Mug Shots

Like most writers, I live on a steady diet of coffee and the occasional hot tea. So naturally, I have a whole collection of mugs to choose from when I need my morning (or afternoon, or after dinner) caffeine fix. Just for fun today, I thought I’d showcase a few of my favorite mugs.

1. This is probably the first mug I actually bought for myself. 100_4120¬† I got it at Boscov’s at the Susquehanna Valley Mall when I was a freshman in college. I had been following the Royal Family since Prince Charles and Lady Diana married in 1981, and if memory serves me correctly, at the time I bought this mug, I was still working on forgiving Prince Andrew for choosing Sarah Ferguson over me. But I still held high hopes of being someone’s princess someday, even though I knew it was a hard, thankless job. ūüôā

2. I received this mug as a gift from my college roommate and her sister when I got my teaching degree from Lock Haven University. ¬†100_4122 They obviously knew my offbeat sense of humor and found this mug to be both affirming and amusing. What’s really funny is that during my seminary days a decade later, I found a similar one for pastors online. No, I didn’t buy that one.

3. This is another gift. ¬†100_4123 I taught Grammar and Writing with the local homeschool cooperative one year, and one of my students went on a missions trip to Colombia just before Christmas break. He brought back a bag of Colombian coffee and tucked it into this mug. It’s not a fancy mug, and it’s not clever, but I think of this student whenever I pull it from the cupboard.

4. These mugs came with me when we cleaned out my parents’ belongings after my mom died eight years ago. ¬†100_4124 I had bought this set of mugs for my parents’ anniversary when I was nine or ten. They cost all of a dollar each, and another set of mugs was probably the last thing they needed, but for some reason I liked the colors and the designs. I don’t know that I ever saw them use these, but I often do. Like the previous mug, these remind me of my parents whenever I sip my morning coffee from them.

5. Obviously this one is a souvenir. 100_4125¬† I got this one free because we stayed at Oceans 7 Motel in Ocean City, NJ. That was quite the memorable vacation for a couple¬†reasons. First of all, my not-quite-two-year-old son, who refused to wear his shoes on a wooden walkway, got an enormous splinter in his foot. Not wanting to find an urgent care facility, I numbed his foot with an ice pack so I could remove the splinter myself. The second reason this was such a memorable vacation was that we arrived at the beach on the heels of an offshore hurricane (can’t recall which one, maybe Hanna?). We weren’t allowed out on the beach for a day, but we got close enough to watch the storm passing off the coast.

Do you have a favorite mug or mugs? Share a photo and the story behind it below.

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Faerie Ring in My Yard

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I went outside this morning to do some gardening, and I noticed this lovely ring of dandelions in our back yard. We have a similar ring on the other side of the back lot, but it’s not quite as perfect as this one. While most people will likely look and grumble, “Weeds! I hate them!” I happen to love them.

My first thought was, of course, that it looks like a faerie ring. Now, I know that faerie rings are usually associated with fungi, but I tend to believe that a magical being such as a faerie could make rings out of anything it wanted to. After all, they are of nature, and dandelions and other flowers are of nature, so whyever not?

Make no mistake, I will certainly be keeping an eye on that spot on the next moonlit night. Who knows? Maybe I will be honored to witness the faerie folk dancing in the moonlight.

Would you care to join me?

The Two Faces of My Mother

A friend of mine posted on Facebook that she passed¬†a church sign this morning that read “A mother’s love is as close to God’s love as you can get on earth.” To say that this friend’s relationship with her mother is difficult could qualify as the understatement of the year, so obviously, this sentiment did not sit particularly well with her.

She’s certainly not alone. Many of my friends either had or still have strained relationships with their mothers. In fact, I think more of my friends fit into this category than into the Ma-Ingalls-has-nothing-on-my-mama category.

Myself included.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I did not have an absolutely horrible mother, but she and I really did not get along very well. In fact, if we weren’t related, I can almost guarantee that we would not have ever sought each other out for any kind of friendly relationship. There simply wasn’t much we saw eye to eye on, and we could never seem to get past that.

My mother passed away eight years ago. While we may have lost chance to mend fences and have a decent if not friendly relationship, I have been gradually working through a lot of the angst and trying to understand and why my mother acted the way she did and to forgive her for the way she treated me during my growing-up years. A few years ago, while I was visiting my aunt, she gave me some unexpected insight that in all honesty initiated much of this soul-searching and gave me something to contemplate.

This conversation occurred during a time when I was feeling very isolated. I think every stay-at-home mom goes through that particular emotion at one time or another, but this was something I had been dealing with almost constantly since my older son was born, which at that time would have been eight or nine years. I was really feeling that I¬†was lost, that no one knew me. Everyone knew me as¬†Wesley and Wayde’s mom, or as Mike’s wife. While I was those things, am those things, it wasn’t all I was, but I felt as though people forgot that. No one really knew who I was, what my hopes and dreams were. It seemed that no one asked about me; they just wanted to hear what my kids were doing or where my husband was working. I felt as though I was just a nobody. I told my aunt that I was turning into my mother, and that scared me.

Let me connect some dots. When I was in elementary school, my mom was a stay-at-home mom. And when I say she was a stay-at-home, I mean she was a stay-at-home. She didn’t drive, so when my dad was working, she either had to rely on someone else to get us somewhere, or we walked, or we just stayed home. Most often, we just stayed home. I wasn’t allowed to be in any activities like Girl Scouts or dance lessons, nor was I allowed to go to play dates or birthday parties unless they were within walking distance. So I was a very isolated, uninvolved child, as was my older brother. Likewise, Mom was also very isolated and uninvolved. My memories of her from this time period were of a woman who sat at home watching soap operas or game shows, smoking cigarettes, and doing jigsaw or crossword puzzles. That to me was ¬†her existence. She rarely played with me or interacted with me, except to criticize or belittle me for “showing off” or “looking for attention.” As harsh as this sounds, I really didn’t see her as having much of a personality.

When I related this to my aunt, she told me that I had missed out on knowing the Aleta that she knew. She began to tell me of a creative, clever, witty young woman. My father had spent twenty years in the Air Force, and they had traveled all over the United States, even spending four years in Japan, long before I was born. My aunt reminded me that while in Japan, my mom had taken classes in millinery, painting, and doll making and had been a Sunday school teacher and a Den leader for my two oldest brothers’ Scout troop. She had also hosted holiday dinners to which she and my dad invited the unmarried soldiers from the base. She told me that my mom had loved cooking and always wanted to try new recipes.

She told me that she saw a lot of that Aleta in me. And that¬†if I didn’t take control of my life and make some changes, that I would end up just like her.

So what had happened to make my mother change so drastically? Well, unfortunately, that’s something I’ll never know for certain. Some of it may have had to do with her relationship with my dad. Mom was always very soft-spoken and timid, while Dad was a typical, in-charge military man. He wasn’t abusive, but he was, in my aunt’s words, domineering, and he often treated his family as he did his subordinates. I just think Mom never really learned how to stand up to him and say what she thought or what she wanted. When you add to that the fact that she didn’t drive and therefore wasn’t able to get out of the house and pursue her own interests with her own friends, well, that just set her up for isolation, unhappiness, and I think even depression.

There’s a (not-really) humorous saying that “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” And I think that’s ultimately what happened between her and me. Because I have a lot of the same qualities that my mother had–creativity, intelligence, wit–she saw herself in me. A family friend’s nickname for me was “Little ‘Leta” because I was so much like my mom (and yes, that is one of the reasons I chose Leta as my pen name). Because of her own unhappiness, she was unable to encourage those qualities, and instead squelched them in me the way they had been squelched in her. I don’t think she meant to; it just happened.

As another Mother’s Day arrives, I¬†listen to sermons about Godly mothers, browse through racks of cards intended for “my beloved mother”, and watch some of my friends enjoy the day with their mothers. And then I think about people like my friend who posted on Facebook this morning, about the¬†countless news stories of mothers who have harmed their children, or even about those of us whose mothers have passed, or who want to be a mother but can’t. And all I can do is pray that we all find some kind of peace.

Reading, Writing, Researching, and Rhyming

The Newbie (a relaunch) and School Spirits, Book 1 and Book 2 of the Kyrie Carter Paranromal Adventure series are now in the capable hands of my Booktrope teams and will be released, God willing, sometime this summer. I am currently working on Book 3, tentatively titled, Mystery of the Willow Lake Witch, which will delve deeper into the haunting of Appleton Hall at Willow Lake College.

As I began writing this part of the story, I did a little bit of research into the strange tales of Lock Haven (my inspiration for Willow Lake) and the rest of Clinton County. I found a lot of your typical stories of ghosts, witches, and just general odd characters, but I also found something I did not expect: Clinton County has an official monster.

No, really. Here’s the story.

As I read the article, I chuckled to myself, thinking how perfect this little discovery was. You see, I already had the main characters, Kyr and Spook, interviewing a rather eccentric older woman, attempting to discover the origins of Willow Lake’s most famous haunting. This woman related¬†a story passed down to her from her own grandmother and great-grandmother, a story of an 18th-century hexenmeister who fell out of favor with the town’s early settlers and was banished to a cabin in the woods.¬†One night, several townsmen on the way back from hunting witnessed her chanting in an unknown language. When she caught them peering in the window, she called upon some fearsome, unknown beast, which pursued the men through the woods, fatally injuring one and terrifying the others.

Not an exact match to the story I discovered, but enough similarity to serve as a bit of a reference and some inspiration on the side.

Which brings us to the rhyming part of the post.

One day I came across a post on my friend Lou’s Facebook page (Lou is a freelance writer, Lock Haven ghost tour guide, and my primary source on the Giwoggle legend). Someone–I can’t recall if it was Lou or someone else–declared that the Giwoggle needed its own theme song or ballad, like the one for the One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People Eater. A couple of us joked around, tossing out bits of lines, but nothing solid came of it (at least that I remember, and now I can’t find the original post).

Well, not long ago, I woke up from a very strange dream in which the Giwoggle figured quite heavily. I don;t recall much of the dream, only that I was composing a song about said beast. I have not finished the song yet, and of course it needs to be tweaked for content and authenticity, but I’d like to share what I have so far, just for fun.

Ballad of the Giwoggle

In the mountains of Clinton County
A story has been told
Of a beast so terrifying
It will make your blood run cold.

On a cold and moonless night
From a witch’s spell it came,
Terrorizing the local settlers,
And the Giwoggle is its name.

To tell the Giwoggle’s appearance
Is the strangest thing you’ve ever heard:
It has the back legs of a horse
And the front legs of a bird.

But what makes the beast so frightening
And gives the beast its great renown–
He’s got the head and body of a wolf
And the soul of a hell hound.

I hope to finish the ballad and possibly publish it along with the book. And maybe someday we’ll be singing the Ballad of the Giwoggle at Halloween along with the Monster Mash and the Purple People Eater.

Hey, a writer can dream, right?