Halloween Upgrades, Part I: Monster House Front Door

by

J.C. Schildbach, LMHC

I’ve been rather quiet on the blogging front lately.  That’s because it’s October.  Priorities shift.

See, I’m one of those weirdos who makes a mess of the house (outside mostly) for Halloween.  And I always push it up to the last minute.

So, as I get down to the house-messing-up wire, I’m also going to make at least a feeble attempt at catching up on blogging by putting up posts/photos of some of the new decorations/upgrades.

For years, the big goal has been to get rid of all the store-bought stuff, and have all-original decorations, with a few beloved exceptions.  Plywood and paint is the order.

Also, this year being the first October in over seven years when I wasn’t working at least two jobs and/or running a business out of my house, I had (what I thought was enough) extra time to update old things that I did on the fly in years past, and which did not turn out exactly the way I intended.

The original version of the unofficially titled ‘monster house door’ used what scrap wood I had, leading to some teeth that weren’t quite as scary as I wanted, but still pretty cool.

The old, little teeth, with the house bathed in green light.

The old, little teeth, with the house bathed in green light.

Here is the updated version, with bigger, scarier teeth, and even some teeth for the lower, right door.  Also, the teeth are now coated in reflective glass beads now, although I’m not sure whether that is really accomplishing anything.  I might be doing an update next year with a different grade of reflective beads.

The new teeth, with the photo taken early in the morning, just because.

The new teeth, with the photo taken early in the morning, just because.

Happy Halloween!

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Passing on Tradition: Easter Edition

by

JC Schildbach, LMHC

Being the son of a pastor, and having been raised religiously, you might think Easter would have a pronounced level of importance in my consciousness. But it doesn’t really register with me. Growing up, I was fascinated by the Good Friday church service—the overall tone of fear and denial, lapses of faith, betrayal, brutality, and sacrifice. Exiting the church in silence into a darkened spring night.

Easter service, in contrast, felt more like an obligation and an aggravation. Crowded with people who didn’t regularly attend church, those who showed up only to get ‘the good stuff’—just like at Christmas—it felt something like the story of the ‘Little Red Hen’ minus the justice of it all—which I suppose is the point of all that ‘grace’ business.

The idea of a resurrection was appealing to me, I suppose. But I like my resurrection stories with a bigger helping of horror and revenge.  (There’s that grace getting in the way again). And maybe the idea of an empty tomb as the big symbol of hope was just a little unnerving to me.

In my adult life, I don’t think I’ve been to a single Easter church service. I’ve occasionally made it to Christmas Eve (nighttime) services. Maybe if I thought ahead about Easter at all, I would take in a Good Friday service.

I do remember the fun of Easter weekends as a child—a quick (indoor) Easter egg hunt, getting a basket of candy. We, of course, dyed the eggs on Saturday, which I enjoyed. But perhaps being unable to eat eggs, the art project angle, followed by the hiding-and-seeking, was all I was ever going to get out of that. The church service was a sort of drawn-out block of time before a gathering of extended family members—with ham (or pink pig meat, as it came to be known in a family joke based on my younger brother’s objection to ham’s color reminding him of the actual animal we were eating).  And in another aside, my mother apparently makes amazing deviled eggs–something I’ll never experience unless allergy-defeating technology makes a huge leap forward.

All of this background is by way of observing my current lack of (meaningful) observation of the Easter holiday.

This morning, I treated my wife, M, to an indoor Easter egg hunt—a few plastic eggs stuffed with gifts. But that had more to do with a particular 7/$27 clearance sale that coincided with the holiday, than with anything else.

The aftermath of a half-assed Easter observation

The aftermath of a half-assed Easter observation

The kid is off with her boyfriend, not observing the holiday in their own way.

And despite efforts—mostly aimed at all that business about creating fun memories for one’s children—to engage with the Easter holiday, we (M, the kid, and I) never really got any solid tradition going.

There were years when we colored eggs, sometimes with other family friends and their children—which inevitably involved me running out to a store on Saturday afternoon to get eggs, vinegar, and dye, as I hadn’t given it any thought beforehand.

There was a stretch of years where Easter involved me hiding plastic eggs, each containing a numbered clue, pointing the kid toward a fabulous gift—a basketball hoop, a rubber raft…something related to spring and getting outside and having fun.

There were years—or maybe just one year—when the kid went off with family friends to their big, extended-family gathering, out somewhere where I could not go due to work or school, and to which M did not want to go without me.

There was a year where we tried doing the public, child-centered, not-really-religious observation. When I asked the kid about Easter memories, she described it as that “Easter event at some community space we went to where they trapped a bunch of kids in a room with a bunch of plastic eggs with prizes,” and where one of the children who’d gone along with us “was scared shitless of the guy in the Easter Bunny costume.” For whatever reason, I found it rather amusing that the kid took pains to spell out “the guy in the Easter Bunny costume” rather than just saying “the Easter Bunny.”

There was a year when we were invited to a family celebration, which consisted of us arriving to a very short period of pre-dinner conversation, the serving of the meal, then dessert, then everyone being asked to leave so that there would be no further disruption in the family routine. Sure, there’s something to be said for stability, but if a holiday isn’t an excuse for an extended routine-disruption, what is?  Okay, to be fair, there were added complications that I won’t get into right now.  But, still, it felt like the least celebratory celebration in the history of Easter.

I sometimes have regrets that M and I were not more consistent in our own routines where (some) holidays and traditions are concerned. The kid simply has no solid foundation for an Easter tradition—or even a solid conviction about not celebrating the holiday. Perhaps that’s not so unusual as I think it is—a thought that is based on my own upbringing, and my vague sense of what many other people do to mark the holiday each year.

On some level, I suppose my concern about how we’ve celebrated, or not celebrated, Easter over the years boils down to a question of what kind of memories I’ve provided for the kid, or perhaps, what kind of memories she has formed around the holiday, based on the cicumstances we provided. Most of that is probably concern based around the knowledge that my own mother established a remarkably stable environment for our family, despite some major challenges—a level of stability I’ve never come close to achieving through the various moves, shifts in careers, and tenuous connections with friends and family.

But in the end, I suppose the kid has a sense of humor about it all. My feelings of urgency or importance to the holiday—feelings that are definitely muted and muddled—came out of the sense of importance assigned to the holiday in my upbringing. My feelings that I should be doing more about Easter are, ultimately, tied to a sense that my family did more for me around the holiday (and about religion and tradition in general), and that I should pick that up and go with it.

Still, what I grew up with was “normal” to me, and I wasn’t able, or willing, to maintain it. What the kid grew up with is something she has to define for herself, and which she can decide to expand on, or abandon. As much as we may like to think that such celebrations are universal in action and understanding, obligation and satisfaction, we’re all bringing our own baggage, and taking away what we will.

Happy Easter.

Merry Elvismas!

by JC Schildbach, LMHC

Well, it’s Elvismas time, pretty baby.  And the snow is fallin’ on the ground…

In years past, I held Elvismas parties each year on Elvis’ birthday (January 8), as well as “Departure Day” parties, on the anniversary of Elvis…leaving us.

I won’t get into all the gory details right now, but will say that I do hope to get the house put back together enough to where I can get the shrine, or a version of it, put back up.

In years past, my dear friends over at Creepy Cult (see their web site–under construction–here: Creeps;  or their Etsy page here: And Creeps;  or their Facebook page here: And More Creeps–all with plenty of nifty things) would print up postcards for me on the occasions of the parties–at least when I got them the artwork on time and they had extra space on a print run to fit them in–because they’re cool like that, and because I’m cheap like that.

Elvis consumed

The image above is one such postcard from all the way back in 1993, when I devoted a bit more of my time to doing design work–if you want to call it that.  Elvis had a twin brother, Jesse, who never got to see the light of day; and Elvis easily had enough cool for at least two people.  So the image addresses that concept, along with Vernon Presley’s story that on the night of Elvis’ birth, he saw a powerful omen–the sky ringed in blue.

Peace, y’all.

Happy Halloween! The New Decorations

October has been a strange and busy month.  I trust I’ll recover soon.  Still, I got these done and added to the Halloween display.  With special thanks to a good friend over at chucklingdog for the initial design/inspiration.

bunnies in the woods

MY DOWN-TIME IS TOO GOAL-ORIENTED, PART I: HALLOWEEN

So, when I started this blog, the idea was that I would post a minimum of once per week, more if possible.  And I would keep the posts to roughly 500 words or less, so they’d all be punchy and fun, and not take up too much of anybody’s time.  Well, none of those goals have been achieved, but I’m okay with that.

Right now, the big obstacle to me posting anything, aside from my two jobs, the general stuff of life, and having started several posts that I couldn’t work out the way I wanted, is that I am deeply involved in my annual race to make a mess of the house and yard before Halloween.  Yes, I’m one of those people–well, one of those make-a-mess-with-a-Halloween-display people, not one of those, run-a-highly-involved-haunted-house people, although I’ve come close to that in the past.

Immediately prior to our current home, we lived in a house that was perfect for a tour around the yard, and I knew all the neighbors and most of the kids who came around.  But the first year after we moved, I tried to carry on that tradition by setting up part of our display around back in the fenced-in part of the yard.  Let’s just say that when I opened the gate to the backyard for the first two girls who came trick or treating, the fear was palpable—and not in a fun, trick-or-treat kind of way, but in an “I’m-sure-mom-told-us-not-to-follow-any-creeps-into-their-backyards-oh-god-I-hope-we-don’t-get-murdered” kind of way.  It didn’t help that my daughter had disappeared right before the girls rang the doorbell, truly making me look like some lone weirdo.  And I think I was wearing butterfly wings and antennae that year—leftovers from my wife’s costume the year before.  I didn’t, ahem, lead any more kids into the backyard that night, or ever again.

At any rate, I’ve been doing some version of Halloween mess-making since my high school years, a legacy from my older brothers, although my college and early-20s versions were a much different variety of mess.  Now, along with the help of my daughter, and the tolerance of my wife, I have been converting over to entirely homemade decorations.  And not just homemade, but old-school, paint-on-plywood, 2-D creations designed by my daughter and me.

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We’ve been angling away from the hyper-realistic latex-and-gore stuff that is everywhere these days, and toward more cartoonishly creepy decorations.  The other day I mentioned to my daughter that I was going to get rid of one of our old, store-bought decorations, “Stillborn Evil”—a weird baby-in-a-jar with horns, hair, and a tail, which we’ve had since 1996 or so.  When she asked why, I emoted, “Tracking down this kind of stuff used to MEAN something, man!  You had to know the cool stores, and the cool companies to order from!  Now any knob can walk into a Spirit Halloween Store, or go on eBay and find this kind of stuff without even trying!!”  I added that I really didn’t have anywhere to display it properly, and it didn’t fit in with the decorations we were making.

In typical fashion, my daughter nodded, continued applying primer to a sheet of plywood and said drily, “We could keep it in the kitchen.”  She also suggested leaving a latex severed head in a random person’s front yard rather than trying to unload it on Craigslist—not a bad idea, although she decided it would be better to leave it in one of her friends’ yards.  I may just give it to one of the teens who come by trick-or-treating.

As for the mental health component of this post…it’s important to have projects and traditions and things to look forward to, and to find some way to be engaged in the community.  Such elements of life can make you feel good, too, so long as you don’t get too frantic with trying to meet obligations that nobody is really putting on you but yourself.  I’d go into more detail, but I’ve got too much work to do.

So, anyway, the whole Halloween thing is just one more eternal project, never finished, always evolving, only with a built-in yearly deadline.  Every year I imagine I’m going to get out ahead of all the projects and have things done weeks in advance, as if I would ever stop tinkering with and trying to expand the display until the last minute.  And every year I mess around with trying to decide on designs until two weeks before Halloween, when I frantically try to plough through more work than I can possibly finish.  But the impending holiday forces decisions, and sets a stopping point.  Occasionally, the unfinished projects of one year yield a design that I can start with the following year…two weeks before Halloween when I finally make myself get down to it.

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