October 31, 2012 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself

After 30 days of reveling in skulls and skeletons, pumpkins and candy corn, and Halloween-themed goodies, the big day has finally arrived. We are ready!

Treats for class parties have been made, pumpkins have been carved into jack o’lanterns, and costumes have been purchased.

When my kids were young, I used to make their costumes. Now, I’m thankful to report that our costume preparation consists of a trip to our local party store. It’s usually complete chaos. Somehow or another, we always wind up in the scary mask/funky hat aisle and the kids try on masks and hats to their heart’s content while I try not to be a) frightened of the bloody/gory creature my sweet innocent child has become; and b) freaked out about who else has been trying on these masks and hats. The last thing I need is an outbreak of lice in our home.

I would like to point out that the kids never wind up with one of these masks or hats, and only partly because I won’t let them. They like experimenting, but they usually have something specific in mind.

My youngest son inexplicably is a werewolf this year. “How come you want to be a dog when you’re so petrified of dogs?” I asked him.

“Werewolves are dogs?” he asked. “Well, I don’t care. I want to be one.”

Maybe Halloween is a time to try on different personas for size. For one day out of the year, you can be anything you want and no one will think twice about it.

It certainly explains why my oldest is going to be a clown. He’s really gotten into the spirit, clowning around outrageously during our annual Halloween photo shoot. The funny thing is, he’s too shy to be a clown. He can’t stand being the center of attention, although I can see signs of him wanting to break out of his shell. Maybe this night, buoyed up by his clown costume, he can.

My middle son is going as a zombie grandpa. He has always been a creative thinker. When he was two years old, he insisted that the theme for his birthday party be “yellow.” Not Superman, not fire trucks, not Hot Wheels or construction trucks, but yellow. I should have guessed then that he’d grow up to be a zombie grandpa!

And me? What do I want to be for Halloween? What persona would I like to try on for a day to see if it fits? I can think of several things, but they don’t lend themselves easily to a costume I can buy.

I suppose I’ll simply raid my closet for one of the costumes I’ve worn in the past and make do with that on the outside.

But on the inside, knowing that I can be anything I want for a day? I can’t wait to try on the possibilities!

I wish you all a Safe and Happy Halloween!


October 29, 2012 in Interviews

Photograph by Bill Wadman

Noah Scalin is the author of Skulls, 365: A Daily Creativity Journal: Make Something Everyday and Change Your Life!, Unstuck: 52 Ways to Get (and Keep) Your Creativity Flowing at Home, at Work & in Your Studio, and The Design Activist’s Handbook: How to Change the World (Or at Least Your Part of It) with Socially Conscious Design. He is also an artist, a designer, and an activist and founded his own design firm Another Limited Rebellion. Read more about him and his year of making a skull a day for 365 days here.

 1. In 2007, you began your personal challenge to make a skull every day for 365 days. Why skulls?

At the time it was a truly arbitrary decision. I really just had the fully formed thought, “I should make a skull a day for a year,” and I didn’t question why. Realistically I’d been a fan of skulls since I was kid and already had several tattoos of them when I started the project. Of course when I think about it after the fact I realize they were the perfect image for the project since they are generally used in art as a memento mori: a reminder of death, but not a negative one, instead one that encourages you to live more fully each day!

2. How did you get through the days where you just didn’t want to make a skull?

I never didn’t want to make a skull, that was the fun part of my day! The hard part was finishing a skull and realizing I wasn’t done and still had 8 hours of work to get through!

3. Did you ever worry that you would run out of ideas? 

Nope. Pretty much from the start I had plenty of ideas and as I used up my existing skills and materials to work with I was given a constant stream of new ones from friends and strangers! I actually ended the project with a list of ideas that I never got to!

4. Of all the skulls you’ve created, do you have a favorite? A most difficult?

Ha, that’s like saying what’s your favorite child to a parent! If I truly had to choose though, it would have to be the one I actually tattooed on myself on day 101, I’ll definitely have that one for the rest of my life! As for the most difficult, I guess if you consider time consuming to be difficult, it would be a tie between cross-stitch and latch hook. Neither is a difficult skill, but generally they are the types of projects you don’t try to complete in a day, and doing them non-stop for nine hours (minus migraine headache induced naps) is not really that fun.

Day 101:Tattooed Skull, Self-Inflicted

Day 161: Latch Hook Skull

Day 258: Cross-Stitch Skull














5. You also have a blog entitled Make Something 365 where people are invited to create their own year-long challenge and share their efforts. Do most people complete the challenge? What do you think the key is to following through on such a big commitment?

You know I don’t keep a tally, but I think only a small percentage of people that set out to do a 365 project complete it, but really that’s not the point. I know people that have gotten a ton out of doing just a 100-day project or even 52 weekly projects over the course of a year. In fact pretty much across the board people who start a daily project feel the effects with in a couple of weeks, and no matter when they stop they will benefit from the experience they’ve had. That said I think the people who succeed in making all the way to the end are people who have chosen to do something they’re actually passionate about and been forgiving about the results, not hoping or trying to be perfect every day.

6. Congratulations on your new book The Design Activist’s Handbook: How to Change the World (Or at Least Your Part of It) with Socially Conscious Design! How did being socially conscious become such a big part of your life? Is there a particular area in which you are most hoping to effect change?

Thank you! I was actually raised as an activist, being pushed in a stroller by my mother at ERA rallies in the 70s! So activism is in my blood and I always assumed I would work from an ethical perspective as an adult, only to find out that that wasn’t really considered a realistic thing to do when I got out of college! So I set out to show people that it was possible by starting my own socially conscious design firm. And what I’m trying to do with my work, teaching, and this book is to help people see that they can do what they’re passionate about, make a living at it, and make the world a better place in the process! Sounds like a good deal right

7. What is your favorite dessert?

Lately it’s been frozen grapes! I only just discovered them this year and I can’t believe no one told me about this earlier. They’re so good; like little individually wrapped sorbets.

Noah, thank you so much for this interview! I am so intrigued with the idea of doing something every day for 365 days. You have given me a lot to think about!


October 26, 2012 in Book Reviews

When it comes to Halloween, no one is more creative than Martha Stewart. I’ve spent a lot of time on her website this month oohing and aahing over the food, the decorations, the crafts ideas…just like candy to my eyes.

I was recently searching for some craft ideas for my 1st grader’s Halloween party when I became enamored with this cute little potato-stamped skull. I watched the accompanying video explaining the process, and that’s when I first became introduced to Noah Scalin.

In June 2007, Noah Scalin cut a small skull out of orange paper, posted it on his blog Skull-A-Day, and proclaimed that he was going to post a skull a day every day for the next year. Every day!

There isn’t much I can claim that I do every single day for a year. Brush my teeth, certainly. Shower, yes. Read? Absolutely. But I don’t work out every day. I take Christmas and sick days off, some travel days if the flights leave early, and the other day I skipped it just because my bed was so cozy I didn’t want to get out of it.

I don’t even eat chocolate every day! Shocking, I know. Sometimes that small part of me that values healthy eating inexplicably kicks in.

But Noah didn’t take any days off: not for illness, not for vacation, not for holidays, and not because he just didn’t feel like making a skull that day.

Can you imagine doing something every day for a year?

Can you imagine being on vacation on an idyllic Hawaiian island and making this instead of frolicking in the waves?

Noah has inspired others to attempt their own 365 day challenge with the help of his books and his blog  Make Something 365 and Get Unstuck.







I admit, it’s an interesting challenge to consider. Some are doing 365 Silhouettes, 365 Days of Pugs, 365 Days of Star-Gazing, and one that I could certainly use, 365 Days of Letting Go of Stuff.

What would I do? To be successful,  it would have to be something simple and not very time-consuming so I could be assured of accomplishing it.

Then again, some of Noah’s skulls took 8-plus hours to complete, and he has a day job!

It would definitely have to be something I love, or that would be intensely valuable to me, otherwise I wouldn’t finish, and besides, what would be the point?

Noah loves skulls. He loves them so much tattooed Day #101 on himself.

I love the fact that he set out to do something, and he did it! But I might love his skulls even more.

Skulls is out of print, but I still managed to get my own copy through Amazon.com and I can’t stop looking at it. It’s amazing that he created the same image day after day after day, and yet the creations are consistently fresh and imaginative. He made skulls out of everything: rice, soy sauce, found plastic bottles, chairs, toothpaste…his creativity has me in awe.

Some skulls have an accompanying blurb about how he made them, which is fascinating to read. In the back of the book there is a section entitled “Do-It-Yourself Skulls” in case you want to make your own. This Skull By Numbers is going to be my weekend project:

You can download your own copy here. While you’re at it, print out #250 Crossskull Puzzle!

In honor of Halloween and Noah Scalin, I have created two things:

1)    A Pinterest board with some of my favorite skulls from the original 365 days of skulls.

2)    Since I had some leftover white from my candy corn adventure, I created a corn skull!

Anyone interested in doing the 365 Days Challenge? I must confess, I’m thinking about it! What would you do for 365 days?

Please join me on Monday, October 29, 2012 for my interview with Noah Scalin!






October 24, 2012 in Book Reviews

One of my favorite things to do in life is to read aloud to my kids at bedtime.

There is just something about coming together after the chaos of the day, snuggling in close, and poring over the beautiful, or whimsical, or hilarious illustrations of whatever book we happen to be reading.

I love it! My kids love it too, although my older one will deny it. I’ve let him go a little. He’s welcome to read in his own room during story time, because obviously, at 12, he’s too old to be read aloud to. And yet, I am surprised at how often he wanders in to find something and winds up staying.

I read everything: classics and SpongeBob, poetry and prose, seasonal and timeless. Right now we’re marching our way through the Caldecott Medal Winners. Some of the artwork we’ve seen has been stunning. Some of it has been…well, let’s just say that art has come a long way since 1938.

Because it’s Halloween, we have also been singing our way through our family’s hefty Halloween collection.

That’s right, singing! It’s amazing how many Halloween books are based on songs.

One of my all-time favorite books is 13 Days of Halloween, a take off on the 12 Days of Christmas song. But instead of a partridge in a pear tree, we have a vulture in a dead tree!

When I was young and my dad worked in the music library, we’d attend holiday office parties with some pretty talented musicians. I remember one Christmas evening the entire party congregation launched into The 12 Days of Christmas. It was fun, but one very loud operatic voice stood out above the rest, and when everyone else sang “5 golden rings”, this woman trilled “rings” through about 3 octaves up and then back down again. It was beautiful.

I can’t sing, but I’ve never forgotten that evening, and so now when I sing this song to my kids, I try to copy her trill. Trust me. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard your three sons trill “5 cooked worms” through 3 octaves up and 3 octaves down as loud as they can. Halloween and music are both alive and well in our house.

There’s another reason I love reading children’s books: you would not believe the things I learn that I did not previously know! Take Jacqueline Farmer’s Pumpkins. It’s a non-fiction children’s book filled with interesting facts about pumpkins. Did you know that:

  • Not only is pumpkin a fruit, but it’s a berry?
  • Pumpkins can be orange, red, white, and blue?
  • American pumpkin consumption declined with the invention of refrigeration?
  • A man named Stingy Jack who played tricks on the devil (not wise) is the basis for the origin of the jack o’lantern? When he died, the devil didn’t want him and neither did heaven. Forced to wander the earth forever, he carved a turnip and placed a burning piece of coal inside to light his way. People called him “Jack of the Lantern,” which has morphed over the years into a carved pumpkin filled with a candle called a jack o’lantern. Fascinating!

Her book is also filled with recipes and fun facts, so now our family can call pumpkins pumpas like they do in Sweden.

I always tell my kids that the best way to learn anything is to read. I love it when a book like this comes along and proves my point so eloquently!

For a wonderful look at the benefits of reading print books vs e-books aloud to children, check out Julia Tomiak’s Diary of a Word Nerd blog.

Other Great Sing-Alouds for Halloween:


October 22, 2012 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself, Making Life A Little Easier

I am not a fashionista. I pay no attention to which famous designer might be adorning my clothing labels, although I do enjoy a good episode of Project Runway.

I am equally comfortable shopping at White House Black Market and Target.

My tastes run toward the simply classic or the simply comfortable in shades of black, white, gray, and navy blue. Jeans are my best friends, and I have some that can be dressy or casual.

So when someone compliments me on something I’m wearing, it’s a cause for celebration. When more than one person compliments me on the same piece of clothing, I look to the sky to see if the planets have aligned in some mysterious way. And when complete strangers chase me down in parking lots to ask me where I got my jacket, I head back into the grocery store and buy several lottery tickets because surely my lucky star is on the rise.

In honor of these crisp, fall mornings standing in the pouring rain on a field dotted with puddles so deep you could lose a small child in them, all to watch your sons play soccer, I am going to share with you my all-time favorite fall fashions. They have earned their spot here by receiving multiple compliments from not only my friends, but from complete strangers.

From Splendid Avenue:

Living in the Pacific Northwest, I need garments that are not just water-resistant, but waterproof. It’s harder than you think to find something that is waterproof, not bulky (because then I feel like I can’t move and that just brings up an old claustrophobic issue), and stylish, so I didn’t even bother looking. Luckily, my friend Monika has done the looking for me and has found the most awesome products to keep me outfitted during the rainy season.

Behold my favorite Ilse Jacobsen Full-Length Rain Coat and Tall, Black Rubber Boots!

Waterproof, stylish, breathable, and comfortable…these items have it all. I own the basic black, but they come in a variety of colors.

The boots come in varying heights as well to suit all your waterproof needs.


They are both fantastic for rain and snow, but I recommend layering underneath the Rain Coat for extra warmth as needed.

Go to Monika’s website for the Rain Coat and Rubber Boots, but stay for the myriad of items she sells, all with a Scandinavian flavor. Clothing, jewelry, home décor, kitchenware…it’s all there.

As it says on Splendid Avenue: “Unique items. Great designs. High quality. Not many. Just the best.”

From Victoria’s Secret:

It’s a classic button-down shirt in simple colors (white, black, navy) with an elegant series of ruffles in the back.

I know what you’re saying: “Of course she likes it. It’s so basic!” Well, yes, but I also get complimented on this shirt all the time.

“That shirt is so flattering on you!”

“Excuse me, miss? I just have to ask…where did you get that shirt? I love it!”

Classic never goes out of style, and those ruffles just made classic a little more interesting.

From CAbi:

My friend Amy sells CAbi through this site. She’s fantastic, and so are these clothes. It’s an unusual set-up. If you’ve never heard of CAbi, you can’t buy it in stores. It’s more like a Tupperware party, where you go to someone’s house and place your order. If you’re not comfortable with that kind of shopping, I completely understand. I am that way too.

But the clothes! For some of you working moms, you are going to be in heaven. It is high-quality, stylish, and formal enough for the office. If you’re like me, though, a stay-at-home mom who only has to get out of her pajamas when the dishwasher repairman is scheduled to arrive, is it worth it?

Yes. One of my all-time favorite items is called the Slouch Tee. I’m wearing it right now while I slouch around on my computer and I’ll still have it on when I go slouch around on my couch to watch The New Adventures of Old Christine on syndication. And I get compliments on it!

Their merchandise is seasonal, so you probable can’t even get the Slouch Tee anymore, but don’t worry: there are plenty of new items to enchant you!

You can order directly from CAbi: no party necessary!

If you have a Fall Fashion to share, please do!

Happy Shopping!


October 19, 2012 in Random Thoughts

When I was young, I walked to our local elementary school roughly one block from our house. I was probably around 6 or 7 years old, and since it was the 70s, I walked alone.

Unlike now, where I would never in a million years let my 6-year-old walk to school by himself, not even in the company of his older brother. Times have changed.

Back then, it was no big deal. Nor was it anything to connect up with a friend or two from the neighborhood and play in the yard of the old abandoned house on the corner on our way home from school. We never went inside, of course, but there was always something interesting to do in the yard with the uneven ground and sparsely growing grass.

Until one day, a member of our group (Mr. Adventurous) suggested we explore the house from the inside.

The house had been abandoned for a long time, and I had heard stories of some eerie things happening in there. To this day, I have no idea why I went in with them. I suppose the group mentality took over. What I would never have done on my own somehow seemed ok with this group of friends.

In we went. They splintered off, some exploring the rooms on the ground level, while Mr. Adventurous climbed the staircase to the second story. I planted myself by its wooden banister, so I was the one closest to the staircase when he screamed.

I glanced up quickly and saw something that is still seared in my mind to this day: two gloved hands were making their way down the banister, hand over hand, and there was no body attached.

I turned and sprinted out of that house, across the yard, down the street to my house, and I never once looked back. I also never went near that house again.

Say what you want: I was young; I got carried away with my imagination; I convinced myself I saw something that never existed. But I saw those bodiless hands on the banister. I saw them, and nothing you say will convince me otherwise.

There are simply some eerie things out there that don’t seem to have an easy explanation.

Haven’t you ever walked into a house, a restaurant, or an antique shop and thought to yourself “Whoa. This place gives me the creeps. I’ve got to get out.”? It might have looked okay. Your friends might have thought you were nuts, but you knew. Something was off.

I have a friend who delivers film reels to movie theatres late at night. He stops at creaky old theaters in the dark well past midnight and carries these reels through shadows hiding things that are waiting and watching…

He could tell you some stories that would have every single hair on the back of your neck standing straight up for days.

There are simply some eerie things out there.

Have you ever personally experienced an eerie phenomenon?

And now onto the Halloween giveaway results! The lucky winner will receive a pair of pumpkin salt-and-pepper shakers, some Halloween Moonstruck Chocolates and a $5 Starbucks gift card!

And the winner is…..Rebecca! Congratulations! : )


October 17, 2012 in Adventures in Parenting

I was thinking about Janet Leigh in the infamous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. I watched bits and pieces of it, mostly through the spaces between my fingers covering my eyes. That movie scared millions of people, but what about Janet Leigh? What effect did it have on her?

After all, it was pretend. She stood in that shower for 7 days through 70 takes with Alfred Hitchcock, cameramen, bright lights and Anthony Perkins, who became her friend through the movie shoot. She knew what was coming, and I’m sure jokes were made about the fact that she was doused in chocolate sauce that acted as blood. She wasn’t scared during the shooting of that scene. It was viewing the film upon its completion that made her avoid taking showers from then on. “It never dawned on me how truly vulnerable we are,” she said.

“Fear,” according to Wikipedia, “is a distressing negative situation induced by a perceived threat.” That sounds perfectly reasonable, but a problem occurs when “…we fear situations that are in no way life-or-death…” (Psychologytoday.com). Like Janet Leigh and her shower. Like me and non-poisonous spiders that are roughly 1/500 my size. Like my youngest son and dogs.

My youngest son is afraid of dogs for a variety of reasons. First of all, he’s still young. A lot of big dogs are taller than him with all 4 paws on the ground, let alone when their owners let their “friendly” dogs jump up on him. These big dogs easily outweigh him too. And then there’s the other issue: he’s allergic to dogs. It’s nothing life-threatening, but it is uncomfortable: itchy, watery eyes, itchy skin, and lots of sneezes.

Besides this, because my oldest son does have life-threatening food allergies, the word “allergy” has an elevated connotation in my youngest son’s mind.

There are many logical reasons for him to be afraid of dogs, but his fear goes well beyond that.

I love the story I heard a thousand times growing up where my dad took my mom to the zoo, specifically the reptile house, to try to get her over her fear of snakes. He calmly and scientifically discussed snake habitats, anatomy, and life cycles to her as she nodded, bravely taking it all in. When they finally exited the reptile house, my dad, I’m sure, must have said something along the lines of “See? There’s nothing to be afraid of!”

At which unfortunate point, a tiny leaf fell from the branch above and landed gently on my mother’s head. She, completely illogically (but hey, fear is like that) deduced that the only possible conclusion to be drawn was that a snake had landed on her head. The severity of her reaction can best be described as a (temporary) psychotic break from reality.

One day my dear friend helped me out of a bind by offering to watch my son for a bit. “Thank you so much!” I told her. “But just so you know, he’s afraid of dogs.”

“What? But Rosie’s so small!” she said, nuzzling her dog up to her cheek.

“So are spiders, but I’m afraid of them.”

“That’s true, but Rosie’s so sweet! She’d never hurt him!”

“It doesn’t matter. He’s afraid.”

“Ok,” she said dubiously, “I’ll keep Rosie away.”

When I came back to pick up my son, my friend came over and clutched my arm. “Muddy,” she said urgently, “your son is really afraid of dogs.”

“I know! I’m the one that told you!”

What you see... photo from http://whatthepupisup.com/2012/07/12/old-pups/

What my son sees...







Saying he’s afraid isn’t enough to convey the depth of his fear. I wish there was a word in the English language that meant “really, really afraid,” (pertified? terrifed? panic-stricken?) so when dog owners let their dogs get close to my son and I try to explain that he’s afraid of dogs, they don’t respond by letting their dog get even closer and saying “Oh, he won’t hurt him.” I’m sure snake owners feel the same way about their pets, but if a snake gets close enough to lick my face, I am going to need some pretty strong medication to settle me down.

What are you petrified of and how do you handle it when others don’t understand the depth of your fear?


October 15, 2012 in Chocolate! (and other less exalted food experiences), Nut Allergies and Then Some

Apparently me, but not by choice! I am not Martha Stewart (although at times I wish I was) and as much as I like to bake, I would prefer to buy my candy corn from the grocery store.

But my oldest son is allergic to all nuts (read about that here) and soy protein.

Soy protein is tricky. He’s allergic to the protein found in soybeans, but not the fats. This is an important distinction because soybean oil is found in everything, and soy lecithin is found in everything chocolate. I shudder to think what our lives would be like if he couldn’t have these fats.

Soy protein is found in products that use the entire soybean, like soy milk and soy flour. The presence of soy flour rules out most of the pre-packaged baked goods (think sliced bread) and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Sometimes food manufacturers isolate the soy protein and add it to products for no apparent reason that I can discern, like Campbell’s soups (goodbye any casserole calling for Cream of Mushroom soup) and candy corn.

Yes, it’s true. My son is allergic to candy corn.

Considering how much I love Halloween and how candy corn is its official candy, this is a big deal! I have spent hours scouring the internet for candy corn that does not contain soy protein. It does exist, but invariably those versions are made in a plant that processes nuts, so they’re out for him too.

This year, thanks to Alton Brown and the Food Network magazine, I tried to make my own candy corn. (The recipe is here.)

It wasn’t hard, but it was tedious. Rolling the ropes of orange, yellow, and white, pressing them together, slicing them, and molding them into the familiar candy corn shape took some time. They taste good, although they don’t have that crisp “snap” when you bit into them. They’re chewier. Alton does mention that it takes a couple of days for the candy corn’s flavors to intensify, so I’ve hidden some away to sample later in the week.

Was it worth it? Yes and no. If I ever find a soy protein-free, nut-free candy corn, I’ll never make these again. However, I did notice that during one stage, the flattened ropes look suspiciously like bacon. If I ever need to make a bacon garnish (for a steak cake?), I will definitely break out this recipe.

In the meantime, I think I’m good for making this recipe once a year during the Halloween season, especially since there are plenty of other treats we can indulge in that scream Halloween that I don’t have to put any effort into at all.


October 12, 2012 in Random Thoughts

I’m getting a little flak from my kids because the extent of our outdoor Halloween decorations consists of this:

while our neighbor-around-the-corner’s house looks like this:





It is awesome! I love it, and so does everyone else because they make the local newspaper every year.

I’m not about to wrap my house up like a spider web because I’m afraid of spiders, but beyond that, how long did it take to set all that up?

“About 30 minutes,” my friend’s son who lives in the same cul-de-sac told me.

Um, I don’t think so.

My taste in Halloween décor runs more along the lines of cute and quick, with an emphasis on cute.

Like these glass pumpkins the kids blew themselves:

Or this trio of ghosts, which are quite possibly the cutest things I own, Halloween or otherwise.

So imagine how I felt when I had to buy this for my son’s Halloween costume:

Seriously? A bloody arm?

What happened to the days when their costumes looked like this?

 I’m starting to suspect that the divide between my cute Halloween decorations and my sons’ ideas of what Halloween entails is widening.

But I’m not going down easily! I just discovered these precious pumpkins that double as salt-and-pepper shakers, and I am giving them away to one lucky winner!

 And what would a Halloween giveaway be without chocolate? My mom introduced me to these yummy treats from  Moonstruck Chocolates. The mummy head is my favorite. So clever…and delicious!











Simply leave a comment by Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 12:00noon PST and you will be eligible to win both the 2-pumpkin set and the 4 Halloween chocolates…and maybe an extra surprise thrown in just for fun! (I promise it won’t be a bloody arm.) I can only ship to US addresses.

The winner will be announced on Friday, October 19, 2012.

Happy Halloween!


October 10, 2012 in Book Reviews

When it comes to movies and books, I don’t do a lot of horror. I can’t stand blood, so all those Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street movies are off the table for me. I don’t do spooky that could possibly be real, so there’s no chance I’m ever going to see The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. And I most certainly don’t do creepy dolls or kids, like Chuckie or Children of the Corn.

The only really scary movie I’ve ever seen was The Omen. My older (male) cousin selected that gem when we were young kids. I can’t imagine what he was thinking. The Omen for his two younger (female) cousins? I had nightmares about that movie for weeks. I still do. (Thanks Andrew.)

(Lesson learned: Don’t let guys pick out movies for mixed company. This was only reinforced in college when the guys went to the video store for our co-ed dorm’s movie night and they came back with A Clockwork Orange and Caught From Behind, Part IV, and yes, that was a porno movie. Co-ed movie night quickly became became Guys Night Alone.)

I have a higher tolerance for horror in book form, specifically Stephen King’s books. I am a huge fan! He is an exceptionally gifted storyteller, and the way he brings his characters to life with their quirks, flaws, hopes, and sparks of madness is nothing short of astonishing.

That being said, I have had to put myself on Stephen King probation 3 times in my life because he scared me so badly. In honor of Halloween, I will share with you what I think are the scariest Stephen King stories of all, in no particular order.

1)    The Road Virus Heads North, a short story that I talk about  here.

2)    IT  IT is a great novel. I could not stop turning the pages, and while I was reading it, I told everyone I knew that they had to drop everything they were doing and read this book because it was that good. The problem was, it had two things in it that I was already afraid of: creepy clowns and creepy spiders. This book only deepened those fears, and when I finished it, I said to myself,  “Yeah, I think I’m on Stephen King probation for awhile.”

To this day, I don’t do clowns or spiders. I can handle administering epi-pens and holding kids down while they get their stitches. I can clean up vomit and diarrhea. But they know that when it comes to dealing with spiders, they are on their own. Especially now when the cold drives more spiders inside our home.

“Mom! There’s a giant spider in my closet! It’s crawling up the wall!”

“Uh huh,” I say, barely looking up from my magazine downstairs. “Mama doesn’t do spiders.”

“But I can’t sleep in there!”

“Grab a sleeping bag and sleep somewhere else.”

“Can’t you take care of it?”


“Mom, come on! Can’t you just vacuum it up?”

Um, no I can’t. Because if there’s one thing that scares me more than a spider it is a spider in a vacuum. It’s still alive in there! Its legs are squirming all over the place! What if it crawls back out?

3)    Pet Sematary What can I say about this book? Everyone I’ve talked to has said this is the scariest Stephen King book ever. I know grown men who have had to turn off the movie well before it was finished because it was so scary. 

I have my own problems with this book, not the least of which is that the title is misspelled. Yes, I know it’s based on a sign written by a child, but still.

If you don’t know the story, it’s about a family whose cat is killed along the dangerous highway in front of their new home. Distressed by the devastation of his son, Louis Creed, based on the advice of a neighbor who specifically tells him not to do it, decides to bury the cat in the creepy pet cemetery. Lo and behold, the cat comes back from the dead, but it is altered, and not in a good way. He does horrific things to birds. He’s eerie. He might even be evil.

When the son is killed along the same highway and Louis decides to bury him in the pet cemetery because he wants him back so badly, I had to close to book and set it down forever. I already knew what the cat was capable of, and I was well acquainted with what Stephen King was capable of, so I knew nothing good was coming. A creepy kid brought back from the dead, possibly accompanied by clowns and spiders and God knows what else…no way.

I never finished it, and I never will. Some things in life I am just better off  not knowing.

It is nice to be able to sleep at night.

What’s the scariest Stephen King book, or any book, that you’ve ever read?