Thanksgiving Greetings from an Ingrate, 2018

by JC Schildbach

I have to feed the hummingbirds.

Well, actually, I have to fill the hummingbird feeders. The hummingbirds will have to feed themselves at that point.

I should clean and fill the hummingbird feeders much more frequently than I do– it really only takes a few minutes–I mean, minus the time to make the food and wait for it to cool down— for the health of the birds, and to make sure I won’t be subject to their angry chittering each time I step outside.

Okay. I don’t know that the chittering is angry, or aimed at me.  I apparently just carry a tremendous amount of guilt about all the things I’m not getting to, because of all the other things I’m trying to get to, only a small percentage of which actually gets done.

Distractions upon distractions.

And it’s getting cold enough outside that I need to rig up the Christmas lights on the hummingbird feeders, to keep the food from freezing.

 

I don’t want to get into clichés about an attitude of gratitude, but why don’t I just say I’m thankful for the presence of so many beautiful birds around my home – and happy that I can help our own local hummingbirds make it through the winter? (The Anna’s hummingbirds hang out all year round.)

 

I was going to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this November, as a way to try and jump-start my writing again.

But after one short sprint of writing early in the month, I haven’t gotten back to it at all.

In part, work has been too draining. And my days off have been spent in other distractions, from cleaning up the Halloween decorations, to a road trip to celebrate my kid’s birthday, to binge-watching TV shows in between loads of laundry.

 

Again, not to get into any clichés about an attitude of gratitude, but why couldn’t I just say I’m happy to have the opportunity to write when I want, thankful for a job, ecstatic at the chance to go all-out for Halloween, and delighted at the opportunity for travel and screen-time with my family?

 

Ah, laundry—the ultimate distraction—never done.

So easy to generate more.

There’s always bedding and towels if you get out ahead of the clothing.

 

No attitude of gratitude clichés here, but why can’t I just say I’m happy I can do my own laundry, right here, in home, and that I have a plethora of wonderful things to wash?

 

I’ve largely been absent from my blog all year due to all manner of distractions—self-generated, as well as external.

Office upheavals and client deaths.

All manner of medical and mental health concerns rippling throughout my world.

A childish, attention-seeking buffoon in the White House, dominating the news cycle all-day, every day.

An election that seemingly started two years ago, with alternating possible hope-filled and doomsday outcomes.

 

So, about that attitude of gratitude cliché – why didn’t I just say (again) I’m glad to have gainful employment, and that everybody I know and love is at least relatively healthy (well, the ones who didn’t die), that I have the opportunity to get information from a wide range of different forms of media, and that I get to exercise my right to vote?

 

And really, anytime I sit down to write, it’s always so much easier to pop online and shop for things I don’t need, scroll through numerous online feeds and articles, and pick dumb fights with strangers and near-strangers, or perhaps family and friends…some now former friends and estranged family.

 

It’s Thanksgiving, and I should be aimed, as clichéd as it is, toward that attitude of gratitude—meaning I really should have just said that it’s great that so many of us now have access to amazing forms of technology that allow us to communicate with people around the world, or buy stuff from almost anywhere on the planet—no matter how much we might abuse that technology.

 

There are all the other annual projects, bordering on obligations.

I already mentioned the Halloween decorations.

And then there’s the ‘gardening’.

Of course, the weather this year was so strange that the plants weren’t entirely sure if they were supposed to be doing anything, and most just squeezed out a few little fruits or vegetables, although I regularly watered and fed them.

Then, in late summer, a spell of cool weather, followed by a spell of very hot weather, followed by some heavy rains further confused the plants, leading some into dormancy and others into thinking the growing season had finally arrived.

But by then, I had moved on to trying to get a jump on the Halloween decorations and decided the plants could fend for themselves.

 

Yeah, yeah, attitude, gratitude – I should be focusing on how great it is that I have a place to indulge my inner farmer and my Halloween obsession.

 

But the inspiration for this whole piece was how the competing distractions have led to, perhaps, a higher-than-usual level of chaos around here, so that I look out my window in late November and see scenes like this poor neglected fruit on the vine (not to mention me not having cut back the plants and moved the pots to a reasonable location):

Tomato sad

But then Ding Dong photo-bombed my sad tomato plants, while also barking in my ear, so I got this image, which is, I guess, more gratitude-inspiring:

Tomato Ding Dong

Anyway, I’m not sure if my forced attitude-of-gratitude conclusion is that I should be like Ding Dong and be all grateful and loud for whatever I’m doing at whatever moment, or if it is more about how I should be like Ding Dong who is always and ever himself, regardless of whatever else is going on—which, in my case, would mean I can stifle that perceived need to express some clichéd attitude of gratitude just because it’s Thanksgiving.

 

And, really, anyone who actually knows me knows I’m not exactly an ingrate.

Although I may be overly grateful for the opportunity to complain.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Happy Halloween – The New Decorations 2018 – Evil Candy Corn Back Story/Family

This is a silly idea I’ve had for years…to somehow create a back story for the giant, scary candy corn in the yard.  Of course, per classic horror movies/comic books, the basic explanation for any mutant anything is some kind of toxic spill.  So…

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween – The New Decorations 2018, part II – Sparkly Vampire Ghosts

Years ago, I scribbled out a drawing of a weird little ghost with vampire fangs and a red baseball cap (I was using a red pencil, because that’s what was there). Red caps are now essentially poison (you can’t spell hatred without ‘red hat’).  I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do with that drawing, but this year I decided it would be a thing. So I made six vampire ghosts that are now hanging out on the fence by the road.  As a bonus, I covered all of them with reflective beads, in the hopes that cars coming around the bend would be treated to some sparkly-shiny ghosts.  Enjoy!

Ghost reflecty

An attempt to show what the ghosts look like in the darkness with light reflecting off them.

Happy haunting!

 

Happy Halloween – The New Decorations 2018, Part I

by

JC Schildbach

eyeball dayInitially, this was going to be one of multiple flying eyeballs, with varying colors (and level of eye irritation), but other projects became a priority…maybe next year.

NighteyeballLike with almost all my decorations, this is plywood and paint…but it also has tiny reflective glass beads on all the white parts, and even tinier reflective glass beads on the orange ‘bones’ of the wings.  Tried to get a nighttime picture that would show what it looks like in the dark when light hits it, but y’know, nighttime photography with an old iPhone is not my forte’.  You get the idea…maybe.

I’ve been busy.  More to come in the next few days.  Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween 2017: The New Decoration

by

JC Schildbach, LMHC

This year’s addition to the Halloween silliness in my front yard is the Pink Demon.

Pink Demon

4′ x 8′ of bright pink evil

It was inspired, as are many of the decorations, by one of my daughter’s old drawings.

Inspiration demon

I’ve got other things in the works, but just didn’t have the time to make them happen in full–in part, due to spending a good portion of my planning time trying to figure out a good way to put a large decoration on the roof, and then deciding the potential for damage–to the roof, to anything the decoration might fall on if it wasn’t secured properly, to my physical being as I try to get it up on the roof, etc.–was just too great.  Then, I spent far too long trying to figure out how to “backlight” one of last-year’s monsters–a project that was also scrapped due to the unruly nature of trying to attach lights to the back of a beast with ten, gangly arms.

But, hey–I’ll just be happy with the new demon, and maybe spend a little time over the course of the year working on things, so there’s not a big rush to get things done next October.  Yeah, right.

Happy Halloween!

My Favorite Thing in the World

by

JC Schildbach, LMHC

Back when my daughter was, I think, five years old (maybe six), my wife put together this black, construction-paper house (and drew the flower on it, perhaps thinking my daughter would make a ‘cute’ haunted house).  And, while I find it completely adorable, my daughter’s version of a haunted house did her horror-fan dad proud.

house witch cat pumpkin mummy

The witch that inspired one of last year’s decorations, along with a black cat, jack-o’-lantern, and sarcophagus.

As a teen, the kid didn’t want me putting the haunted house out on display year after year, but grudgingly allowed it, so long as it went back in storage with the other Halloween decorations as soon as November hit.  Then, one year while getting out the Halloween decorations, I couldn’t find the house.  I feared that the kid had tossed it, in the same way she had gotten rid of other things she deemed embarrassing during her teen years.

house mummy drac wolf

The flowers, along with the mummy emerging from the sarcophagus, a werewolf, vampire, and a bunch of vicious little roof monsters.

As it turns out, the absence of the haunted house was merely due to the complete mess that is my workshop.  It had somehow gotten knocked to the floor and shoved up under a storage shelf, plywood blocking the house from view.  I went through two Halloweens, not realizing that it wasn’t lost forever, only misplaced.

house red guy

Another view of the witch, cat, and jack-o’-lantern, but with a spider, a version of Frankenstein’s monster peaking out the door, and what I’m assuming is some kind of murdering fiend.

When I finally found it, I was overjoyed. I ran into the house and showed my wife, telling her how I thought it had been lost forever, but it was just lost for a very long time. I’m not sure she understood how excited I was, because “overjoyed” for me is usually just mildly obnoxious–well, mildly in my book at least.  It was a little beat up, as might be obvious from the photos, but in much better shape than it might have been, given the recklessness with which I had treated it.

New Witch

The witch that the house built–or at least inspired.

I got my daughter, emerging from the height of teenage embarrassment at the time, to agree to let me keep the haunted house permanently displayed on the mantle, just to the right of the TV, so, well, it’s at least in my peripheral vision for a while each day.  And so I don’t have to worry about it getting lost in my poorly-organized workshop.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! The New Decorations: 2016

by

J.C. Schildbach, LMHC

We’re breaking records for October rain here in this part of the world–as well as having just generally rotten weather–so much so that I kept blowing off putting up the decorations.  I still haven’t gotten the lights set out–the big LED lamps that illuminate the whole Halloween display.  I’ll get to that as soon as I’m done posting this…and well before I dry out from having just gone out to hang the new decorations.  (Yep, taking it down to the wire, despite Halloween and tricks and treats falling on a school night plagued by terrible weather).

Both of the new pieces are based on drawings the kid did many years ago, when she was about five.  Of course, there are modifications.  I’d post images of the source material, but I didn’t ask her permission for that.  Maybe later.

deca-hand

What is it?!?  Isn’t it obvious?

So, the ten-armed creature here (which was a twelve-armed creature in its original form) is a random monster from the days when the kid would sit around drawing picture after picture, or very involved pictures with numerous characters.  So far as I know, it has no name, and isn’t any particular kind of beast.  I always envisioned it as floating about, or perhaps ‘swimming’ through the air.  At any rate, it was made to hang from our plum tree.  It’s about six-and-a-half feet tall.  And, in case you’re wondering, yes, cutting something like that out of a single piece of 4′ x 8′ plywood is rather time-consuming.

new-witch

With an actual, aged broom…y’know, for realism!

The witch here was taken from my favorite material object in the entire world…a construction paper haunted house that the kid made all those years ago, with numerous drawings of monsters glued to the outside.  Her witch was standing, not flying on a broom.  And I added the gym socks.  But I think I retained the spirit of the original pretty well.

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Halloween Upgrades, Part 4: Monster Caterpillar

by

J.C. Schildbach, LMHC

The idea for the monster caterpillar came from one of the kid’s drawings.  I went looking for it, but am not sure where it went.  Usually, the drawings that are used for Halloween decorations end up tacked on the garage wall somewhere or other, but it’s not there.  Nor is it in my other file of potential Halloween decorations.

As usual, the original version was done rather last minute, so the overall look was a bit rushed.  It was also made out of a partially-used piece of plywood, accounting for some of the odd shapes.  At the time I first made it, I posted a picture of it online, leading a co-worker to ask, “What is it?”  That interaction led me to be deeply concerned with higher education in the U.S.A.  If a person with an advanced degree cannot readily identify giant, house-eating caterpillars, then we are truly doomed.  But I digress.

The original, rushed version, with our vicious guard dog looking on.

The original, rushed version, with our vicious guard dog looking on.

The caterpillar needed some fresh paint, so I made it look a bit more like I originally wanted.

With some fresh paint, and our vicious guard dog nowhere to be seen.

With some fresh paint, and our vicious guard dog nowhere to be seen.

Happy Halloween!

Halloween Upgrades, Part 3: The Graveyard

by

J.C. Schildbach, LMHC

A lot of the tombstones were looking pretty shabby.  Also, I still had some store-bought, styrofoam ones that I managed to patch up and keep using over the years.  So, I decided it was time to get the graveyard in order.  The styrofoam ones are finally gone, replaced with tombstones cut from a single, heavy board.  There’s one other new/replacement tombstone cut from the seat of a broken down dining room chair.  The rest–taken from a variety of different wood sources over the years–were touched up with primer, then “Make it Stone” paint, then spray sealer.

The graveyard--along with Murder Teddy and the purple alligator monster that lives downstairs.

The graveyard–along with Murder Teddy and the purple alligator monster that lives downstairs.

The lettering is all done freehand, in a variety of styles, partially depending on how the paint, paintbrushes, and the surface is behaving, but mostly just based on me winging it and hoping I don’t screw anything up too much.  The tombstones, per tradition, all involve the names of various fictional characters from books, comic books, and song.  The only one not visible in the picture (blocked by a zombie) is Caddy Compson.

But first, all of the tombstones and zombies got fitted with hinges or brackets (if they didn’t already have them) paired with a single metal rod to serve as a stake for holding them in place, then got their backs “blacked out” with a coat of primer and a layer or two of black paint.

From the back--all blacked out and much less sloppy--note, I am talking about the tombstones and zombies, not the deplorable state of my landscaping.

From the back–all blacked out and much less sloppy–note, I am talking about the tombstones and zombies, not the deplorable state of my landscaping.

The whole process was rather involved, took several steps, and involved a lot of delightfully toxic fumes.  I really should work on the tombstones in the summer, when I can more reliably use spray paint and sealer outside.  I did all the spraying in our “workshop”–an added-on room where the previous owner used to work on stained glass–but which has no windows.  There’s a definite trade-off between leaving the door open to air it out, and closing the door so that all the cold, wet air doesn’t prevent the paint from curing in a reasonable period of time.

At any rate, I went to all that work, because previously the backs of all the pieces had a wide range of different “looks”–from bare plywood, to various colors, words, and images, from reclaimed wood.  I don’t have a picture of the backs when they were in the pre-blackened state.  I never thought to take one.  Still, it always bothered me that when I opened the door for trick-or-treaters, and when they were walking away, we would see a whole lot of mess on the back of the tombstones, and a weird array of sticks and stakes, and wire and string.  Now, it’s all more uniform, and masked much better.  Fascinating, I know.

Happy Halloween!

Halloween Upgrades, Part 2: The Evil Candy Corn Gang

by

J.C. Schildbach, LMHC

I did some minor updates to the evil candy corn gang as well.  Somewhat hard to make out in the pictures, perhaps.  But they are all seeing red now.

Overall, I had to “update” them by repainting and sealing all of them.  Although they were all cut from the same sheet of plywood years ago, the ringleader is starting to warp and crack.  Hopefully, he holds up so I don’t have to completely re-create him next year.

At any rate, the idea for these came from the kid–who, after seeing a “cute” candy corn decoration in a garden center, said that candy corn should not be all smiley and happy, but should appear as it is–evil.

Done.

With their original look.

With their original look.

I have been meaning, for years, to make a lot more of these guys, of varying sizes, and then throw some actual candy corn on the ground around them, as if some magic spell has caused them to grow, morph, and attack.  One day, maybe.

Newly painted, sealed, and slightly more evil.

Newly painted, sealed, and slightly more evil.

Happy Halloween!