Thursday, October 30, 2008

Anything Can Happen On Halloween

He didn't just do "Rocky Horror"... he did other corny movies too! This one is one of my favorites.. it wouldn't be Halloween without watching at least SOME of "The Worst Witch".

The Halloween That Almost Wasn't (Part 3)

Good memories from my youth.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pumpkin Patch

I decided to make my yearly trek to the local pumpkin patch located a few minutes from my house. Yes, even at the age of 26 I still look forward to picking out a pumpkin and carving a jack-o-lantern. It's part of my seasonal traditions, and I love it!

My parents came along to get some gourds for the front porch. Every year we go to a local pumpkin farm which also has animals out that you can visit and pet. They had a baby calf, pheasants, chickens and rabbits. There was one white rabbit who was roaming around free, but he wanted nothing to do with me. Each time I would reach out to pet him, he'd hop away. The rabbits in the cages were much more friendly.

My mother was looking at the bales of hay for sale when I told her to look up into the rafters above her head. There were about four HUGE roosters sitting right above her. Keep in mind, my mother is horrified of my parakeet... so she high-tailed it out of there to get away from the giant birds who were now squawking at her. They didn't bother me one bit. Little Tiki has a lot more attitude then they did.

There was also an old golden retriever named Molly in a pen out back. It's always hard for me to see "outside dogs", and especially golden retrievers... since that's what the late-great Toby was. They are such a social breed, and Molly didn't seem very happy to be behind a fence. I spent a lot of time with her, and she would just quietly sit there, learning up against the fence, enjoying any attention she could get. Her calm personality and white face reminded me so much of Toby. I almost started to cry. I miss him so much!! I want to smuggle Molly out of there and take her home with us.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

First Snowfall

Yesterday was the first snowfall of the year. Yes, that's right... Buffalo got it's first snowfall this year on October 21st. Just two weeks ago we had temps up in the 80s, and now snow. It's no surprise so many at work (including myself) have been sick lately. It's a wonder we don't shatter from the extreme temperature change!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Middle School

As part of a group project I am working on in one of my grad classes, I had to do some observations in a middle or high school. One of my group members is an 8th grade social studies teacher here in a local Buffalo suburb. I met up with her today and observed some of her classes, and even got to work a bit with her students.

It felt so good to be back in a school again. I hadn't done any observations or student teaching in a middle school, only in high school. Having enjoyed working with freshmen, I had a hunch I would enjoy middle school. I LOVED it in Jennifer's class. The kids do pose their own unique challenge at that age, but it is one I feel more adapt to work with than juniors or seniors.

As I sat in the teacher's chair while my friend Jen was teaching, I kept brainstorming what I could do with children of this age group (11-12), and how I would explain the concepts to them in my own style. My mind was spinning with ideas, activities and jokes to use in class to keep the flow going.

I could definitely see myself teaching in middle school, and depending on the staff and administration I have to work with... loving every minute of it.

I want a job!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

History of Halloween

I feel the need every year about this time to post something about the history of Halloween. Like most traditions and customs in the United States, people have forgotten the origins and meaning behind "our" annual observances.

The holiday has some roots in Celtic Ireland, with October 31st being the observance of Samhain, the Celtic New Year. It was also believed that on this day, the veil between the living and the dead was removed, and that spirits of the dead wandered the Earth bringing mischief to the living. It was customary for people to dress as "evil spirits" so that the ghosts of the dead would confuse them as one of their own, and leave them in peace. Also, they would hallow out and carve faces in turnips, and use these as lanterns to frighten off the spirits of the dead (pumpkins replacing turnips in the New World).

With the rise of Christianity in Ireland, Catholic customs and observances merged with existing practices. The Liturgical calendar of Church feast days and observances was re-arranged to include the feast of All Saints Day on November 1st, and the feast of All Souls (a time to pray for and remember the dead) to November 2nd.

The superstitions of evil spirits or mischievous ghosts still teased the imagination of early Christians, so these customs of jack-o-lanterns and dressing up on October 31st remained in tact. Because the night before a Holy Day included a Vigil Mass, October 31st was called All Hallows Eve (Hallows being an old English name for Saints), just as we have Christmas "Eve" in present day. Eventually, the name was shortened to "Hallow'een".

In England, in an attempt for Catholics to escape from the persecution of the crown, a members of an underground Catholic rebel group led by Guy Fawkes decided to blow up Parliament and put a Catholic back on the throne of England (known as the Gun Powder Plot). Guy Fawkes and his plan were discovered, and he was later sentenced to death. In November, to celebrate yet another Protestant victory over Catholics, English Protestants would bang on doors of Catholics demanding beer and cakes. Should the Catholic refuse to oblige, a prank or "trick" would be unleashed on the victim. In the New World, this custom of "trick or treating" was kept alive by Catholics as a way to remember the persecution they under went in their homeland.

In the United States (which I have been referring to as the "New World"), all these various traditions and customs blended as new immigrant groups began to settle here. The Irish custom of jack-o-lanters and dressing up (and also the French concept of the masquerade) merged with the Trick or Treating of Guy Fawkes day. The Catholic observance of All Saints and its remembrance of the dead on All Souls Day also merged into the modern catch-all holiday of Halloween.

The symbolism of ghosts, skulls and skeletons is significant because they are meant to remind us of our own mortality, and that life is transitory. This concept, as intensified by All Souls Day goes back to medieval times when people were obsessed with death and the need to prepare one's soul for Heaven. I find this aspect of the Halloween holiday to be exceptionally important and relevant in modern times since we now live in a society in which the here and now is all that matters. Our own comfort and material possessions are highest on our list, while we tend to forget the people and accomplishments that went before us. Halloween helps us to remember that all good things must end, and that "dust you are, and to dust you shall return". A sober reminder, and humbling thought.

Lastly, Halloween is a great time to look our fears in the face and laugh. Psychologically, it's good for use to face our fears once in a while.. especially in the controlled environment that Halloween presents us with. Dressing up as scary creatures or going to Haunted Houses for a good scream is a great way to at least temporally face our fears.

Sadly, Halloween is hotly contested by more radical or fundamental Christian groups who see it as an evil Pagan holiday. "They" tend to have very limited knowledge of the real practices of the actual Pagan holiday which Hallow'een replaced, which has no reference whatsoever to Satanic practices (Satan being a Judeo-Christian concept, not found in many Celtic or Pagan faiths). Furthermore, many Evangelical Christians do not see Catholics as fellow Christians, and turn their noses up at the remembrances of All Saints and All Souls Days. Sadly, Halloween is yet another example of the Puritanical resurgence of seeing more evil in the world than good.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

This & That

Finally, we are getting that fall weather I look forward to all year round! It lasts such a short time in this region it seems. The temps are in the 50s, creeping down to the 40s at night. Perfect! There is also that welcomed autumn "smell". The cool crispness of the air mixed with the scent of fireplaces and bonfires.

I went for a long walk today, much longer than I had anticipated, and ended up walking down Old Falls Blvd. It is a beautiful street with many old homes on it. There were so many beautiful houses, more reminiscent of an old village rather than something you would expect to see in North Tonawanda. So much character in those older homes, with their frequently used front porches and quaint picket fences. I dreamt of living in them as I walked by... and pondered if I'll ever have the means to own one.

Aunt Karen was transferred to the hospital this week. The disease is accelerating again, and now she is unable to swallow anything. They had to put a feeding tube in her. It's so hard to see her now, she is a shadow of the woman she used to be. I look at her laying there, her face so rigid from the constant tension in her muscles, and her words barely audible. I try so hard to find a glimmer of the vibrant, out going and warm woman I knew all my life. Even her eyes seem so foreign to me... the excitement of life is gone, with fear and pain remaining.

I was able to reminisce with her for a while, with my mother "translating" what she says since it's very difficult to make out what she says these days. I got a few smiles out of her while I was there, but much of the time she is delusional and hallucinating various object and events. She'll be 52 years old in November... it's just not fair.

Saturday, October 4, 2008