousand Islands has no A/C, nor are you allowed to sneak in an A/C unit. A fan it is! I hope this hazy, hot, and humid heat wave we’ve been having this summer breaks by then. And though they have cable, they don’t have televisions in the cabins. WiFi is available, but the lady I spoke to wasn’t sure if it reached as far as the cabins. So, we’re resigned to maybe taking along a collection of bad B-movies and renting some porn to watch on the laptop. I think Alice Cooper would approve of those choices. We’re going to wing it most of the time because as much as I do like to plan, being spontaneous can be just as much, if not more, fun!

“If you confine it, you’re confining a whole thing. If you make it spontaneous, so that anything can happen, like we don’t want to confine or restrict anything. What we can do, whatever we can let happen, you just let it happen.” – Alice Cooper.

 

Lumbering On Morris Mountain

T-minus 3 weeks until wedding day. As I’ve been doing about every other weekend for the past few months, I loaded the car up yesterday afternoon with some items for said wedding day, in this case soft and adult beverages, and headed up to Morris Mountain where the nuptials and merriment will be taking places. It seemed a harmless enough mission, but boy, am I sore this morning.

As I pulled into view of the house, I saw my 73-year-old father over at the pavilion working on something. I decided I’d go say hello and see what he was up to before heading inside with the drinks and to visit with mom.

Though he complains a lot about having so much to do, I don’t think Dad’s really happy unless he has a project going on. This weekend he decided to tackle constructing and hanging some folding wooden shades for the pavilion. Keep in mind that when Dad builds a thing he BUILDS! a thing. It’s not going to fall apart. That thing is going to be there for a very long time. He built the house they live in over the course of about five years while also working full-time. It’s not a little house. It’s three stories (four if you count the full basement) with a huge cathedral ceiling and wrap-around front decks on two levels. So, no small task. He also built the pavilion in which he was working yesterday and the old and new outhouses nearby. I clearly remember him building the old one because I helped draw out and cut the crescent shape on the door. It’s what they used while constructing the house and it’s still there all these many moons later.

As a kid I helped dad out with his projects as often as I could. I really enjoyed learning how to use a T-square, a plumb-bob, a line level, a hammer, skill saw, and any other tools needed for construction. I pounded a whole lot of nails into subflooring when he added on to our house around 1975. I learned about building a cinderblock wall and how to lay a brick sidewalk. One weekend I helped him put up the new stovepipe for the coal stove while standing on the metal roof of the house. I was 16.

Last year, he installed a deck floor on the pavilion to replace the old crushed stone one and started work on the new outhouse. This year, he finished the outhouse which puts the bathroom in my house nearly to shame! He’s also working on building a trellis for the wedding and, now, these folding blinds.

So, I head over to see how it’s going. He’s having a hard time of it. The wood is heavy and awkward and he can’t balance things or line things up like he wants alone so I ask ever so casually, “Need some help?” I am immediately put to work holding up this, moving that, lifting this into place, lining up this other thing, and climbing up and down on the picnic table numerous times so I could reach and balance pieces in place. The project was not cooperating and really is a three man job, not one 73-year-old-man and one fifty-year-old female desk jockey wearing cotton capris and sandals work.

While dad went to look for another piece of rope in the cellar to help with hoisting and holding things into place, I popped upstairs to visit with Mom ever so briefly. But, my respite was brief and  doing as promised, I went back out to help once I saw Dad back at it, new length of rope in hand. Mom decided she’d come out and help, too.

Finally, three hours after I pulled innocently into the driveway, we got the first shade satisfactorily into place and called it a night. No, it was not the afternoon I had envisioned at all.

Despite having a very sore right shoulder from standing on a picnic table balancing two wood panels in place so Dad could get the hinges screwed in and my legs and arms aching a bit more than usual, I actually enjoyed the work.

It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten to help my dad build anything. He can still work circle around me and I think it’s time to pass the torch to the next generation. Therefore, this coming week, my 25-year-old son and a friend of his are going to go help Grampa Morris finish up this particular project.

Photo credit: www.gettyimages.co.uk