GUEST POST by Kevin Hamilton – Why we are here, what we do

This week, I felt it was important to run a guest post by my co-worker at the Iowa Park Leader, a weekly newspaper. I have a passion for free press as much as I have a passion for laughter.  However,  I feel as deeply about this topic as Kevin, but I leave to brilliantly echo my thoughts about it.

If you need a little comic relief, though, I wrote a little thing about being who you are.

by Kevin Hamilton, managing editor of the Iowa Park Leader

I, like many in Iowa Park, were extremely proud of the Hawk baseball team’s run through the Class 4A state playoffs.

These guys … a mixture of seniors, juniors and sophomores, fought through half a dozen elimination games and made it all the way to the region finals, where they finally lost to a stout and talented Godley Wildcat team, only one step from the big games in Austin.

As the Hawks moved through the playoffs, some best-of-three series (including against Bushland and Godley) started on a Wednesday, which presented a problem with our paper, since we go to press on Wednesdays with a Thursday publication date.

We had never … up at that point … really utilized our presence on Facebook, but this became a vehicle where we could inform our readers in a timely fashion, and keep them up to date on how each series was progressing.

So we posted game schedules, results, and a picture here and there.

The response was fantastic, for the most part. We had more likes and shares than at any other time in making Facebook posts.

But we also had one or two posts that were meant to spank us for missing out on other things happening that are important in the community.

“I’m so over the media bias. Don’t think that it only happens in the mainstream media. Nope! Happens right here in small-town USA where sports rule all,” wrote a person in one post. Another added a comment to that post “You have to remember that boys sports are going to be mainstream. If you excel in UIL for anything musical or knowledge (ie. Number sense or narrative reading) you may get a tiny blurb. It really shows when the girls volleyball or even girls in general are on the last or second to last page where the football get a whole 2 pages (toward the middle) but it’s still major attention.”

The first person posting was referring to the fact nine IPHS students made it to the state contest in Solo/Ensemble competition in band and choir.

And the person making the post was not happy that we weren’t making as big a deal on their endeavors as we were making for the Hawk baseball team.

With all that, I want to make a few observations.

1) The Leader has never up to this point promoted anything on Facebook, because that is something new to us … and with the Hawks and the timing of their playoff schedule, we felt it was a good time to “experiment” with postings that would not only inform the public, but point them eventually to our business, which is a community newspaper.

2) We (the Leader) has always promoted the academic/musical/choral/robotics progress at Iowa Park High School. Even this year, we ran stories and pictures of students advancing through the regional/area rounds all the way to state. We’ve reported academic excellence through regular honor rolls and competitions (SkillsUSA, FFA CDE and LDE competitions) and the annual awards assemblies, which included not only honors, but scholarships each individual senior obtained. No one on the planet Earth has reported more on the tradition of the Hawk Band. Trust me.

3) When I came back to Iowa Park and the Leader more than a dozen years ago, there was traditionally a two-page spread each week for Hawk Football … and I added a two-page spread each week for Lady Hawk volleyball to give girls athletics equal exposure.

And trust me on this … if advertisers were game, we would have continued those spreads throughout the school year for all the other sports, for boys and girls.

The Iowa Park Leader has reported and continues to report this community best we can. Of course we will fall short of that in the eyes of some, but that is the nature of the beast.

Moving forward we will look for ways to utilize social media where we can A) better inform our readers of timely and important events, and B) hope you continue to support our efforts by subscribing to the paper, or buying the issues at the news stands.

That is the only way this paper will be able to survive. We hope you continue to make it possible.

On a final note, if you see we are missing out on covering something newsworthy in the community, you can reach me at 592-4431, or email me at khamilton@iowaparkleader.com.

It is why I am here.

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What I’m Built For

Much to the chagrin of my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Anna Beth Dawson, my mother and my husband, I am not a girly-girl.

Mrs. Dawson was concerned for me my entire year before junior high because I thought the school uniform was jeans and a clean shirt, when in fact we had no uniform at all.

Also it was the year peanut track shoes were all the rage and they could be bought at the Famous Department Store in Iowa Park for a really good price. I lived in those shoes as well and Mrs. Dawson was horrified at the lack of arch support and other nefarious shortcomings the peanut track shoe offered.

Behold, the peanut track shoe

She even once used part of a class period to illustrate just how crappy the shoes were by picking out one of the 20 kids in her class who was wearing them to model while she extolled the virtues of real shoes.

Still, we persisted.

My own mother, who I suspect is Barbie reincarnated, just looks at me most of the time and slowly shakes her head, particularly on my curly hair days.

My husband, though, won’t give up. He continues to encourage my use of a fork with tacos, as well as an occasional go at nail polish.

None of them, I can report, has been able to change my ways.

I still live in jeans and usually-clean shirts. When I wear a dress, people offer me condolensces for my loss.

I traded my peanut track shoes for Rocket Dogs with user-inserted arch support (thank you for the lesson, Mrs. Dawson. I was listening). My hair is curly roughly 67% of the time now, and I don’t wear makeup to the grocery store.  I eat tacos like an eagle eats a fish, with both hands.

And I occasionally give painting my nails a shot. But when I do, I mess it up because I have a odd habit of occasionally sitting on my hands.  And I only remember that I have that rare habit right after I paint my nails and then sit on my hands.

I wasn’t built for all that.

I was built for laughing at things only a bunch of women who are alone together and uncensored would understand.

I was built for writing things because I am tired of thinking about them.

And, I was built for giving myself permission to not be a Barbie doll, or even her less attractive cousin, Madge.

And all of those people still love me, even Mrs. Dawson. Remember that.

People do love who you really are. If that’s not good enough, it’s not love.

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Shake your groove thing even if you can’t sing

I have always had a fondness for music. An extra fondness, actually, with lots of extra-ness.

As is my particular case with, say, Haka dancing, just because I love it doesn’t mean I’m good at it.

I can remember having a full-blown crush on Donny Osmond and his voice when I was only six years old. I got the Donnie Osmond Album for Christmas that year and it was the highlight of my young life.  I still have that album, and know every song on it. I  even took it to show and tell in the first grade, it was that prized a possession.

Music continued to play a major role in my private life as my mother continued to feed my love for music. She bought me a Liza Minnelli album for Christmas a couple years later, and again, I know every song on that album.

I can sing “Lollipops, Lace and Lipstick” with as much feeling as “Cabaret.”

My problem is that while I can sing, I cannot do it well.

I didn’t know this about myself until the sixth grade when I was the only person who tried out for seventh grade choir who didn’t make the cut.

Seriously, my mother and entire family had failed to mention that to me. I’m only recently figuring out how good they are at completely blocking me out.

At any rate, my early failure at choir couldn’t deter the fire in my soul for music.

So, I dance. I dance standing up, sitting down –  just about anyway it is possible to dance, I dance. I still sing, but only in my car.

Which brings me to the subject at hand – car dancing.

I have playlists that come with their own dance sequence, and I sing those babies with all the feelings, and the dance moves.

I am my best audience. The people in the cars next to me are my second best audience. There is usually a lot of laughter which perfectly dovetails with what I actually do, so I cannot lose and here we are.

A good friend of mine and occasional ever-so-respectful politial sparring partner, Mike Hicks,  posted an epic video on my Facebook timeline this week. It made my day and I can’t stop watching it.

It was a husband and a wife stuck in a traffic jam on a major highway, so the wife begins singing songs with the radio, complete with all the sass, dance moves and attitude; while her husband videotaped it.

Watching the video was almost like looking into my own rearview mirror as I go to work every single day.

Except… except … this woman completely upped the game and she is my new hero.

Since traffic was at a complete standstill, what appeared to be her favorite song came on – Meghan Trainor’s Me too –  and she began the concert in the car and eventually got out of the car because she could not contain her greatness.

I salute her.

The whole thing made me realize that in the greater Iowa Park/Wichita Falls area, opportunities for traffic jams of that magnitude are rarities, given that people in Iowa Park (myself included) get bent out of shape if six cars are in line at the four-way stop. I’ve heard people say, “who opened the gates?” during these type traffic jams in Iowa Park. Still, that’s not near enough time for Dance Party USA outside my car, especially not in an open-carry state.

I’ve gotten elderly couples involved in a special Bruno Mars moment at a stoplight on Southwest Parkway; jammed for a cop and found out there’s apparently nothing in the penal code which makes it illegal to drive and shake your groove thing at the same time; and I’ve been scoffed at by fun vacuums posing as humans; I have most especially thrilled my children into morbid shock by my car choreography as I dropped them off at the junior high.

Pro parenting tip: Car dancing is an excellent threat and therefore, bargaining chip. Trust me.

But I have never had the privilege of giving a full American Bandstand Performance  of George Michael’s Faith on the middle stripes of I-40 during standstill traffic.

I kind of want that in my life, that complete to just let it hang out.

I have friends who sing into beer bottles, own karaoke machines, or actually have beautiful voices and can actually break into song without bringing shame onto their family.

My method of madness is the car. It’s my safe space with superior acoustics. Seriously, the sixth grade choir teacher’s professional opinion aside, my voice is freaking amazing in the car.

And so are my moves.

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God Bless the Bloated Road

It’s not often a person can brag they went around the world in a month, but here we are.

It wasn’t just me, but my entire family that went on this journey and we never left our kitchens.

I left December a few pounds heavier after the culinary road trip that took us to Germany, Italy, Mexico, Brazil, and of course, the deep south.

Every year at Christmas my family picks a food theme that will cleanse our collective palates of turkey.

This year we chose Mexican food, and my Mom’s house was full of tacos, enchiladas, guacamole, queso, enchiritos and sweets – all homemade. We are amazing when we travel together, and even moreso when we cook together.

Nobody messed up, and there will be nobody to bring paper goods to the next event, so we’ll probably travel to the Sandwich Islands next year.

A week later, the culinary adventure continued in South Carolina when my daughter (who is not Italian, that I know of) greeted us the first night there with her homemade spaghetti. The next night they took us to Brazil with some great steaks, then off to Germany when my son-in-law made Schnitzel.

When it was my turn for the trip’s itinerary, I chose our roots.

This means I went all the way to the redneck branch of the family that likes to sit on the porch with our crazy and a mason jar full of … homemade (of course) beverages.

That’s right, my leg of the trip wasn’t to a glamorous place, unless you consider banjos elegant dinner music. I took us to the woods where Spam and potatoes are fried together openly and with no shame whatsoever.

And it was good, as long as you don’t consider my husband’s opinion about Spam and the people who eat it.

We ran out of year before he could take us to his country where the food is brown and vegetables that aren’t spelled p-o-t-a-t-o are not on the menu.

It just occured to me what I really got for Christmas. Pounds – delicious ones and a lot of them. And I have just enough time to get into shape before our next trip.

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Cruising into a new year

It seems it is time to cruise into a new year.

I welcome it. Like many of you, I’m kind of tired of 2017 and think I’ll see it more clearly in the rearview mirror.

One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, put it in terms I can wrap my head around. Highly paraphrased, she said that new years are great because you get a shiny new one every single year no matter how badly you jacked up the last one.

This gives people like me hope.

It’s like trading in a car at the end of the year, all dinged up with cigarette burns in the seat and an engine that’s knocking. And then we get a brand new one! No miles, so clean, so incredibly undeserved.

And at the end of this new year, what our car looks like will be totally up to us.

I’m kind of fond of this car, but it’s time for a new one.

This year has been interesting, which is an elusive way of saying it has been full of friends, family, worries, surprises, understanding and unimaginable gratitude. And still, my car is a little dinged up. This scenario is probably like most everyone’s, I think.

Some months I’ve slid into sideways on two wheels; and others the most ambitious thing I did was get my tires rotated.

But come Monday, I’m going to wake up and there it will be – my brand new car. I think this is called Grace.

At any rate, this year my new car is a mythical Toyota Land Cruiser I’ve ordered in my mind due to the aura of adventure it has around it, as well as a large seating and towing capacity. I have big plans for the new year.

The best parts of 2017, after I thought about it, were the times I wandered furthest from my comfort zone. That was when I made my greatest strides, wrote the best parts of my story and learned the most about myself and others.

I met the most beautiful people, had the best talks, and took some of my greatest personal risks. And while I took some dings in the process, I still wouldn’t change it.

I haven’t made resolutions since about 1976 when I vowed I would meet Shawn Cassidy while I placed my left hand on the Tiger Beat poster on my bedroom wall. It didn’t work, and I lost trust in the process. But I’m thinking about trying it again.

So if I have any resolutions in the new year, it would be to continue to see what my new car is capable of.

I’m ready for my Land Cruiser, and for 2018.

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Christmas is on the radar (Also, this *is* your card)

It was my favorite Christmas growing up.

It was in 1971, and I was six years old. Our parents let us stay up late to watch the weather on KFDX because they had the Santa Claus tracker on radar. The radar in those days looked like a record album with a straight-line laser circling it and it blinked red when it detected Rudolph, who we all knew was leading the team of Christmas joy.

This particular Christmas at around 10:15 p.m., the local authority on such things was the meteorologist, known to me at the time as the weatherman.  He told us that Rudolph was taking off from Chicago, which meant he was in the country and on his way to the greater Wichita Falls area.

I knew enough to know that Santa wouldn’t stop at my house if I was awake, so I willed myself to be tired. Like super tired, only I wasn’t.

I shared a room with my three older sisters, and I had the top bunk so  I crawled up the ladder and got in bed with my stuffed gingerbread man, Clyde. Normal six-year-olds slept with teddy bears. I slept with a large gingerbread man … named Clyde.

The fabulous television program about the lovable and caring doctor, Marcus Welby, M.D., was on the TV and the last thing I remember was him talking to a patient with a concerned, yet caring look on his face.

The next thing I remember was I woke up and it was daylight. My only hope was that Santa didn’t show up before the unfortunate diagnosis the night before.

A glorious blue quilted-side baby carriage under the Christmas tree told me I had maintained a six-year streak of falling asleep before Santa made it to Texas.  I also received a blue and green plaid poncho that year, the perfect accessory for the new six-year-old mother of a plastic baby.

A lot of Chistmases have passed since then, but the local TV stations are still the go-to place to locate the exact whereabouts of the jolly one, only with more advanced radars.

It’s a tradition that I’m happy to see has stuck around, and also I hear that ponchos are making a comeback.

I no longer have a poncho or a baby carriage, but I still check on Santa’s whereabouts every year.

I love traditions, and even with people I love in different locations, I try to observe as many as I can.

Every year, I bake Christmas cookies, which I consider to be my spiritual Xanax. I bake them, I ice them and I take pictures of them to text to my daughter. Twenty years ago, I would have had to send her a letter after the film was processed.

We used to bake together every year, now we bake in different states. Same tradition, modified execution.

And there are some traditions I’m just bad at, like sending Christmas cards (or if I’m being honest, cards in general). Exhibit A:  this is your Christmas card and it has been for close to 20 years. I suppose this in itself is a tradition, which means I don’t totally suck at it.

But while we are on the subject, Merry Christmas. I truly wish for you a beautiful Christmas filled with traditions, old and new.

So turn off the TV and get some sleep. I hear Santa Claus is coming to town

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It’s spooky when two of my worlds collide

My passion is writing. My vocation is advertising. My hobby is ghost hunting.

Two of those worlds collided this week when I got the opportunity to write a story about a haunting in Iowa Park for the newspaper. I hope it’s not my last to write, either.

It’s difficult in a town this size to talk about something that could cause people, for whatever reason, to make fun of you or think you are a hole short of a donut. I get that.

Since I talk a big game about my love of  ghost hunting, I figure I should probably tell a story in appreciation of what Deanna Yeakley was willing to share with me for the story I wrote this week.

Every year, five of my most insane friends and I leave town for a ‘girls’ weekend. No boys or children are invited or allowed, only the five of us doing what we call “our thing.”

Sometimes, we go to Medicine Park in Oklahoma and sit around in our underwear with no makeup for three days, and sometimes we go ghost hunting.

And by “ghost hunting” I mean we go to Jefferson, Texas and see if the bars and antique stores are haunted.

Jefferson, located just 30 miles from the Louisiana border, is billed as Texas’ Most Haunted Town. That made our ears perk up, so we go there often. We have stayed in a hotel that is on the legendary list of the town’s most haunted, The Jefferson Hotel, several times.

This hotel is the setting for the story I’m going to tell.

The Jefferson Hotel is small with only about 24 rooms, I believe. It also houses a fabulous Italian restaurant, Lamache’s.  Our room was at the back of the ground floor of the hotel and was large, with two beds and a rollaway, because what’s a girl’s weekend for if not to laugh into the wee hours of the morning.

Part of the camping gear for our trips is a cooler on wheels, which we roll into the room. This particular trip, it held adult beverages as well as a large bag of limes that were not for an impromptu Key Lime Pie bake off.

One night, we went to Lamache’s for dinner just down the hallway, at about 5 in the afternoon. Maids had been in and gone for the day by then, and the only staff there was front desk, right next to the restaurant.

We returned to our room a little after six and sat on the beds, resting before the night’s real adventures would begin.

Two of the girls sat on one of the beds and both of them felt something “lumpy” beneath  their bums.

After unmaking the entire bed, our bag of limes was found spread out under the fitted sheet.

Feeling brave, we collected our limes and went out for the night. When we returned to the room, I couldn’t sleep and I could hear something scratching the other side of the wall at my headboard. I figured that person couldn’t sleep either, so I turned on the TV real low and sat right in front of it at the foot of the bed. Everyone else was asleep.

At some point, my bladder yelled “UNCLE” and I went to the bathroom alone, only to return less than a minute later and find a purse was sitting right where I had been sitting.

I finally went back to bed, and when I woke up, rose potpourri had been sprinkled around my bed, although there was none in the room. It was a weird night, y’all.

I told the story to the front desk clerk the next morning, and found out that nobody was in the room behind us because it was the kitchen for Lamache’s, and no one was in there in the middle of the night.

I’m not crazy much, and I’m definitely more skeptical than I am gullible. And I have no idea how all of that happened, but it did.

I’d love to tell your story in the paper if you want to tell it. Let me know….

 

For those who wish to read it, I’ve included the story about the haunted house in Iowa Park below. Enjoy!

 

Iowa Park woman recalls decade in haunted house

by Kari Lynn Collins

Many things are spoken of in hushed tones in small towns like Iowa Park.

Was there really a full-blown saloon in Iowa Park before prohibition? Yes, there was.

Did Iowa Park used to be home to a house of ill repute? All indications are that this is true, as well.

Then there are the things that cannot be so easily proven, because usually the only proof is someone’s word.

Like ghosts, for instance.

For years rumors have gone around Iowa Park about the places whose residents departed this world many years ago, and yet they remain. The beautiful Tom Burnett Memorial Library that was once the mansion of oil man Tom Burnett; the Iowa Park Junior High (W.F. George Middle School) campus, a church or two and several houses in Iowa Park have been spoken of privately for years.

Most people who have experienced things that cannot be explained are hesitant to talk about them for fear people will think they are crazy, or – maybe even worse – spot on.

Deanna Yeakley is one person in Iowa Park who is willing to tell the story of a home she lived in for 10 haunted years.

“When this happened, I went to the shop and talked about it. I didn’t care if they thought I was crazy. I was scared,” said Deanna, owner of Family Hair Styles and a firm believer that a house she and her husband, Alton, lived in for more than 10 years was most definitely haunted.

The house in the center of town is a beautiful home, and showed up on deed records in Iowa Park in 1950. Dr. Gordon Clark, well known physician in Iowa Park, was listed as the original owner.

When Alton and Deanna bought the home in 2000, they were certain it would be their forever home. By 2010, Deanna said she could not take it anymore.

The first inkling that the occupants of the house outnumbered Alton, Deanna and Deanna’s two sons Kendall and Clayton, came after living there three months. Footsteps.

Alton heard them first, then Deanna, then the kids.

Deanna said she regularly heard footsteps coming toward her, then stopping in a doorway, and only when she was alone. Finally, she asked Alton if she ever heard the same thing, and he had but played it off as noises an old house makes.

“It (the footsteps) was always coming toward you and and would stop in the doorway. If I ignored it, it would do it again,” Deanna said. “It was like it wanted to make sure you noticed it.”

Eventually, things escalated.

Alton stepped into the shower one night and said he felt a burning on the inside of his thigh . Deanna looked at the area that was about the size of a quarter, which appeared to have a “circle of pin pricks” on it with blood coming out of them.

She said over the 10 years they lived there, this type thing happened to Alton five times and patterns of needle pricks would appear around his ankles, on his thighs and back and behind his knee.

The years were full of moments that had become predictable, but many still had the ability to scare and confound them both.

One day Deanna had come home for lunch and was by herself when she heard glass breaking.

She searched around and found nothing broken on the floor in the direction the noise came from. In the hallway, a hallway that always gave Deanna the creeps, she found that a picture hanging on the wall had the glass shattered like someone had punched it. “Two weeks before, we had found it on the floor. It wasn’t broken,” Deanna said

About two years before they finally moved, Deanna said she was standing in the dining room one night and when she turned to look in the office, she saw a man standing in the middle of the room eight to ten feet away. She said he was thin, had graying hair and wore old-timey round silver glasses. She noted he was not a tall man then saw the the man she was looking at had no legs …  she could just see him from his chest up. She screamed.

“He was looking right at me, with a very serious look on his face,” Deanna offered.

After that, a friend of hers found a photo with several people, including Dr. Clark, pictured, and Deanna said she picked out Dr. Clark as the man in her office without hesitation.

“When I saw him that night I heard the words, ‘Here we are,’”Deanna said. “Kind of like, ‘you’ve been trying to ignore us but here we are.”

Deanna’s sons had their own experiences, one of which led to the couple finally selling the house.

Clayton woke up in the middle of the night to see a little boy, about eight years old, sitting in a massage chair in his room, his swinging legs too short to reach the ground. Although the closet light and TV were on (he slept with those on every night) When he turned on the his bedside lamp, the boy disappeared. When he turned the light back off, the boy came back.

Kendall called Deanna one day while she was at work and asked if Alton was supposed to come home. Kendall had heard the door open and screen door slam shut followed by footsteps in the house. Nobody else was in the house.

Deanna said she and Kendall were able to sense when something was about to happen. In Deanna’s case, her heart would race and she could hear a high-pitched sound. Sometimes, she said, she could feel a presence. Kendall says he heard the high-pitched noise previous to an incident.

One night while she and Alton were in bed, she woke up with that “feeling.” She said she saw a blue light radiating from the corner of the room that expanded to the ceiling. “It lasted a long time, like 20 seconds,” Deanna said, “and the next night, the same thing happen in the hallway right outside the doorway.”

A few days later, Alton was the one who saw the blue light.

Deanna laughingly said she loves a midnight snack, and when she would get one she always made Alton go with her and go first. He stopped unexpectedly at the dining room and looked at the ceiling without saying a word for about 15 seconds. It took  him 30 minutes to tell Deanna that the ceiling was engulfed with blue light.

Another afternoon, Deanna was home cleaning the upstairs bathroom. She heard the familiar footsteps up to the bathroom door and they stopped. When she turned around to see who it was, she said all she could see was a hazy mist in the doorway. She ignored it, and continued scrubbing the tub and it happened again. When she turned and saw the same mist, she said, “Get out of here and leave me alone!” It went away. “It left, and you could feel the difference.”

Over the years, TVs turned on by themselves. Random things went missing for months, only to turn up in plain sight, or in a place no one would have put them.

A two-year-old who was at their home with her parents once walked into the living room, looked in the corner and told Deanna, “There’s a ghost in here.”

After living in the house five years, Deanna and Alton enlisted a minister to pray over and through the house. “They (the ghosts) stayed gone five months.”

Then, one night while she and Alton were in bed watching TV and reading, Deanna said she and Alton both saw what she described as a ‘sheer, beige sheet cloud’ that fell over the bed. “I thought, ‘They’re back,’” and they were.

The house, according to those who live in the area, is known for not being lived in very long by the same family.

The breaking point, Deanna said, came when Clayton was leaving for school one day and she noticed a deep scratch in his neck. “Only it wasn’t a ‘scratch’, it was a deep gouge,” Deanna noted. She asked him about it and he said he guessed he did it in his sleep then went on to tell her It had happened on his legs, too, in his sleep and he had started sleeping in sweatpants.

That was it.

Within the year, Deanna and Alton had moved into their new forever home, one that was newly-built with no haunted history.

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P.S.: It’s not my year for paper plates

I see a lot of people these days practicing gratitude – some as a daily practice and some for the month of November on Facebook.

Daily gratitude posts, along with the occasional puppy video and pictures of my grandson are the only things that have kept social media from morphing into the seventh circle of hell this year.

And since I don’t apparently feel thankful enough on a daily basis to make those posts I will do my whole month of gratitude right here, right now.

It is more important than ever, I believe, to turn toward acknowledging what is currently making our lives good.

Times like this – holidays like this – are specifically designed to make us stop and look up and find the victories in our beautiful lives and acknowledge them … with gratitude. And it’s probably even more important to do this if your life doesn’t feel so beautiful. Either way, remember the reason for the season, and that is giving gratitude.

Even if your family ain’t right.

I am thankful for a family that developed a tradition we have trademarked the “Annual Paper Plate Walk of Shame.” We are nothing if not tradition-filled as a family.

The big tradition is, if you jack up a dish you bring to Thanksgiving, the next year you will be the bearer of paper goods for the celebration.  It’s a beautiful and passive-aggressive tradition my entire family appreciates. It’s kind of like our less medieval version of the Scarlet Letter, only with way less pearl clutching and the letter is “C” for Chinet.

The precipitating event for this punishment of culinary indiscretion was exacted by a member of my own family who shall remain nameless … for now. This person (they know who they are) was in charge of one of our family’s Thanksgiving necessities – rolls, many and hot and with a lot of butter.

The suspect over-kneaded the rolls that year and what resulted was an impromptu war with tiny flying bread missiles after dinner. Later, the neighborhood kids used the rolls for a pickup game of street hockey.

That was the year paper shaming became a valued and time-honored tradition.

Since then, we’ve had cherry cream cheese pie with imaginary cherries; deviled eggs with questionable lineage; the near-disaster with the rolls of 2016;  and dryer-sheet fresh broccoli rice casserole. You read that right – somehow a dryer sheet ended up in a casserole a few years ago. It’s a mystery to this day, and now part of the legend of the tradition.

Everyone in our family pulled together last year when in an unheard of move where nobody was assigned the rolls and nobody noticed it until Thanksgiving Eve. Then we ALL noticed it and went shopping again and ended up with like 200 rolls. It was seriously like all our secret decoder rings went off and we sprung into action like the bread fiends we are.

In other words, we may not even have paper goods this year. But we better have rolls.

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A little love for the farmers and firefighters

It’s been a hot minute since I was called on to cover a story, photographically or otherwise.

Mostly, I handle the advertising and write this deep well of wisdom every week.

Last Thursday, though, it was reported that some cotton was on fire north of town and I was “It” as they say in the newspaper business, as well as a proper game of tag.

One of the Leader’s real photographers, Kevin, arrived as I was heading out so he hopped in the car with me and we followed the fire trucks out to the middle of a field I doubt would register on GPS.

We arrived at a cotton field that was already half-stripped, Kevin in cargo shorts because it was 89 degrees (on November 2nd), and I was in jeans because it is No Shave November and I’ve been in training.

I was willing to walk out a ways because it wasn’t my first rodeo in a cotton patch, and my legs were protected. But one of Iowa Park’s fire trucks gave me a ride to where the cotton was burning and even more firefighters were on hand continuing to spray it to keep it from spreading to the unstripped cotton.

As I write this, I have no idea if any of those pictures are even good enough to make it into the paper.  That won’t happen until Tuesday or Wednesday when the photo review takes place each week.

The cotton farmer and friend Kenneth McAllister told me the cotton first caught fire in the header of the stripper when a rock caused a spark. They were unaware of the fire until it was dumped into the boll buggy and stoked by a strong north wind. They quickly dumped the load into an already stripped part of the field so there was minimal damage to the equipment, and besides the one load didn’t lose any more cotton.

In the midst of all of this, it’s like a town reunion in the middle of a field, in the middle of nowhere – chatting up local farmers and firemen while they all stand in their natural habitat.

When it was time, Kenneth had another of his hands kindly drive me back to the road.

I want to remind people to thank a volunteer fireman when you get the chance. These guys were fully decked out in head-to-toe-fire gear and it was hot outside even without a huge mound of cotton ablaze. Also, they gave me a ride on the back of the truck and I felt like I was in a homecoming parade for a minute.

Also, if you’re a fan of underwear, towels and sheets (and food!) like myself, thank a farmer. In fact, if you see Ken out and about this week buy the good man lunch. He’s had a rough week.

Even if you aren’t from around Iowa Park, this is an invitation to do something good for your favorite farmer and volunteer firefighters.

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Travelling B.O.B.s : A Halloween Bedtime Story

When I said I had stories for years, I meant it.

In the 16 years we’ve been travelling as a pack, Jefferson, Texas, made it into our top three B.O.B. Girl’s Weekend destinations.

With the official title of the ‘Most Haunted Town in Texas’, Jefferson stole our ghost-hunting hearts years ago when we learned they also have an annual Mardi Gras celebration every year.

So, most years we went there twice – once for the ghosts and once for the beads.

The first time we travelled the five hours (10 hours if you are us) to Jefferson, we stayed in the famously haunted Jefferson Hotel.

We pulled into the town of 2,000 people with two goals: to hunt for ghosts, and to find the legendary Murder Alley where a murder had presumably happened, sometime in history. Nobody seems to know for sure, and anyone who might have is probably dead.

We accomplished one of those things. Murder Alley wasn’t the one, but we stand firm by the notion that we found the hounds that guard it.

It was about a month before Halloween on a full moon night when we went on our first guided ghost tour throughout the town, and it really was scary. In fact, by the end of the tour, we could have been the official spokeswomen for a Depends commercial.

Already primed by the stories surrounding some of the best stops on the tour – the Jefferson Hotel,  the Grove and the Schluter Home, to name a few – it was a natural that we decided in the middle of the night it was time to try and find this Murder Alley without the benefit of a guide, or even anyone who had been to the town before.

What could possibly go wrong?

So, so much.

We set out, all giggles and carrying flashlights and our Bubba mugs filled with liquid nutrition.

After finding some seriously fascinating historical tidbits – a 200-year-old church with a tree growing out of the baptismal pool in the back; an historical ghost giggling in Shawnee’s ear and some natural and very woodsy restrooms, we sensed we were close to finding Murder Alley.

We approached the suspected area which was marked by old stone fences on each side, and body fluids of ghost hunters before us. It was ominously dead quiet.

But that didn’t last long.

Out of nowhere came the words, “you are about to die.” Only it was spoken in loud, menacing barks from the frothing mouths of the hounds of hell that we could not see.

Without speaking a word, all five of us turned around and began running, the ice in our Bubba mugs sounding like festive maracas.

Lynda, the only B.O.B. who regularly works out, passed all of us high-stepping in a way that would make any marching band hire her as a consultant. She beat us all handily, mostly because the rest of us were laying on the ground winded from our first 10-yard sprint in 20 years. But we survived.

Happy Halloween. When you go out there this year, arm yourself with a workout plan, a flashlight, a Bubba mug, and a slow friend … just in case.

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In honor of women, specifically funny women, I want to share with my readers my favorite blog of the week.

Click here, y’all! —->True Confessions of a Soccer Mom

This week’s funny woman is Kathryn Mayer, whose hysterical and socially-aware blog is entitled Writing Out Loud.

I met Kathy, a native and resident of Newtown, Connecticut, at an Erma Bombeck Writer’s Conference a few years ago. I am obsessed with her humor, her humanity and her grit. I encourage you to check out her piece on soccer moms, because really, there’s a soccer mom in all of us.

To support these writers, I ask you to share their work on social media, your own blog, email or here in the comments.

I’d love to hear your favorites, because we all need more funny in our lives.

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