Two TRUE Ghost Stories

Because I’m grumpy and bloated and pretty much just sitting around eating chocolate and casseroles (blog on casserole cooking to come), I asked readers to come up with some words that I could blog about. It’s just So Much Effort thinking up things myself. In the first sentence alone, I mentioned three of the words, so I feel like my work here is done. Still….

One of the words was submitted by my dear college friend Rae. We were roomies a long time ago, when we took ourselves very seriously and wore dark red lipstick and went to plays and acted in plays and musicals and talked about love and heartbreak. So, pretty much we’re exactly the same…maybe just a little softer. The word she suggested was GHOSTS.




I have spent a fair amount of my time obsessed with the idea of ghosts. I love ghost stories and scary movies. I love good stories in general…but GHOST stories…there’s just something about them. They seep into your skin, infect your subconscious, call to you in your sleep. Also, when you watch a good scary movie, they can make your husband scream like a little girl and you will have to comfort him and this will make you feel like a powerful, modern woman. Uh…Hypothetically speaking.

I have only had two direct ghost experiences. The first happened when I was in my early twenties and I felt a peculiar heat and tingle in the center of my lower back. This sensation happened every now and again and I was certain that it was because someone from Beyond was trying to get me to listen. Like, I was pretty sure that there was a message coming to me and the heat and prickling sensation was just the static of Afterlife tuning.

I listened…and listened…and then realized that the peculiar sensation was from the tattoo I got. They’d shaved my lower back because I’m a hairy mother fucker, and the hair was starting to grow back. So. Uhm. Not the Afterlife.




The other true story was in my rickety old apartment with my roommate Keeley. The house had a huge lightning rod and just felt plain creepy. (The landlord was old and wore super-shorts that were so tight we couldn’t help but notice his ENORMOUS balls sausaged in there. I mean, we’re talking, ELEPHANTINE).

In the apartment, Keeley and I heard strange things, saw shifting shadows, felt weird vibes, and I’m pretty sure there was some moaning one night. Of course, the house was filled with theater people so who knows WHAT was the cause of all that moaning.

One night, I came home to an empty house, went into my room, and felt IT. A presence. A disturbance. Then I noticed that the clocks in my room WERE TURNED AROUND. No one had been in the apartment and I knew Keeley had been at work all day and was, in fact, still there, since I’d just seen her there. So I did what any normal, well-adjusted female with the tendency to be dramatic would do. I. Fucking. Freaked.

Keeley later confessed that she’d given her dad keys to the apartment and he snuck in and moved everything around.

Come to think of it, he was probably hiding in my closet moaning. (And if that’s true, I’m truly sorry to think of what he might’ve found or witnessed in there.)

So. My two true ghost stories aren’t really ghost stories at all. I DO believe in ghosts, but I think most ghosts exist in our own psyche in truly terrifying ways.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll finally have my real ghost-encounter. After all, I’m off to New Orleans in a few weeks to see Rachel and one of our other college roomies. If we don’t encounter ghosts, we’ll at least look really scary in the morning after a night on the town.


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One Word Week: Incandescent

Today’s word is: Incandescent. Now, the first definition is for a type of light bulb, but I like the other definition of something that emits light, something that is brilliant. While thinking of things that are made of light, I realized that pictures would do a better job than words. Here, then, are things that are incandescent. I hope it brightens up your cold, winter day. (The last picture is my favorite.)


Bette Davis




Lake Michigan







My kids, reading in the sunlight.










One Word Week: Chalupa

Today’s word: Chalupa. Since I’m running a little short on time, I thought I’d write a bad ode to the Chalupa. Honestly, the poem works better if you read it out loud with a dramatic pause or two, adding weight to the words, and then record it and post it on Youtube so you can make my year. Thanks.



Oh, crispy flour tortilla cradling a meaty center snuggled with cheese and sour cream... You turn me on But only when I’m really, really drunk And everything is beautiful And everything sounds like a good idea Especially you, (And sending out text messages at 3am To old boyfriends Who are now married and have orders for me not to contact them.)

Chalupa! I call your name from the bottom of my spirit. You are a warrior call! A hunter’s call! I’m on a hunt. For you.

You make my loins Quiver… … …. Okay. Actually, that’s the alcohol. But you, Chalupa, you feed my soul. You are there for me when I need you. You will enter my mouth and I will lick you And then swallow you whole And then totally regret it later when I have the spins and I’m on the floor of my bathroom sobbing about all the mistakes I’ve made in life and wishing I wasn’t as old and chubby and dream-broken as I am.

But right now, Chalupa, You are my everything. I love you. Let me unwrap you with my teeth. I can totally do that because someone else is driving. I don’t know who but… Ah. It’s my mom. Whatever. Chalupa, become one with me. Dance the spirit dance. Make me buoyant. Light. Fill the emptiness in my stomach But also in my soul. Be my thirty-second boyfriend. Ole.


One Word Week: Flaccid

This post continues my idea of blogging about single-word suggestions. Today's suggestion: flaccid. I don't mention the word specifically in here, but you can feel the word there, lingering. This is actually an excerpt from my unpublished memoir, the one that agents keep rejecting. Whatever. I have a story to tell. Here's part of it.



In a small town, when you are fourteen, and it’s 1987, and your stepmom is in the crazy house and your dad is all depressed, there isn’t a whole lot to do. The boys play sports or hang out with their friends. My sister Sookie hangs out with her friends too, or meets her boyfriend when no one knows. She cheers at football games, but Sookie is skipping this one to hang out with me. I don’t really have any friends besides Sookie to hang out with. I’m still too new here. I’m a freshman now and have been put in the smart classes with all the other social misfits, but it’s lonely.

Sookie takes pity on me and says we should go for a walk. Our brothers have already taken off and we don’t want to be in the house where it’s dark and smells of cigarettes. We can walk and shake off our visit to Pine Rest where we saw my stepmom and the bandages on her arms.

Sookie and I start our walk, even though it’s slipping into night. We walk downtown (two blocks) and stop at the Quick Stop. Larry is behind the counter. Lisa, my stepmom, sends us down a few times a week to put cigarettes and sometimes milk on account. Today, we decide to be rebels and ask to put what we want on the tab. We grab two of everything: pink Charleston Chews (because they are the biggest candy bar out there even though they are just made of marshmallows), Mountain Dew, Corn Nuts, and Rocket Pops. “Just put it on the charge,” Sookie says. She doesn’t look at me or Larry and I try to study the videos in the new section they’ve just opened. We aren’t looking at him because we both know Mom and Dad haven’t paid the bill in a while.

Larry coughs and then says, “Okay, kiddos. This time. But tell your parents that…” Then he just stops. Maybe he sees that our eyes are red and tired looking. Maybe he can just feel the pain coming off us in waves. Maybe he knows where we’ve been. Whatever the reason, he bags all our treasures and hands them to us.

We shuffle out the door, into the thick Coopersville air. Sounds from the football game echo in the air. It’s only half a mile away and I think I can smell hot dogs and testosterone.

You’d think we’d talk about Lisa and our fears and how we both know things are changing, but we don’t. Instead, Sookie says, “You’re going to have to get a boyfriend eventually or everyone will think you’re a lesbian.” I choke a little on the strawberry flavored marshmallow. “But I’m not a lesbian. I’m not anything,” I say. Romance makes me mad. I don’t want to end up like my mom, dating one guy after another after another. And I don’t want to end up like my dad, where you’re so in love with someone and so desperate to hump them that you forget about good things in life, like your children. I have this crazy idea that I need to get through the next four years and get a scholarship to college. If I can get a scholarship to college, I can have a good life…and a guy isn’t going to get me there.

“Well,” she says, “I’m just saying. If you were a lesbian, I’d still love you. I mean, it wouldn’t be a big deal.”

“Oh. Okay. But I’m not.”

I imagine for a minute there’s a movie camera right in front of us and I see us the way it does: there’s Sookie in her tight pants rolled at the bottom, with the white shirt that shows off her budding breasts. Her hair is brown and thick and wavy, her eyes a deep brown. She’s part Native American and you can tell by the soft glow of her skin. She’s exotic and beautiful. I am wearing clothes three sizes too big, my t-shirt to my knees. My hair is shaved on one side because I want to look cool, but really I just look like the dude from Simply Red. I have breasts and hips and there is hair where I don’t want it and I don’t want anyone to know.

We pass the funeral home, heading towards the football game, before she asks me if I’ve ever even seen a penis. Immediately I think of my mom’s old boyfriend, sitting on the toilet, his flesh hanging over itself, his tiny penis poking out from between his legs, like a tiny depressed gopher. “Yeah,” I say, all confident like. “They look sort of like an alien creature or something.” gopher

Sookie laughs. “They are. And when you touch them, they grow. Thank god they don’t have teeth. When you’re ready, when you get a boyfriend or whatever, I’ll tell you how to hold them and go down on a guy. That’ll keep him happy.”

I feel nauseous. I can’t breathe. The thought of touching one of those things, of putting one in my mouth, makes me break out in a cold sweat. And, frankly, I’m a little mad. Anne of Green Gables never talked to Diana about giving a blowjob to Gilbert, and I really thought my life in Coopersville would be like that Canadian fairy tale.

Sookie unwraps the Rocket Pop and looks at me and I know. She’s going to teach me right now, as we walk to the football game. She works slowly on her popsicle, but I take big bites out of it. That’ll teach ‘em, I think.


One Word Week: Overwhelmed

This week(ish) I'm blogging based on single word suggestions people have made to my Facebook or Twitter. I asked for a single word, and then I'll see where the blog takes me. Today, it's



Last September, I knew that I was feeling pretty overwhelmed when I started burping a lot. I was burping because I felt like there was a knot in my throat, like a big old shipping-knot made out frayed rope stuck right in my throat. And I was pretty sure that knot was cancer. I didn’t have time to slow down and check it out, though. My husband was still looking for a job so supporting the family (and our mortgages and our car payment and student loans and groceries) rested squarely on me. I felt like I was carrying a Sumo Wrestler on my shoulders, like he was playing chicken with God or something, and it all pissed me off.

I’d teach my writing classes at the college, drive an hour or so to the studio, narrate, drive home, cook, take care of the kiddos, obsess, grade papers, lesson plan, prep the next book, all the while carrying a Sumo Wrestler and burping burping burping. I couldn’t sleep at night and when I did sleep, my legs twitched.


Then I found a lump on my clavicle. I’ve always liked my clavicles. I think that slender bone at the base of the neck is sexy, and I’ve always liked my neck. I also like my ankles and sometimes wish I was born in another century. My ankles would’ve been a Centerfold.

So I took some time out of my schedule to go to the doctor (even though it cost $195) and tell him about the cancer growing in my throat and the bump on my clavicle, all while carrying the weight of my family’s future with me. I couldn’t be sick! We didn’t have insurance! How would I handle chemo? We would lose the house. The kids would have to live with their dad full time. I’d be in a wheelchair and bald and puffy and my husband would have to take care of me and I’d tell him to please have an affair because I couldn’t love him anymore and the whole thing just broke me. Into a bunch of little shards. I tried so hard not to cry that I was choking. Myself.

The doctor listened to my symptoms. Then he told me to feel his clavicles. “What?” I asked. He loosened his tie and unbuttoned his top two buttons and said: “Here. Feel.” Well, I thought that was a little weird and intimate but I reached out with my cold fingers and felt his clavicles. (It wasn’t sexy.) Sure enough, he had a bump just like mine. He smiled, kindly, albeit with a little fatigue, and said: “Is there any chance you might be stressed?”

I said, “Hello! See the Sumo Wrestler. The dude is straddling me and wearing a diaper. YES! I’m STRESSED!!!”

I got a prescription for anti-anxiety meds and then something else I could take when I felt like I couldn’t breathe or couldn’t swallow.

It was enough to get me through the short term.

When things settled, I had the conversation with my husband when I told him I couldn’t handle the pressure anymore and I needed him to find a job. My health needed him to. My sanity. Our relationship. There were lots of reasons why he couldn’t get work and hadn’t found anything, and I understood that, but I needed something to change.

And then it did.

I gave up teaching. I focused just on narrating. Hubby found a job. We sold his house and reduced our expenses to one mortgage. We paid off his car. And that stinky Sumo Wrestler finally left my shoulders.

And I stopped burping.

Overwhelmed? Yes. But eventually, I got out from under all of that stress. I don’t take the meds anymore. I don’t need them. I have time to exercise and do yoga classes now.

I’m reading this book called “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar” by Cheryl Strayed and she says in there “How do you get out of a hole? You climb.” Simple advice, but it resonates with me.

You can always change your life. It sucks sometimes and it’s really hard, and it takes being honest and vulnerable to other people, but you can climb out of that hole. And you can bitch slap that Sumo Wrestler. I know because I did.