Time--2017 A to Z Theme

My theme for the 2017 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is "Time". The posts will be more philosophical, contemplative, and even autobiographical than instructional. No time management tips planned, but you never know with A to Z.

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

**

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Road Ahead

           Halloween is here at last!  I hope that my many posts about Halloween were entertaining, informative, and thought-provoking.  I have truly enjoyed the fine comments that readers contributed over the past forty-some days of the debut of TOSSING IT OUT.  Some of the ongoing discussion has been particularly enjoyable as this has been one of the goals of my blog. 

          Now with a new month arriving, I have decided to follow some advice offered to me by fellow blogger Jennifer Hudson Taylor .   Jennifer suggested that I create a blog topic schedule so to speak so that readers will know what to expect from week to week.  Much like television viewers have favorite shows that they can expect to see at regular weekly times, I too will have a special focus for each day's posting. To follow are the general topics that will be covered and which days they will appear.

Sunday:    As I have already been doing I will sent aside Sundays for religious topics that will include Bible studies and stories about religion.  Currently the topic has been Prayer and this topic will continue for a few more weeks.  Later, I will be looking at how religion affects us today and how it has shaped us in the past.

Monday:     With NaNoWriMo a main focus for me and many others during November, Mondays will be when I give my updates on the progress of the novel that I will be writing.  Mondays will also be devoted to the art of writing, literature, and all things that might have something to do with writing.  Even if you are not a writer and never plan to be, I hope to keep the posts on these of interest and value to everyone.

Tuesday:     Some of my biggest passions involve travel and culture.  Now I'm not a world traveler by any means but I have and still do travel extensively throughout the United States and  I never get tired of this wonderful country.  One can always find someplace interesting to experience.  And by culture I mean the arts:  visual, theatrical, musical.  I might do reviews of movies, recordings, or even restaurants.   There is a lot that can be covered on these topics so Tuesdays should never be dull.

Wednesday:   Hearing about what other people are up to is of interest to almost everyone.  I enjoy feature stories about the lives of others and the interesting things that people do.  I hope that the readers here enjoy this as well.  I will be giving you stories about musicians, artists, leaders, and just regular people who might provide insight about the work they do. 

Thursday:      Do you like mental challenge?  Do you enjoy debate?  Thursdays will be when I really want to get some intelligent commentary going.  I will be offering issues and controversies or things just to ponder.  I hope we can solve some the world's big problems and answer some of the questions that we sometimes wonder about.  Well maybe not, but I hope we can have fun with friendly discourse.

Friday:     I seem to have set a trend within this blog of talking about mysterious things on Fridays.  It seems to have caught on so I plan to continue this trend.  Fridays will be when we look at unsolved mysteries of crimes and missing persons, strange phenomena, scary stories, and the plain weird-- watch out when it's Friday the Thirteenth!

Saturday:     A trend that I've already begun on Saturdays will continue.  On this day the posts may be shorter.  I will be analyzing this blog as well perhaps looking at other blogs.  Coming attractions of TOSSING IT UP will be offered.  Saturday may be a hodgepodge day--kind of like Anything Can Happen Day on the old Mickey Mouse Club (for those of you who remember that).  Surprises can be fun!  Stay tuned for Surprise Saturdays.

           I hope this will help increase readership and keep current readers coming back.  If something's not working let me know what I did wrong and how I can make it better.  If a post does work for you please jump in with a comment.  I want your feedback.  And please, if you haven't done so already, click on the follower icon on the right hand side of the page and add your name to the growing list of Birdwatchers

          Everyone have a great Halloween!  Be safe and have fun.  Toss out some good stuff to those friends and strangers who come knocking at your door tonight.  And please toss some good comments to me.  I'll keep tossing it out to you.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Mexican Morass -- More Gore Than Ever Before

          Halloween nowadays is much more gory that it used to be.  A Halloween character many years ago might have incorporated some fake blood in their make up and doused on their costume, but it was pretty moderate and obviously fake.  Now things have changed considerably.

         In the first 60 or so years of cinema, there was usually not much graphic violence or gore.  Filmmakers used more eerie insinuation and off-screen action to scare the audience.  When a make up effect such as Lon Chaney's Phantom of the Opera character appeared on the screen the audience was truly shocked. Then at some point, starting mostly in the '60's, but really busting loose in the '70's, realistic gore became common in film.  A number of factors probably contributed to this.  There was the TV war in Viet Nam that brought injury and the horrors of war into the family living room each evening, desensitizing Americans to death and suffering. There were more advances in movie special effects and make up allowing for filmmakers to create more realism and more fanstastic visuals.  A moral ambiguity developed as concerns for free expression allowed for more lax censorship.  One blood and guts movie tried to top the next as more extreme gore and horror was dished out to rapacious audiences.

         This trend toward gore began to be reflected in the Halloween crowd.  Wanting to recreate the scariness of what they saw in the movies, some masqueraders sought more realistic special make up effects.  Now costume shops offer not just the old fake blood, but stage blood in varying grades of color and viscosity, blood with chunks, and dried blood.  There are prosthetics and appliances to similate scars, gashes, and all sorts of disgusting disfigurements and anomalies. There are kits, books, and videos that can guide the user in creating stomach turning appearances.  Some of the results are amazingly realistic and horrifying.   But do these people who use these make up effects think about  the real life counterparts of what they create for amusement?

       Mexico has a long history of gruesomely brutal violence dating back to the Aztecs with their propensity for bloody human sacrifice.  However, the violent behavior of the Mexican drug gangs have probably outdone anything the indigenous cultures ever devised.  Mass slaughter by gun-wielding thugs, decapitations and dismemberments, bodies dissolved in acid "soups", and any other imaginable forms of murder have become so common-place that the Mexican army has been called in to assist terrified police forces and tourism has dwindled severely.

        Factor in the many other non-drug, non-gang related crimes and tragedies and the losses become not only staggering, but also perplexing.  Abuse of women driven into prostitution or murdered for no good reason, kidnappings, and mysterious killings and disappearances are commonplace.  Adding to the stream of illegal entrants into the U.S. that our nearest Southern neighbor already sends us, untold quantities of illegals from other countries throughout the world make passage into the U.S. through Mexico.  Untold numbers of all of these human beings making this perilous trek end up missing or dead somewhere in Mexico or after they cross the U.S. border.  Most of us have heard the terrible stories of train cars or truck trailers opened to find inside many border crossers dead or dying.  Many more of them have vanished, left to die in the desert, their fates unknown to the families they left behind.

         In my very brief research I could not find a precise figure on the number of missing persons in Mexico each year, but I'm sure that the numbers must be huge.  And more than likely no estimate is ever made of the non-Mexican citizens who vanish in the country or in transit to the U.S.  There are many more whose bodies are found and never identified.  This brings us to the payoff on this posting, and my advice to most readers is take what you've gotten from this article so far and ignore the link I'm about to give you.  I discovered this website from an article in the L.A. Times a few years back.  The website consists of photos of unidentified bodies in morgues in Baja California.  If seeing dead people, some having been apparently brutalized or accident victims, is of interest to you then check out Servicios Periciales   and then click on "semefo".  From that point you can navigate the morgue locations and years on your own.  I don't know what the real value of this is other than satisfying morbid curiosity. Movie special effects and many of the current halloween offerings are very real looking, but seeing that which is truly real I am reminded that these are real people who had real lives and now they rest unknown and unclaimed.

         To follow up on the story of Mitrice Richardson, a story I have followed for the past few weeks.  There have been reported sightings of her in the Los Angeles area recently, but nothing has been confirmed.  The family said that people had told them about this, but no one had called the police -- was it a lack of trust perhaps.

         Stay tuned for tomorrow's posting for news about upcoming events on TOSSING IT OUT.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

More Halloween Memories

             Halloween undoubtedly evokes many different memories for different people. Some of you may have special memories from your own childhood or perhaps memories from when your own children celebrated Halloween. Maybe there is a special person or place that you will think of when you think of Halloween. Today I'm going to share some of my memories.

            The most recent memories certainly have to do with my previous job managing a warehouse for a Halloween wholesale distributor that this year closed the regional operation where I was located. Having been there for nearly 20 years, it felt like home to me. When my daughters were young, I would pick them up from school and sometimes bring them to the warehouse. Once they had finished their homework I would let them pull orders. It was like a game to them and they enjoyed it. But it was also training. When they were in high school they all were on the payroll at one time or another and were my most valuable employees. I enjoyed working with my daughters.

           Later, after my daughters moved away, the company started downsizing partly due to heightened efficiency but also due to diminished business at our location. But we were still busy at Halloween. Often leaving the house well before sunrise, I would stop by a 24 hour donut shop for some pastries and a large coffee and go to my office to prepare things for when the employees would arrive. I particularly liked that peaceful time of solitude, having my coffee and donuts and organizing the orders. When I finished the prep work, then I would usually go back into the frigid warehouse and pull several orders to get the packers started when they arrived. Alone in a big empty warehouse for me is a special time for thought and introspection.

            In the last few days before Halloween, work would slow down for the distributers like us. This is when the retail stores kick into high gear. We would have special orders to be shipped by air-- 3 day, 2 day, and then next day. We might have a few local last minute pick ups. But mostly it was time to wind down, reorganize the warehouse, and come to work later and go home at the regular time. When Halloween came it was like a holiday for us. I'd treat my employees to a pizza party and Halloween goodies and let everyone leave early. Then I would leave early so I could get ready for the trick-or-treaters.

         One memorable Halloween was in 1979. My wife, two year old son and I were touring with a stage production at the time. On tour with us was one of my good friends, his wife and their daughter who was about to turn three. We were not performing that night -- Halloween was typically not a good night for the show--and travelling a goodly distance that day from someplace in Texas to Lafayette, LA. As it started to get dark we decided to pull into the next town we came to along I-10 and take the kids trick-or-treating. The town was a quaint place called Jennings, LA. We stopped in the parking lot of a small shopping center and dressed the kids in makeshift costumes. We then drove to a fine neighborhood of older stately homes. We took our children door to door to give them their first experience with trick-or-treat. I don't think they really understood what was going on, but it didn't take long for them to get caught up in the spirit of the event. After we had completed our round of the street where we had stopped, we got back into the van and continued on to Lafayette to our motel. I'm sure that neither of our kids remember that night, but for me it was kind of special to drop into a place where I had never been before and feel like we were part of the community just as though we were back home.

          And home is what I really think of when I think of Halloween now. Aside from the years when I was on the road at Halloween, most Halloween nights I have been at home. In the parts of the U.S. where the air has started turning cooler and night comes sooner, Halloween has a special feel that means another year is drawing closer to an end. The autumn palette of changing leaves, big orange pumpkins ready for carving, and the smell of wood fires and leaves burning evokes a certain sadness that will soon be replaced by the warmth and excitement of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Halloween, like all of the holidays, has lost much of the old fashioned simplicity and has become industrial, has become big business. It may be good for the economic climate so far as business goes, but not so much for the economy of the heart and soul. Sometimes it seems as we become more wealthy in what we own, we become poorer in who we are.

       Make the best of what you have. And have a good time. What are you going to do this Halloween?
What are you going to be?

        Be watching for my Saturday blog post, The Road Ahead, for some special announcements about some of the things that will be coming in the month ahead in TOSSING IT OUT.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What Are You Gonna Be For Halloween?

          Halloween is the time when you can be something other than who you normally are.  Of course, many of you will, like me, not dress up and just be your usual self.  On the other hand, many adults will be dressing up just like the kids will.  Halloween is a great time to live out your fantasy, blow off some steam, and have a good time.  If you are one of those who will be donning costume for Halloween, who or what are you going to be?

           According to many industry prognosticators, the most popular costumes will be witches and vampires.  Well, duh, who needs to tell us this?  These have always been the most popular.  Especially with the huge popularity of the "Twilight" series and all of the many books, movies, and TV shows about vampires and witchcraft.  These costumes can be done quite simply and inexpensively and don't require a mask or head covering.  I think that most people don't like the claustrophobic effect of enclosing the head and face.

           Yesterday the Michael Jackson movie opened after a huge publicity build-up. The reviews so far have rave with the word "Oscar" being mentioned by some reviewers.  This will cinch the Michael Jackson character as a costume choice for many.  Michael Jackson has been high on the list for costume choices in any case seeing as how half the year has seen Michael in the news.  The official "Michael Jackson" costumes have been listed in advertised in Halloween store circulars and internet sites since the end of August.  The Party City chain of stores has a very slick TV ad that features the Jackson Zombie character boogieing to the song  "Thriller".

        Actually Michael Jackson has been a popular Halloween figure for many years.  Ever since the "Thriller" album became one of the top selling albums of all time and the extended "Thriller" music video amazed his fans while garnering a whole legion of new fans, the Michael Jackson zombie has been very popular.  Everytime Michael would appear before the cameras he would be wearing some new costume.  The many faces of Michael Jackson were a wealth of inspiration for a whole array of costumes.  Over the past 20 years the Michael Jackson glove, sunglasses, and fedora have been accessory staples in costume shops everywhere.  Michael Jackson will be missed, but he may be around in spirit for years to come.

        The Saturday trick-or-treat crowd will surely be represented by the usual cast of charaters including pirates and princesses, clowns and caped heroes, ghosts and ghouls, and of course the witches and vampires.  There will be the licensed costumes from Disney, DC Comics, Warner Brothers, Sesame Street, and many other characters from comics, movies, and TV.   The adult crowd will more than likely stick with the standards and this years variants on the things that have come before.  Many women will continue to purchase the sexy costumes that have become so popular over the past several years.  There probably won't be a whole lot of costumed polical commentary-- that usually is seen more in election years.  Of course there could be something related to the issues of  health care reform.

        I like being myself.  And I would rather be at home than at some Halloween party. That's what I'll be doing this year.  I'll dole out some candy to the strangers at my door and then maybe close shop at 7:30 or so.  I'll douse the lights and my wife and I will sequester ourselves in our bedroom with a horror DVD from Netflix.  Hey, at least I'll be observing Halloween to some extent.  So what are you going to be doing Saturday night?  What kind of costume are you going to wear?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Many Faces of the Halloween Industry

       Halloween offers many opportunities for those people who want to make some serious money as well as those who just want to pick up some seasonal pocket cash.  The opportunities are as vast as the realms of all human imagination. Previously I talked about how to approach your business in general-- becoming a Halloween professional through researching as much as possible,  coming up with a strong workable plan, and finding the funds to make it all come together. At some point, however, you must decide exactly what you want to do.

         Halloween retail is one of the more obvious business choices.  It is also the one that might take the most investment.  There are the fixtures, the product, the location, the employees, as well as all of the other details involved in opening a business.  Some store owners, for example specialized clothing, may merely alter their stores to focus on Halloween. Those who do not have the existing space and wish to open the temporary seasonal outlet must enter the business just like any other store start up would do, but keeping an emphasis on seasonal temporary store.  You do not want to end up with a lot of leftover merchandise that you will have to keep in storage.  The established reliable vendors will usually be more than willing to help you decide how much product  to buy.  After all, your success will hopefully result in repeat business for them.

        A haunted attraction is another possible business option. These attractions may come in many forms such as themed amusements, mazes, haunted transports, theatrical entertainment venues, or whatever else you can imagine.  This area of the Halloween Industry is where imagination, creativity, artistic ability, and craftsmanship really come into play. Any of these attractions can be integrated into one's existing location or installed temporily in a location used for the season.

        A Haunted House can be set up in a free standing location or an empty space in a mall or shopping center.  The location will be best if it is easily accessible or in a high traffic area.  A unique theme will help your attraction stand out.  A vacant old hospital can be turned into a Horror Hospital or an abandoned building might be a Haunted Hotel. If you can incorporate any local history or legend into your attraction, that might increase audience draw as well as providing more opportunity for good publicity stories.  Always keep safety in mind.  Your attraction will have to pass inspections so know what local requirements are before you start setting something up. And don't forget insurance.  You don't want anyone to get hurt, but you want to be covered if anything does happen.

           If you have a farm or know someone who will work with you to convert their farm, you might do a maze, a pumpkin patch, or a hayride.  You can do variants on any of these ideas in other locations as well. Try to draw upon your skills and assets or those of others who would be willing to help you.  Do you know someone with a theater space and you have theatrical know-how and contacts?  Put on a Spook Show or some other sort of production with a Halloween tie-in.  Is there an athletic booster club or some other type of organization that would like to raise some funds and would be willing to sponsor a venture under your expert guidance?  If you come across as an expert and can successfully do the job, you can probably find some source of funding or sponsorship that will make it easier to get your idea off the ground.

           Any of these attractions will require some investment.  You will need things like props, costumes, masks, and make-up.  Like the merchandiser you will need to investigate the best vendors.  You will need to find the people to do some of the things you can't do, and let's face it, you can't do everything yourself.  You will need a good location.  Start looking at locations, imagine what you can do with them, and talk to the property owners to see what they will work out with you. In today's economy their are many vacant properties on which owners may be more than willing to negotiate a good deal.  Don't wait too long to do any of these things. 

          Since you are just starting out and want to limit spending, don't forget one of the best deals--things you can get for free.   When you are decorating your attraction you will want to purchase some quality horror decorations, but in dressing up the scenes and decor there are many things that people will be glad to give you or that you can buy at very low prices (think Craig's List and yard sales).  Things that you might want to start accumulating are old furniture, appliances, tools, tires, barrels, and anything else that looks old and discarded--translated scary. 

        Even if you don't think you have what it takes to put together something on a big scale, you can still make some extra money doing something you really like.  If you enjoy hamming it up, rent yourself out as a monster or some other character for parties or events.  If you like to cook, make gourmet halloween cupcakes and cookies.  If you are good with make up, you might find a place where you could do expert make-up jobs or face-painting.  It's all up to you.  You must find what it is that you enjoy doing or take what you are already doing and put it in the context of the Halloween Business.

         The main thing to keep in mind is be wise.  I cannot give enough emphasis into doing your homework thoroughly.  Research the field, ask those who are in the know, do more research, make a very careful plan.  Then dive in and do it!  I'm not guaranteeing that anyone is going to be successful, but if you methodically take your time and take the correct approach then the chance of failure is lessened.   Remember that if you want to start a Halloween business next year, the time to start is right now.
          

        

Monday, October 26, 2009

Become A Halloween Moghoul

       Halloween can be a time to really make some money.  As the second biggest money making season in the United States, Halloween provides many opportunities to generate a profit.  If you are interested in finding your fortune in Halloween, then it's too late for this year, but it's not too early to start thinking about next year.  In fact now's a great time to start doing some research.  Let 's look at how to become a monster moghoul in the Halloween Industry.

        We often hear the old adage: "It takes money to make money."  This is true. The money doesn't have to be yours, but if you are expecting to make money in a Halloween related business you need to do some research and then come up with a plan. Right now is the best time to go into the laboratory of the real world and see what's going on. Check out the stores that specialize in the season and take some notes about what you observe.  This is helpful whether or not you plan to go into the retail sales market.  You want to be able to analyze the clientele and see some of the things that incite them to spend money. Visit some of the Halloween attractions and  communtiy events to see what they do, what they need, and who they serve. Immerse yourself in everything that leads up to Halloween and try to figure out how you can profit.

        Then immediately after Halloween you need to start planning what you want to do and what you need to do to get there-- this is something you will need to plan throughout the next year if you want to make serious money.  Once you have decided what you plan to do then you must figure out how you do it. For example, if you are going to set up a temporary Halloween store you need to find product vendors, decide where it will be, how you will decorate, who you will hire--to do the venture right you do not want to just fly by the seat of your pants.  I've seen people do it this way and it rarely works.  Extensive research and careful planning will give you a better shot at success.

         The money making opportunities to be found in Halloween are myriad.  The entrepreneur interested in a Halloween business is only limited by his or her own imagination.  If you have the money already or have ready access to the cash you are a step ahead in the game. However, no matter where the money is coming from, you need to become an expert on whatever aspect of the Halloween business you become involved. In other words you need to become a Halloween Professional.  If you come across as a quality professional, the probability of getting backing is almost assured.

          Becoming a professional means studying the field you choose to enter.  Check out the internet for the sites related to what you want to do.  Subscribe to publications that specialize in the field. Network with others who know something about the business in order to pick their brains--I've found that most people who are interested in something, especially if they are passionate about it, love to talk about it.  Find out when and where the major Halloween related trade shows are going to be held and plan on attending.  These are excellent opportunities for learning more and networking with others in the business, but even more importantly this is where you will make many contacts for your suppliers and those who can offer expert services.  At the shows you have the opportunity to collect the catalogues and literature for future reference and you can even start placing your orders, sometimes taking advantage of show specials.  Also you will be making valuable professional contacts with the people who are most interested in your success (besides you and your investors!).  Here I'm referring to the exhibitors who not only want your business now, but also in the future.  This is when you can really start increasing the number of stakeholders in your business.

          So now you're an expert, you've got a plan in the works, you hopefully have your funds ready or are finding out exactly how much you are going to have to find, and you have a whole group of other professionals who are cheering you on and want you to be a success.  You might be better off starting off in a partnership on this venture.  Many people start off with a spouse or family members.  Sometimes friends or pre-existing business partners are a good team.  Attending the trade shows are much more fun when you are with others whose company you enjoy. Often better judgement can be used in making decisions when you have more input and duties can be delegated among partners when things get to be too much for one person.  Most importantly, when the time comes to put the wheels of your new business into motion the burden is easier if you have others helping you run the machine.  The bottom line is that you will have to assemble a team to operate the business anyway and it helps immensely if you have other people that you can trust helping to oversee the team.  Be sure that before you even start anything with partners that everyone knows what their responsibilities are and what each person expects to get out of the business.  Drawing up a legal agreement is advised if you have any concerns.  Putting together a good team is integral to a successful business.

         Throughout the journey, everyone involved should keep good notes about what has happened in the business--what worked, what didn't and how do you approach next year.  If there is going to be a next year, you will need to retain fixtures, equipment, and whatever else you will need again. Everyone will need to be paid, including any lendors or investors, and if there is money left after you and your partners receive their fair shares you may want to invest that back into the business for the following year. If good records and notes are kept, and you truly learn from your experiences, then you have a good chance of becoming a big time Halloween Moghoul.   Don't expect to walk away wealthy after the first year or two, but after you have got it all down you can probably expect to make some decent money if you've done things right.

           In the next post, I will be describing some of the types of Halloween related businesses that are out there and what they involve.  Until then, I've tossed some information out to you readers and if you have any thing to say about any of this then, please, toss it back.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

When Are You Praying?

           Halloween is almost here.  Don't forget to get some goodies for those trick-or-treaters in your neighborhood.  It's on my to do list for this week.  However today is my Sunday post and I am going to continue with the topic of prayer.  When do you feel compelled to pray?



But I call to God, and the LORD saves me.  Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.

Psalms 55:16-17

         Many of us have memories of kneeling by our bedside to say our nightly blessings.  Some of our parents taught and guided us in this practice because of firm religious convictions, some as a tradition they learned from their childhoods, and maybe some just thought it was kind of cute. Likewise as children we may have been taught to pray before our meal.  Often this may have been only at an evening meal or a family gathering such as Thanksgiving.  In some cases it may have been merely a semblance of real prayer,but even if the thought alone established a prayer consciousness within us then that was a good thing.

       I think that many families today have drifted away from some of the traditions of past generations.  It's sad because the traditions of the "now I lay me down to sleep" and "God bless this food" provide a sense of security for children and togetherness for family. Many modern families rarely take time for a meal together. In today's world many of us are  far too busy to take time for prayer.  Or are we?  Perhaps it's time to stop on occasion and give thanks to God or at least meditate on the good fortunes that bless so many of us.



 In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me. 
 Psalms 86:7 

          It's so typical for us to forget about God most of the time, but suddenly want Him to do something when we are in trouble.  Perhaps this is just human nature. When everything is going great and you're on top of the world it's all, "Look at what I've done for myself-- I'm a motived hard-working achiever."  Then when things crumble around you, disaster strikes, illness brings you down, or others fail you, you then remember God and it becomes, "Oh what did I do to deserve this --Please God get me out of this mess!" When things get really bad then that's when you want to call to God -- on your schedule.  Go ahead, even though you may have forgotten about God in your past, God never forgot about you. 


Be merciful to me, O Lord; for I cry to You daily. Psa 86:3

           Start praying on God's schedule.  Don't just wait for the times of trouble, but praise God and pray to God everyday.  If you get in the habit of talking to God it gets easier.  You don't think about it, you just do it.


"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).


           Even if you don't believe in God or don't accept Jesus Christ as your redeemer, there is some good psychology behind prayer.  And if you don't like calling it prayer, then don't.  Think of it as a thought process in which your state of mind is joyous, thankful, and always aware of the many ways in which you have been blessed, are blessed now, and will be blessed in the future. Keeping your mind in this state is healthier and will bring you greater peace and contentment in your life.  I really don't think anyone can deny this and be able to support their argument.  However, in my opinion accepting the existence of God-- your creator, saviour, liberator--makes life so much easier. Let God provide you His strength and you can deal with anything.  Talk and walk with God and you have a friend who will never ever let you down.



But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tossing Out Some Ideas

        Halloween is just a week away.  I will continue on my Halloween theme over the course of the upcoming week.  I hope that some of you have found my thoughts so far to be of some interest.  I haven't heard anything to the contrary, but I have had some good comments and I thank all of those readers who have contributed.  Please keep those comments coming and don't be afraid to disagree if that's really what you think.  And if you just want to start a debate that would be fine too.

         That is the main point of my post for today.  I would like feedback.  What subjects would you like to see discussed in this blog?  I have looked over hundreds of blogs and have seen a number of different approaches, styles, topics, and agendas. Often the bloggers will just do a handful of entries and then just quit.  Others haven't posted in a year or more.  I hope that's not where this blog will end up as I have tried to remain diligent in my posting and attempted to have content of quality. But I do need some help from any readers to guide me and some encouragement in just knowing that someone is reading.

          Through the month of November you can expect to hear progress updates about my novel writing experience with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and any ideas I may come up with about the experience or writing in general.  Many other blogs will be dealing with the same topic.  Over 100,000 writers are expected to participate and many of these writers have blogs.  If you are an NaNoWriMo participant be sure to check here often for some of my thoughts and respond with yours as well.

           I hope to line up some other interviews and features besides the ones I mentioned last Saturday .  Topics will include music, real estate, and travel.  I will also be looking at some of the interesting hobbies that people have.  I want to inform you and entertain you, so if you have a special interest let me know.  I want this to be your blog as well as my blog. Let's make this a forum for, um, well, you and us!  Oh, and I welcome puns, good and bad, and anything that can put a smile on our faces.  And on that note I'll b-logging off for today.

       

Friday, October 23, 2009

Disappearance on the Beach

     Halloween is a time of mystery, but it is also a time of family. The event day celebrates some elements of the realms of the mysterious and unknown. Typically though, we picture parents taking their children trick-or-treating through the neighborhood, families attending seasonal carnivals and festivals, and families throwing parties in the home. Today I’m going to look at a missing person mystery the hits closer to home for me.

      First I will update on the story I have been following for the past two Fridays. Mitrice Richardson remains missing. I find little about the story that is updated except for the Malibu Surfside News . According to the most recent article her father is becoming increasingly visible in the public eye to tell his daughter’s story and express his concern that the case is being mishandled by police and the media. I will continue to follow this story until it fades away.

      This is usually what happens with many of these stories. They gradually fade away. The missing persons end up as a part of databases and police files. Their stories may be resurrected on the anniversaries of the disappearances, but they are then again forgotten by most, but not the families. The missing might be someone’s child, spouse, or other family member. One of my cousins is among the missing.

     I really didn’t know Kathy Sue Haskell. I had met her a few times, but we lived too far apart to really get to know one another. However, I often heard about her and what she was up to. My mother and her mother (my father’s sister) were very close and would often spend time together or speak on the phone. Kathy eventually married and had a son. She lived with her family in Corpus Christi, Texas.

     According to the story recounted by her husband, at about 10 PM on the night of October 16, 2003 Kathy said she was going to go out to “unwind”. He said that she had been stressed of late. Also there had been some marital and financial problems which probably contributed a great deal to her stress. After Kathy did not return, her husband went out the following morning and found her van parked by the beach not far from their home. The van was locked and there was no sign of Kathy.

     The police were called in to investigate. Kathy’s vehicle keys, purse, and medications were located inside the van. The beach area was searched for several days, and police checked nearby hotels and any other leads they were given. Out-of-state relatives were contacted to see if she had contacted any of them. Kathy’s father put up a reward for anyone who offered information that led to locating her and he attempted to get the story more national attention. However no sign of Kathy was ever found and the case remains open.

       As with any story of this nature there is plenty of speculation as to what might have happened to Kathy, but no proof has been found to substantiate any of these theories. It is quite possible due to the proximity of where the van was found that she could have gone into the water and drowned, but there was never a body to be found. Many people have disappeared near the ocean or other bodies of water. Since Kathy was geographically so far away from any of her family and to a great extent out of touch with most of them, and since the main information comes from her husband with whom she was not getting along very well, it is difficult to really know exactly what her state of mind was. Two weeks after Kathy’s disappearance, her husband filed for divorce and requested a restraining order to keep her from taking their son. No one has heard from her since that night she drove her van to the beach. She was only 41 when she vanished.
              




Kathy Sue Parucha
Haskell
Missing since 10/16/03
from Corpus Christi, TX

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's The Christians vs the Christians ---- Again

           Halloween certainly has its fans.  The Halloween Crazies are ready to embrace the event wholeheartedly as part of a lifestyle, while millions of other Americans happily join in the celebration of the Halloween funfest. Then there are the wacky Christians.  I'm not talking about all Christians, but the wacky Christians who are not just against Halloween, but against a who slew of stuff.

           I had not heard this story previously, but I ran across it yesterday as I was looking at the website for InkyGirl .  Apparently some pastor in Canton, North Carolina --Pastor Marc Grizzard of Amazing Grace Baptist Church -- believes along with his congregation that the King James Version of the Holy Bible is the only acceptable version.  They are organizing a book burning on October 31, Halloween ( insert blood-curdling scream here).  So are they burning Harry Potter books, pornography, or books that are against Christianity?  No they are burning Bibles. Any Bible that is not the King James Version will be fuel for the fire.  Also welcome are any of the evil books by those so-called Christians like Billy Graham, Rick Warren, James Dobson, and any other of those icons of those who falsely call themselves Christians. I'm sure Harry Potter will be gladly accepted as fire fodder as will any CD's, DVD,'s or any other tool of the devil.

         The Amazing Grace Baptist Church currently has fourteen members.  With the publicity about the upcoming stunt I'm sure people all over Western North Carolina will be flocking to this church to join up.  Luddites everywhere can rejoice!  This is not the only church that believes that the KJV is the only acceptable translation of the Bible, but this is the first one that I have heard of that would have a public Bible burning event. Personally, I don't see the value of an event such as this other than publicity and I'm not sure this kind of publicity is what a church needs.

          Now as far the KJV goes, I was raised on it and I've been reading it for years. The language at times is beautiful and for some passages like the Psalms I might prefer the KJV.  However, much of the language is also archaic.  I mean, I haven't referred to cattle as kine since--well never.  The updated translations have been helpful in reaching readers who have difficulty in comprehending the older English style. When I'm reading the KJV, I will often refer to a modern Bible  translation or a dictionary. I do think we should be discerning about the translations we use, but I really don't think any of the mainstream translations come directly from Satan himself.

           Authors of Christian books, are providing information as they interpret it.  Some of this information may be theologically wayward, but for the student of theology it can be helpful to be aware of these points of view.  Christian apologists must "put on the whole armor of God" and to do so they must be able to recognize evil or incorrect theology in order to effectively defend their views.  To say that a theologically correct Christian author should be shunned because that author has used a translation other than the KJV at some time is absurd.  With this type of thinking, why aren't  we burning every single book out there excepting the Bible versions sects like Amazing Grace Church deem acceptable.  Shades of Nazi Germany! Been there, done that.

         For everyone who is interested in this event at Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, NC; the fun starts at 7 pm on October 31.  There will be great preaching and singing.  They will be serving Bar-b-Que Chicken, fried chicken, and all the sides. Praise the Lord and pass the potato salad!

         Now moving back to that InkyGirl site.  She also had something else there that I was unfamiliar with, but looks it could be a valuable writing exercise. There is a site called One Word which is a one minute exercise for those whose like to write or just want to improve their writing skills. Check it out.

        

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Halloween Crazies

       Halloween is liked, loved, hated, tolerated, and perhaps even ignored.  Many people participate in the event of Halloween each year.  For most of these participants only a few days or a few hours are put into preparing for Halloween and then all thought of the celebration is put aside until the following year. But then there are the Halloween Crazies.

         I use the term somewhat affectionately, although also with some amusement and even bewilderment.  In the sense of fervency, Halloween Crazies are probably not much different than certain sports enthusiasts,  antique hounds, religious fanatics, or anyone else who has a deep interest in a topic to the extent that the topic becomes a focal point of their lives.  The "Crazies" just happen to be fervent about all things spooky,  bewitching, or related to Halloween. For these followers, October 31 is a day that they may prepare for throughout the entire year.  Halloween is more than just a hobby, it's a lifestyle.

         When I added "Halloween" to my interests on my Blogger profile, I looked to see who else had the same interest.  There are 8,900 profiles who include Halloween as an interest.  Perusing the first several pages of profiles, one can see that many blogs are entirely focused on the topic of Halloween. Google "Halloween" and you will find websites devoted to the topic.  There are year-round publications that deal almost exclusively with Halloween.  For some people Halloween doesn't last for just a day, but it lasts all year.

          I'm not talking about the people who are in the Halloween business, although there are some of those that I might put in the Halloween Crazy catagory.  The business people are interested in making money and must keep abreast of the trends in order to stay relevant when it comes to marketing the event.  The Halloween Crazies are just passionate about all the accoutrements of that scary fall season and almost live in an alternate universe to which most of us could never relate.

         Many of the Crazies probably have regular jobs and others may work in less conventional settings, but they often have something about them that sets them apart from the world to which most people conform. They might go the Goth route.  You can often see them with hair dyed black, dark nail polish and make-up, and dark colored clothes --the men and women alike.  They might have tattoos with halloween or occult themes.  Or there is casual Crazy with T-shirts displaying Halloween slogans or images.  Check out their rides-- they more than likely have something identifying with Halloween on their cars or they may even be driving a hearse.  I once knew a guy who drove a hearse with a full size skeleton in the passenger seat.  I doubt whether it gave him any right to drive in the HOV lane on the freeway, but it sure got a lot of attention.

                When I was in the distribution business that was primarily related to Halloween products, I would often attend the Halloween trade shows that are held throughout the year.  Though initially geared toward the Halloween business community, the Halloween Crazies soon caught wind about these exhibitions and found ways to attend.  You could easily distinguish the Crazies from the legitimate business clientale.  This is not to say that the Crazies were all necessarily not legitimate buyers, but most of them just had a passion for the wares on display.  The Crazies would be "dressed for the occasion" complete with costumes, make-up, contact lenses, fangs or you name it.  Some of these folks were dressed quite elaborately and at times even better than some of the costumes the exhibitors were selling.

             The trade show producers have caught on to this.  Not to miss any market there are a number of public Halloween and Haunt shows throughout the year that welcome the enthusiasts and Crazies as well as the simply curious.  Some of the Crazies even follow the Halloween show circuit much like the fans of the Grateful Dead used to do, but the Halloween fans give a whole new meaning to the term "dead head".

            Overall, I don't know that there should be too much concern for the Halloween Crazies.  I think that most of them just have a hobby related to something that they like.  The extent of their interest is certainly not what I would have, but some of you and I certainly have some interests that others may find peculiar.  There may be some of these Crazies that we might be concerned about.  I know I met a few over the years that gave me the creeps or I just kind of wondered about, but it wasn't necessarily because of their fascination with Halloween-- I would have probably wondered about them no matter what. 

            It's good to have interests and hobbies.  Let face it not all of them are especially productive or even meaningful in the long run.  I guess it's just what we do to keep life interesting.  My thought on this is: Keep balance in your life.  It's good to learn about things and to have something that you do well or know a lot about. This is a part of who you are.  But it's also a good idea to keep your mind open to other things and to have other interests.  Don't get so weird that most other people just can't relate to you.

          That's just a thought that I'm tossing out to you.  Got anything for me?

     

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why Celebrate Halloween?

           Halloween is not everybody's favorite time of celebration.  Some are offended or disgusted by Halloween.  Others are merely indifferent. However the fact remains that Halloween exists in our culture and I believe that we all need to acknowledge this.  Why should we celebrate Halloween, or at least accept Halloween uncomplainingly as a celebratory time for others?

          In previous posts I have dealt extensively with the positve economic impacts of Halloween.  The event is a major driver for the U.S. economy.  There is miniscule negative impact to the economy if any at all.  We should all heartily welcome positive contributions to our economy.  Halloween encourages job creation and cash flow.

          Solidarity of the community can be enhanced by celebrating a common event.  The secularization of Halloween as opposed to holidays that have religious or politcal connotation allows for the inclusion of everyone.  Churches, schools, organizations, and neighborhoods can all share the established traditions such as costumes, carnivals, and candy.  Halloween can be a joyous time that brings people from many backgrounds together.

           Opportunities for education and display of talents are made available by the festivities of the day. There are opportunities for teaching about the history behind the traditions of Halloween, safety, literature, and many other topics that lend themselves to the thematic content of Halloween.  Even those who may not agree with some of the aspects of Halloween can open dialogue and instruction about their points of view.  There are many creative outlets where talented individuals can contribute their skills in anything from sewing to cooking to performing.  Halloween is a time when many people can put their special abilities to work.

           The Halloween traditon is deepseated in the collective memory Americans and has expanded to other countries as well.  The uniquely American aspect of Halloween is that the event has assimillated practices from many different cultures and combined the good traditions to make a day that is fun and memorable.
Why celebrate Halloween?  Why should most of us be off on weekends or some other day of the week?  Why should we celebrate Christmas, Independence Day, or Martin Luther King Day?

           I think the answer to those questions is pretty obvious.  We humans need special times of rest and celebration to enrich our lives.  Life would be pretty humdrum without the special days. Throughout human history all cultures have set aside special days for feasting and celebrating.  The schedule of holidays and special days is paced in such a way that they come at fairly regular intervals throughout the year.  These special days are important for us.  According to the Holy Bible, even God recognized the need for these special days as we see how many days of feast and remembrance were mandated by Jehovah Himself.

           If Halloween didn't exist at the end of October, undoubtedly some other day of celebration would take its place.  Call it Harvest Day, All Saints Day, or whatever you will.  Revel in the traditions of Halloween-- it's a day unlike any other during the year.  Let the kids have a good time.  Feed the economy while you feed yourself some candy. If you don't like the imagery of evil, dress up like an angel or a character from history.  Halloween is meant to be fun, and maybe just a little bit scary at times.

    

Monday, October 19, 2009

Losing and Coping: What Is Important to You?

          Halloween has at times seemed like the center of my life for the past two decades. Anyone who works a seasonal job or a job with periods that are particularly active can probably identify with this. Sometimes our work becomes such a big deal in our lives that it seems like there's nothing else, but then things slow down a bit and we find our way back to who we really are. Like a costumed Halloween character, does work mask the real you?  What is the real center of your life?

          When I was in the Halloween business, especially during September and October I put a lot of time and energy into the work.  But I tried not to lose the balance that I made a effort to maintain throughout the rest of the year.  I had my duties for several years as a single father raising three daughters and later as a husband with a step-daughter added to our combined family. I tried to keep up with church activities as much as time would allow. I would try to follow my favorite radio programs during work hours and keep abreast of the news. In any way possible I made every attempt to live my regular life with a lot more work hours added in.  I spent a lot frantic time running here and there, getting up very early and going to bed very late.  But it felt good.
            For me there's something about the pressure of meeting deadlines and having an abundance of work that is invigorating, exciting, uplifting.  I see it as positive stress.  It is all rush rush get it done and then later there is the satisfaction of having achieved the goal and knowing it starts again the next day. It was tiring, but I always knew that once Halloween came then it was  back to a more relaxing routine again for the next ten months. The adrenaline rush can be great for a span, but the times of rest are a necessity.
            Then that side of my life ended.  My daughters had already moved away from home leaving my wife and I in our empty nest. Still it was no time to get depressed or bemoan my losses.  In losing my job I didn't lose me, in fact I now have more time for me and things I didn't have time for when I was working full time. Now I'm busy doing the me things and sitting back to just take it easy if I need to.  Sure I'll need to be doing something soon about my income situation, but I'm not overly concerned because I still have the Center Of My Life.  Since childhood I've always kept God nearby. Some may scoff, but He's never let me down.  There have been times when I've turned my back on God, but He has always been there behind me to catch me when something's tried to knock me down. Even if it seemed I was forgetting God, He was always somewhere deep inside where I could call upon Him when I was ready for Him to help. I've had my share of loss and disappointment -- divorce, death, rejection, you name it -- and God has always been there to  help me get back up to do whatever it was I needed to do.  Don't mind saying it cause it's just the way I feel and it's always worked for me.
           Sometimes I hear terrible stories of people committing suicide or committing acts of murder or harm due to losses.  People who lose their jobs, their homes, or their families and they just can't bear their loss. A home or a possession or a position in life or any person should not be the "center of one's life".  All of these have the potential of being temporal assets that can be taken from you unexpectantly at any time. God is a constant. Even to an atheist God is a constant -- the atheist constantly feels the need to disprove and deny His existence.  However, without God what is the real center of life?
            What about you?  What is your center?  Who are you really when everything else is stripped from you?  Is there any person, position, or possession that you absolutely know will be there for you always?  Any of these can be like a Halloween costume.  When Halloween is over you take off the costume and then everyone can see who you really are.  Do you know the real you?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Who Are You Praying For?

         Halloween has its roots in the Christian observances of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. These are Holy Days observed by many churches, but originating in the early Catholic Church. All Saints Day, also known All Hallows Day, hence the day before known as All Hallows Eve or Hallow' een, and All Souls Day are days devoted to the honoring of and the prayer for those who have departed from this life, saints and sinners.  After the break from the Roman Catholic Church, many Protestants began observing October 31 as Reformation Day, which is a day of remembrance and prayers for unity.  For many Christians prayer is one of the main activities of this time of year.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Ephesians 6:17-19

         When Paul instructed the followers of Jesus Christ to "pray for the saints" he was most probably telling them to pray for all fellow believers, those in their own church as well as those in churches throughout the world.  Here Paul also tells Christians to pray without ceasing-- to be in prayerful attitude with all kinds of requests. Do you pray?  For whom do you pray?

            Have you ever told somebody or had someone say to you, "I'll keep you in my prayers."   This seems to be the most comforting response we can often come up with in a difficult situation.  Sometimes it's just too hard to completely understand what another grieving or troubled person is going through so we try to show empathy by telling them we will pray for them.  Then later do we?  At times I have found myself saying this to someone and then realizing later that I had forgotten to pray for them.  Or did I?  Is it enough to think the action at the moment that it is said so that it becomes part of later prayers that are more generic and all-encompassing?

          I certainly ask God to answer prayers concerning my needs, but I regularly pray for my family, my friends, and my church.  Many people may find different things for which to pray--- our community, our country, our politcal leaders, our soldiers.  Some people pray more broadly for things like world peace, aid to peoples facing calamity, a cure for a disease, or ending poverty.   But is just praying enough?  Or do we need to do something as well?  Often the answer to our prayers is not just God doing something, but our eyes being opened to take a needed action ourselves.

 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.
Exodus 14:15

             Quiet times of reflection are important for the restoration of inner peace.  One should pause many times throughout the day for prayerful moments.  This does not necessarily mean falling to your knees in lengthy devout prayer.  It might be a short mental prayer for a homeless person you see on the street as you drive by or a praise to God when you hear something good about someone else.  And frequent thoughts and remembrances of those you keep in your prayers.  A kind smile and a helping hand whenever you can give them can do wondrous things.  Slow down and realize how your words and actions can impact those around you.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  

Colossians 1:9-14 (New International Version)



Saturday, October 17, 2009

Things To Come

         Halloween is coming-- of course we know that.  Can you believe that as I write this Halloween is only two short weeks away.  Then we know for the most part what comes after that.  Holiday seasons!  Thanksgiving has always been a favorite for me.  Then there are so many things to like about the Christmas season.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.  I'll be writing about those things later, but first we need to finish with Halloween. But not today.  Instead I would like to look ahead at some other things you can expect to see on this site and make my most recent big announcement.

          Saturdays just don't seem to be conducive toward in depth writing.  There's alway too much going on it seems.  Go here, go there, and this and that.  So here are some quickies.

         I want to thank my good friend Sebastian Sidi for becoming a follower of this site.  In November I plan on doing a interview with Sebastian because if you don't know him yet I think you ought to meet him now. I think you are eventually going to hear about Sebastian anyway so you might as well perk up your ears and find out why more and more people keep on adding themselves to Sebastian's list of fans. If you want to get a preview of Sebastian Sidi and hear some of his music then check out his website -- I think you might be impressed.  Be following this blog for more about Sebastian Sidi.

        Another musician of note is Forrest Smith of Phoenix, AZ.  I've known Forrest for--well, I won't say for how long, just that it's been a long time.  He is a very fine songwriter, singer, and musician.  I can't say enough good things about Forrest so you can bet I'll have plenty to say in my feature about Forrest.

         Collagepodge  is an interesting business created by up and coming artist Ada Jackson of New Jersey.  Using her creative talents and artistic eye, Ada can take anything and turn it into something wonderful.  Her works of art are often commissioned as gifts or keepsakes. I'm sure that Ada will have some interesting ideas about art as heirlooms as well as other views about the world of art.

          Whether you are interested in photography or not, you may be interested in what Juan Velez has to say about the topic.  Juan has been making quite an impression in the world of sports photography and his pictures have appeared in many places. Maybe Juan can give us some pointers on how to take better photos when we get together for holiday events or just take better pictures anytime.  It's always good to hear from a pro.

         Finally, that "big" announcement that I mentioned in my teasing opening paragraph.  I made the plunge and signed up for NaNoWriMO.   "What!" you say?   In an earlier blog I wrote briefly about this.  It stands for National Novel Writing Month and you can check my earlier post for my comments about this or follow the link to the NaNo website if you want to get more details.  I will be writing more about this challenge you can be sure.  Between my upcoming novel and this blog and everything else I write, I hope I don't drown in a sea of words and phrases.  If any of you readers are participating in NaNo, then for the record my NaNo name is wordleeness.  Let me know if you are out there and good luck!  So the juggler of words and phrases has tossed it out to you-- got anything for me?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lost in the Great Smoky Mountains

          Halloween often conjures images of ghosts and other mysterious beings lost and wandering in the night.  Unsettled souls who have not found rest in the afterlife haunt the living as seen or unseen supernatural forces that chill and terrify. I personally don't have any proof that ghosts exist, but some of the most frightening and mysterious stories are the true tales of people who disappear without a trace. Today, in what has become a Friday tradition on this blog, we will look back on some unsolved missing persons reports that have come out of the Great Smoky Mountains.
             My interest in missing persons has recently been sparked by the disappearance of Mitrice Richardson , who still has not been found. I have not seen a great deal of coverage in the local news media and a check on Google mostly brings up stories that are over a week old. Apparently there is not much in the way of new information and there is not enough sensationalism factor to the story to warrant more coverage than the story has received.  However, I did come across some information that I had not previously heard in the MALIBU SURFSIDE NEWS in a story by Anne Soble which was dated October 14.  The Los Angeles Police Department continues to work on the case and has followed up on reported sightings from Northern California to New Mexico-- the LAPD is convinced that she is still alive somewhere. Some of Mitrice's family members, including her father, have complained that police were slow to act on the case and that not enough has been done so far.  According to this article there are feelings among some that some of the problems of the case may stem not only from race, but also from gender, and from the fact that Mitrice was gay.  An insinuation was made by an undisclosed source that perhaps Mitrice did not want to stay overnight in the jail and was anxious to leave because of the attentions of the jailer, "a black woman" -- at least this is what I derive from what the article says. Mitrice was released in the dark early morning hours in an area that is relatively remote and with rugged canyons. Was she lost in that canyonland, was she a victim of foul play, or did she just take off for her own reasons and is still out there somewhere? 



 What happened to Mitrice Richardson?




            According to Tru TV , 2300 hundred people a day are reported as missing in the United States  The National Institute of Justice makes the following statement:
"The facts are sobering. On any given day, there are as many as 100,000 active missing persons cases in the United States. Every year, tens of thousands of people vanish under suspicious circumstances. Viewed over a 20-year period, the number of missing persons can be estimated in the hundreds of thousands"

Dennis Martin

        In the summer of 1969 I had recently graduated from high school and had just begun working a summer job in construction to raise funds for my upcoming first year at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.  Neil Armstrong had not yet become the first man to set foot on the moon and Woodstock was still two months away.  It was June 14, Father's Day, when something would occur that captured headlines in the Tennessee papers and tug at the hearts of millions throughout the nation.  Dennis Martin, who was about to turn seven years old, had been camping with his family in the Great Smoky Mountains. Their campsite was in Spence Field, a highland meadow near the Appalachian Trail. The area was somewhat remote requiring campers to backpack to the site. At about 4 PM on that Sunday, Dennis was playing with his older brother and two other boys when they decided to hide and scare their parents.  Dennis was instructed to come from one direction because he was wearing a bright red shirt that made him easily visible while the other boys waited in hiding to scare the parents. When the parents arrived the three boys jumped out from their hiding place but Dennis was nowhere to be found.  The father began calling for Dennis and then, according to the reports,  when there was no answer they began searching for him not more than 3 to 5 minutes after he had disappeared.  The boy's grandfather hiked down the mountain to alert park rangers who joined the family in the search throughout the night and with pouring thunderstorms.
             As the week progressed, hundreds of trained personnel and volunteers scoured the area in search of "little Dennis Martin" as the media referred to him. The FBI was called in to investigate on the possibility that Dennis had been kidnapped.  After two weeks the intensive campaign was called off, althougth the search continued for the next two and a half months by a team of experienced park rangers.No trace was ever found of the boy and after 40 years  the case remains open until this day.

Trenny Lynn Gibson

           Little Dennis Martin is but one of many who have disappeared without a trace in the Smoky Mountains. On October 8, 1976 a group of 40 Knoxville high school students were hiking to Andrews Bald.  They had eventually broken down into smaller groups according to pace.  Sixteen year old  Trenny Lynn Gibson had joined various groups throughout the afternoon.  Then sometime around 3 PM she disappeared.  She was last seen near Clingman's Dome, an area highly popular with tourists. The search for Trenny continued until the end of October but not a clue was found.  Until this day no one has reported ever hearing from her.  There is plenty of rumor and speculation after over 30 years but perhaps no one will ever really know what happed to Trenny Lynn Gibson. 

Thelma Pauline Melton

            Twenty-eight years ago Thelma Pauline Melton disappeared while hiking with two friends on the  popular Deep Creek Trail in the National Park.  The 58 year old woman, who was overweight and had some health problems, is said to have walked this trail for 20 years. At around 4 PM, as the three friends were returning to the campground where they were staying, Thelma began walking ahead of the others. They saw her disappear over a hill and that is the last they ever saw of her. There are various theories ranging from becoming disoriented and becoming lost, to suicide, to running away because she was having an affair. We may never know and the case remains unresolved.

            Stories of people vanishing into thin air are intriguing, tragic, and sometimes even romantic. Can you imagine the terror of being lost in the woods or kidnapped?  The recent stories about Jaycee Dugard remind us that missing people can be found after many years.  What you do if you became lost in the mountains or taken captive by someone you didn't know?  Have you ever imagined just taking off on your own without telling anyone?  In any of these cases, who would miss you and who would be hurt?  Ghosts don't have to be supernatural.  Sometimes our memories are like ghosts.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Is Halloween Evil?

         Halloween is a source of controversy among many people.  Some discourage participation in the event or celebrate in ways that are alternative to the traditional way that most people celebrate. Others choose to essentially ignore Halloween not for any moral or religious reasons, but because there is something about the celebration they don't like or they just aren't interested. However, the majority of Americans accept the day for what it is and join in the festivities without really thinking too much about it. But if we do think about it just a bit, perhaps we should ask the question that incites the controversy: Is Halloween evil?
           The evilness of Halloween is another one of those topics about which one could write a book and indeed many have been written. In fact there are some Halloween aversionists who make a substantial portion of their income from writing about, speaking about, and creating media presentations about the Evilness of Halloween. Just as there exists a Halloween Economy there is conversely an Anti-Halloween Economy, albeit much smaller but there nonetheless.  In the following post I will not be going into a lot of detail, although if there is a cry of interest we may certainly expound upon some of the details in upcoming posts, but here I will attempt to present a case that Halloween is not evil.
           In order to clarify my case, I would like to start with the background of where I'm coming from.  I was raised in a Christian tradition, have beliefs that are rooted in the Judeo-Christian ethos, and I regularly attend a tradional Christian church. I consider myself religious and well educated. I am fairly open-minded, but always ready to apply what I believe to be appropriate discernment in my decisions, with this discernment  based on logic and  on my own beliefs.  I would be considered by the system of labelling to be in the classification of White Anglo Saxon Protestant Male.  I am rather conservative by nature and libertarian by ideology but not party affiliation.  I wll not be quoting any Bible verses to support my thesis except for leaving a verse at the end.      
           Also, for the sake of clarification, I want to indentify and define the terminology of the question:  Is Halloween evil?  Firstly, for the sake of my argument, my definition of evil is that which is done or thought for the purpose of harm or injury. Evil is intentional action, sin, or wrongdoing with the foreknowledge that another person or property will be damaged or destroyed and the execution of  one's actions are acceptable to the person performing the act. Evil thought is the intent and planning to carry out the evil action even if the action is never actually carried out--the mere desire to do the harm is evil. 
           The name Halloween is a contracted form of a religious observance known as All Hallows Eve which precedes a day that honors the saints of the church.  The modern celebration of Halloween has assimilated some pre-Christian traditions that came from very superstitious times. Mostly attributed to Celtic practice, some of these pagan related traditions became part of the Christian festivities and were later introduced to the United States by Irish immigrants.  The modern observance of Halloween is a secular celebration which most people do not directly relate to any religious celebration whether it be pagan, Christian, or any other.
            Finally, not to sound like Bill Clinton or anything, but we need to define what is is.  For the sake of my argument we are going to use is as an absolute.  I do not want to get into inferrences, suggestions, or relationships.  To say that something is means definitely, absolutely, without question can be defined as such. When dealing in value judgements it is often difficult to use absolutes when there may be some mitigating factors that may injected into the scenario.  So in our case we might have to change the question at hand to one of the following statements: Halloween could be used for evil purposes sometimes or Halloween might have some connotations of evil.
            Since my definition of evil does not include anything that is related to the occult or satan, then this would exclude arguing that since Halloween does often include imagery related to occultism or satan then Halloween is evil.  If one wants to say that Halloween is evil because it has relationships to satan then I might argue that every day is then evil because satan or things that are related to evil are a constant factor in our lives every day. What about other days related to other Holy occasions?  Mardi Gras for example is a time of bachanalia and excess that can be related to sin, evil, and crime, but in and of itself is the day evil?  I would say no-- some of the actions of some the participants might be evil, but overall the day is one of fun and celebration.  I've heard that Santa Claus is an anagram of Satan.  Is Christmas really evil, or have some imaginative persons  derived a perceived interpretation of evil from the Christmas symbolism?  There are probably a number of evils that can be associated with Christmas, but they are evils that one can associate with any day of the year.  Holidays might be time when evil becomes more prevalent, but only because holidays are exaggerated days were people have more opportunity for revelry, stress, depression, or what have you.  And since many holidays are religious by nature does that mean religion is evil? There are certainly some that would say so.  I don't think so.  I just think that there is a temptation for all humans to do evil.
           The propensity for human beings to do evil is the bottom line of the argument.  Values, ethics, enlightenment, self-discipline, and all of the other qualities that human beings learn to help them control the propensity for sin and evil must be learned and reinforced from childhood until the day we die. To participate in an event like Halloween does not cause one to become evil. However if one is not spiritually and mentally armed to counterattack any evil influences that may be related to the day then one may succumb to the temptations of evildoing. "Teach your children well', says the Graham Nash song and this is what we should do.  Let them particpate in the fun, but keep them firmly ensconced in good values so they can make good choices. Also, look for more positive alternatives, such as Harvest Festivals at churches, or start your own traditions geared toward positive things.
              So am I saying Halloween is good?  Well as I noted in some previous posts, Halloween is good for the economy.  This is not to say that everything that might be good for the economy should be encouraged, but something that has deep seated roots in tradition and culture like Halloween probably is not all that bad if kept in perspective.  I celebrated Halloween throughout my childhood and I don't think I'm any the worse for it other than some cavities and I don't really blame those on Halloween.  If there is some bad in Halloween, as there is in every day, then do what it takes to bring some good out of it.


             You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives".    (Gen. 50:20)

     In other words, "Something that might have been intended to be used for bad purposes,  God can turn around and use it for good in my life and in your lives and in the lives of many other people."

             I would really like to hear what some of the readers think about this topic.  I tossed it out to you, now you toss it back.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Halloween Memories

          Halloween is supposed to be fun in the opinion of most people.  I spent several posts talking somewhat in depth about the Halloween economy, which I hope was of interest to some readers. Today I would like to take a breather before I get back to being analytical about Halloween. So hopefully I'll keep this post somewhat short as I share some Halloween memories.

          When I was very young I was not interested in quality or originality in my costume.  What I really wanted was one of those cheap prefab jobs that came in a box with the cellophane window on the front which made the costume visible. The costumes were flimsily made of some sort of light-weight fabric that usually had a sheen to it and had a screen printed decoration on the front to depict the character the costume represented.  The costumes were loosely fitted, one-sized affairs without buttons or zippers, but  ties at various strategic places to secure the costume onto the wearer. Included in the box was a cheap vacuformed plastic mask.  Overall the costume was pretty cheesy, but to me and my kid imagination I was authentically whatever the costume said I was supposed to be. I always begged my mother for a skeleton costume, but she must have had something against skeletons as never got to be one. The only prefab costume that I remember was in the third grade when I was a thug jailbird with a striped suit and scowling mask with a stogie in the mouth -- I guess I remembered this one because it seemed unique and was always my favorite.
           Starting about fourth or fifth grade I guess I began to realize how tacky and unoriginal those boxed costumes were.  I began seeing some of the unique homemade costumes that the other kids had and my imagination was no longer naive enougth to accept the screenprinted costume with the dumb plastic mask.  I wanted authenticity of chararcter.  My mother didn't have much in the way of sewing skills, but she would dig into the closets and find old clothes and accessories to assemble into something that worked pretty well as a costume.
            Halloween seemed to last for hours and I guess it did.  The event of the anticipated night was on everybody's mind throughout the school day.  Much of the day at school was spent on special Halloween festivities.  After school we would go home to have a quick supper, then return to school for the Halloween Carnival while there were still daylight hours.  When night came, my sister and I and a friend or two would set off on our trick-or-treating adventure.  We were fortunate to live in a very large subdivision where there were many houses.  By the end of the night we had very full bags of candy-- enough that would usually last until Thanksgiving.
           When I was in the 6th grade, my mother went into labor to give birth to my youngest brother on Halloween. My sister and I were left to our own devices to come up with a costume.  I'm not sure why we hadn't planned ahead-- seemed like it was often like that-- Halloween would just seem to creep up on us by surprise.  Undeterred we managed to come up with two of the better costumes of those years.  My sister dug out an old dance recital costume and went as a ballerina.  I cut jagged edges on an old pair of pants, found a white shirt with puffy sleeves in my mother's closet, added a hoop earring in one ear, made an eypatch, tied on a bandana, and drew on a mustache with an eyebrow pencil.  I must say it looked pretty good--better than those packaged costumes I would get when I was younger.  We both got a lot of compliments.  That was a good Halloween.