Saturday, October 29, 2011

REAL OR IMAGINED? A personal paranormal experience....

Current listen:  "Where's My Angel" courtesy of Metro Station from the Almost Alice soundtrack

Well, it's almost here..."All Hallowed Eve" or to the suburbia households preparing for the onslaught of mini ghosts, witches, vampires, and Harry Potter characters, interspersed with the occasional princesses and fairies, "Halloween." We carve pumpkins, make fake spider webs, play scary music, and pass out sugary treats to whittle the enamel off vulnerable teeth, blowing our grocery budget, sending our kids into sugar highs rivaling any street drug, and creating a dentist's wetdream. By the time the night's over, toilet paper streamers hang from lofty branches, broken pumpkins litter the streets, and remnants from treat baskets litter the living room floor. Some parents hand out the goodies little by little over the coming weeks. Personally, I didn't want to prolong the side effects and said "have at it," knowing the sooner the candy was gone, so was the sugar rush. Usually, they threw up and the problem was solved. No more candy. No more sugar high.

We've read all the thriller stories, seen the horror flicks, and listened to ghost stories around campfires. We have an aversion to hockey masks and chainsaws, snowy screens on televisions, and blame innocent black cats and other superstitions for life's calamities. But when left alone in the house when the power suddenly goes out during a monstrous thunderstorm, or something goes "bump" in the middle of the night, does your heart clamor into your throat? Have you ever been walking along and had an eerie feeling shimmy along your spine? What about the feeling of being "watched?" Real or imagined?

Then there's the flip side. Have you ever experienced an unexplainable calm wash over your body during a moment of duress, or feel a comforting embrace when there's no one around you? Smell a familiar scent of cologne from a loved one who's passed? Caught sight of a movement in your peripheral vision, but felt no fear? Real or imagined?

The night my grandmother, who I consider my surrogate mother, died, I was walking through some home improvement extravaganza and passed a woman demonstrating some kitchen appliance wonder. She glanced at me and for a moment, my grandmother's face covered hers, smiling. The face disappeared immediately, but a cold chill shivered over me and stayed with me for several hours. I remember seeing the time on a grandfather clock that caught my attention immediately, after passing the demonstration booth. Within minutes of walking through the door, a colleague of my husband who worked with him on the rescue squad called to inform us he had been on an emergency call at my grandmother's home. He was one of the paramedics who worked to save her, and called to apologize for failing. Grandma died and that's how I found out. I asked the time of death and found no coincidence in it being the exact time on the clock, or the fact the stranger's face took on my grandmother's appearance mere seconds before she passed on.

Her death was traumatic to me. She's the one who hooked me onto psychic readings, taught me to read palms, and how to can peaches. Grandma was all about the holidays. The first Thanksgiving, a few months after she died left me feeling hollow as I made the preparations for my part in the dinner. That night when I went to bed, I "dreamed" I received a phone call from her. Side note: Grandma's favorite possession was her cordless phone. She called whenever you were in the middle of the most intense part of a movie, making "a magic moment," or chasing twin toddlers running in separate directions. So receiving a "call" in my dream felt normal...everyday. But what she said didn't.

"Hi, sweetheart. Grandma just wanted to call and wish you a happy Thanksgiving tomorrow, and tell you not to feel sad. I want you to know I'm not gone, and will always be watching over you, just as I did when you were a babe in the bassinet. Now go enjoy the day, and remember, in our family, it's two potatoes for each person." My assignment was mashed potatoes and I'd been trying to figure out how many to cook. Real or imagined?

When Christmas rolled around a few weeks later, an even odder dream came, but after the holiday. My grandmother lived in this awesome house when I was small (she moved years later) and had this beautiful gold brocade couch that, to me, looked like it belonged in a throne room of a castle. We were allowed to sit on it after hands were washed and shoes removed. From my perch on the sofa, I had the perfect view of the elegant crystal chandelier that hung over her formal dining room table. Grandma and I had a pension for anything sparkly. (I still do) In her house, I felt like I was in the presence of a movie star or royalty. (This is also the grandma who was married to my grandfather who owned the pink Cadillac I blogged about a while back).

In this dream, my grandmother appeared to me. We were in this house and had just finished a wonderful lunch with my three, coincidentally also dead, aunts. Grandma took my hand and led me to the brocade sofa. She asked me about the kids, praising me for being a good mom. (All three were under 4 - they were cherubs, then. Later, I plotted their demise on occasion - not such a "good" mom , but then again, they were teenage hellions and I was questioning my method of birth control).  Side note: When I was pregnant with my twins, I didn't know they were twins. Grandma did. When she was leaving for vacation, I offered to water her yard. She kissed my cheek and told me not to have the twins before she got home. I laughed, disputing her theory. She wagged a manicured nail at me and said "We'll see which one of us is right."

Suddenly in my dream, Grandma took my hand. "Remember, Joelene, we are only visitors to this earth, and the length of our visit isn't ours to decide. I'll never be far, and all you have to do is summon me and I'll be there." She brushed the bangs on my forehead to the side, just as she'd done whenever I was sick, or upset as a small child. "You've got an amazing life ahead of you. I've seen it. Don't lose your way, and take care of my babies. There's one more coming." (seven years later my last son arrived). My three dead aunts appeared in the foyer that separated the living and dining rooms. They each wore one of Grandma's furs (a mink stole, a mink coat, and a red fox stole). My Aunt Lily held out my grandmother's full length beaver coat (my favorite to wrap up in when given permission).

The entry door opened on its own, and the most brilliant shaft of gold light I'd ever seen, washed the marble floor in the entry, spreading across the carpet to my feet. I remember the warmth and at the same time the fear. As Grandma walked to my aunts, the beam of light retreated with her. She put on the coat and turned, giving me one last look. She blew a kiss and said, "I love you baby girl. No more tears." She walked through the door first, followed by her sisters. The door closed, the light disappeared, and I woke up, with my face and hair soaked in tears. Real or imagined?

I've never dreamed my grandmother since, but when I gave birth to my last child, a birth that nearly took both our lives, I felt her hand brushing the hair from my face the entire time until he was born. When my mother had her brain aneurysm and I traveled from St. George to Salt Lake alone every weekend for five months, I caught sight of my grandfather on two occasions, occupying the empty passenger seat when I had to drive through a storm. When my youngest went through the nightmare of meth addiction, I felt the familiar brush of her hand the day I curled into a ball and cried because I'd just put him in jail for several months. 

Do I believe in ghosts? With all my heart. Some I feel are lost or "stuck" (my kids told me on separate occasions that they saw an elderly woman weeping in the hallway of our first house we lived in when we moved to southern Utah, but I never saw, only felt an uneasiness at times) and some "spirits" I think are attached to "things" - especially antiques (I've been told to leave antique furniture in the garage for a week before bringing inside the house to dispel any such attachments). 

I believe in the forces of good and evil, and with that, I have to believe that some unfortunate "lost souls" are darker in nature. Most encounters I've heard or felt feel "childlike" and involve pranking for attention. But I don't do things to attract spirits, either, nor do I seek them, but I am fascinated with reading others encounters. I'm a big scaredy cat, so I don't do haunted places or play supernatural games. I left many a sleepover when such things were started. Why disturb the sleeping dead?

I've read several blogs this month on the unexplained and wonderfully haunted happenings associated with this time of year. The newspaper is full of favorite haunted places to investigate, but my favorite fix for a good scare ever since I was a teenager, is to simply walking through a graveyard after midnight. If there's a full moon, even better. The tombstones and trees cast the most eery it something or someone?

So what's your favorite fix for a good haunt? Are you a ghost chaser, a spirit caller, or a believer in guardian angels? Besides my grandparents, I know I have three...two are archangels, but that's another blog.

At the very least, curl up with a good story about the supernatural and paranormal, laced with a enough romance to have you wishing for a shapeshifter or sexy vampire...even a hot dark angel to keep you company, at least in your dreams. Happy Halloween, friends. Thanks for stopping by!

Here's some blogs I've checked out this week - from sweet to fun, to slightly unnerving!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

WACKY WEDNESDAY....Proms and other parental nightmares

Tonight's listen:  "Midnight Romeo" courtesy of Push Play
"...tonight's a big night so let's make history"....."tonight your dinner's free - what's in it for me?"

Any parent break out in a cold sweat over those lyrics? 

Fall brings leaves tumbling to the ground, school bells ringing, football games and dances on the weekends. Homecoming parades roll down Main Street with floats holding boys in Letterman jackets and cheerleaders shaking pom-poms. (If you missed my post a couple of weeks ago about my embarrassing attempt to become a "pom-pom" shaker on my guest blog at I'll have to repost it sometime for kicks *ha!* Right up there with my old post on most embarrassing dates.)

The season also kicks off the dance season for the teens and another wallet draining event for parents. Just as you get the school fees paid, the clothes paid for, and the "rules" reinforced again, along comes the invitation to "prom," usually in some creative or outrageous form. One year, one of my twins froze their answer to a girl's request for a prom date (my how times have changed) in the middle of a block of ice, then left it on her doorstop to melt. However, beyond the formals, the corsages, pictures and fancy dinners, follows the true anticipation behind prom night. I went to dinner with friends the other night and the idea for this blog presented itself, all wrapped up in satin ruffles and penguin suits.


Girls spend weeks preparing. Shopping for just the right dress, matching shoes, trying out different hairstyles and hitting the tanning beds for that all over "golden glow." A minimum of three hours is needed to get ready. Phone calls or text messages bombard the airways with pictures awaiting valued opinions of those going through the same transition process.

Boys, on the other hand, concentrate their efforts on the "mode of transportation" versus the human. The car is washed, waxed, and the wheels shined to glint off light bright enough to rival the noonday sun. But the inside of the car is where acute attention is delivered. Floor mats and seats are vacuumed, the dash wiped, and the instrument panel polished to a high sheen. And, last but most important, the right air freshener is chosen. The one to set the mood.

That's right. The mood. A boy's car is his "lair." While he's cleaning the seats he's picturing it reclined with his date hopefully receptive to all the moves he's been calculating and discussing with his buds over the past week. Girls primp to catch the eye of their beau while the boys primp their lair.

Thirty to forty-five minutes is spent showering, shaving, "smelling the pits" before buttoning up the shirt and shrugging into the tux jacket. A once over to make sure the hair swings the right way and a crooked smirk to the reflection in the mirror with a pep talk. "Oh, yeah. She's gonna want you tonight." A slap of aftershave on the neck, the corsage from the fridge (the one Mom picked out, because face it, guys could care less), and a few annoying pictures, then he's out the door. The night is his. The seduction starts the moment the engine starts.

As we sat at dinner with our friends, we watched the long table next to us, bustling with "prom dates." Talk about an entertaining evening and the best research for this young adult fiction writer on watching the body language, listening to the chatter, and taking a few moments to walk down memory lane. We talked about our own prom experiences, laughing at the disastrous ones, but all agreeing…the expectation of Prom night was the real buzz. Not the dance. Filled with so much anticipation, the air crackled with it. Just as it did tonight.

We watched the girls chatter noisily, fussing with their dresses, and the boys with their arms draped lazily over their dates shoulders, catching glimpses of cleavage thinking no one noticed. Talk about hilarious and sweet at the same time. We waited along the wall outside the restaurant, watching the couples emerge to see if the personalities matched the cars. Hubby wanted to see how many had their own and who drove "Daddy's" rig. Proof that the "car"…the "lair" still takes priority in the male mind, even umpteen years later.

Out of the ten couples who entertained us through dinner, we figured two of those couples were on first dates, walking awkwardly together, the girl hanging back a step or two. Another four couples held hands, but remained stiff in their body language. A kiss goodnight was all "stud" was going to get, regardless of how many air fresheners hung from the cigarette lighter.

But, there were two or three couples who out "peacocked" the rest. The girls flounced just so, never allowing more than a couple of inches of air space to flow between their bodies and their dates. The boys lopsided grins tipped to match a wicked glimmer in their eyes, their hands never leaving the body of the girl…placed at the small of the back, snugging a waistline, or their fingers twisting in the locks of hair cascading down their dates back while she giggled with a girlfriend. All "signs of seduction" hubby pointed out.

My mind traveled through a time warp, remembering those "signs" and the magic they worked. No, I didn't lose my virginity to a "prom king," but I remember the pimped out lairs now and I laugh out loud, thinking of the disappointed dates I left behind. Of course back in the day (when dinosaurs still roamed the earth) my formals were massive layers of ruffles and strapless gowns were unheard of (my dad would never have let me out of the house in one anyway) so when I sat inside a car I was pretty much protected inside a fluffy pouf that filled the front (or back) seat.

As hubby and friend tallied the "lucky ones" when the last couple left the parking lot, he turned to me and whispered, "So…'Prom Night'? Am I going to get 'lucky'?" I looked at the Harley Davidson, chromed to the max and gleaming in the moonlight. Talk about the perfect "lair"…

No confessions, please, but is there a favorite Prom Night that sticks in your head? A disastrous one that makes you laugh? How about all the "lairs" you rode in (or still are) during your dating years? Face it girls, the "car" got your attention. Guys knew what they were doing.

Hope I didn't worry too many parents out there. Yes, my mind also flashed to a couple of prom dresses my daughter talked me into buying and the way my boys pimped out their own "lairs" for dances. I tried not to linger on those thoughts for long. Yikes! But I hope you had fun walking through a couple memories. Come back next week where I'll blog about the reasons we (or at least I did) fall for guys and how many more times than not, it has nothing to do with the guy! 

As always, thanks for making the pit stop on your way to Thursday.  Joelene (I lost Harley Brooks to the first heartthrob driving a souped-up "lair!" A Camaro, I believe.....)

Today's thought:  Stop looking over your shoulder as you walk through life, watching the "what could have been." You might walk off a cliff and miss the "what could be" all together.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Tonight's Listen "Paradise" courtesy of Coldplay

Paradise. A place I just returned from. This weekend, I had the awesome pleasure of attending Utah RWA's Heart of the West Conference in gorgeous Park City, Utah....where the 2002 Winter Olympics took place. We stayed at The Canyons Resort, in a beautiful lodge at the base of the ski runs. When I arrived, snow gently drifted from ashen clouds, turning to large feathery flakes by the time I settled in my room. We didn't see sun for three days. Temperatures plummeted so we were forced to turn on the fireplaces in our room. Ah, so sad? Maybe for the wasp who'd been pumping iron and feeding on steroids within its warm corner. The rest of the weekend we posted "wasp watch" for fear one of us would be carried away in our sleep. Luckily, he kept to the far corner of the steepled ceiling against the window. He only swooped down once, rearranged the heavy furniture, then retreated to the window where he plotted our deaths.

Closing the door for the final time and walking the long...long...long hallway to the lobby to await my ride (seriously, we left breadcrumbs and packed a sack lunch every time we left our room),  I contemplated where I'd been a year ago when I attended the Heart of the West Conference for the first time (my "virgin" conference). I'd literally penned "The End" to DESIGNER GENES-THE BOYFRIEND CUT two days before my arrival. Too scared to pitch "live" last year, but carrying various versions of poorly scripted elevator pitches on 3x5 cards in my purse, my first stack of business cards officially touting me as an "author," and at least twelve outfits to choose from for the two day conference, I settled inside a wave of enthusiastic and extremely talented comrades and opened myself to an amazing life experience.

RILEY'S POND hadn't even been conceived at this point, yet this year at conference, I walked to the podium  to accept awards not only for Designer Genes, but for Riley's Pond as well! Riley's Pond, my newly exposed "baby" took 4th place in The Heart of the West Contest and 5th in The Golden Pen. Designer Genes won 3rd Place in The Heart of the West Contest and 3rd Place in The Golden Pen! I almost spit my drink across the table when my manuscripts were announced for The Golden Pen because I didn't think I'd made the final cut. I've been riding the adrenalin rush ever since. In fact, I'm a little nervous of landing, I'm so high.  

This year, I pitched to two agents face-to-face [Anita Mumm, Nelson Literary Agency and Marlene Stringer, Marlene Stringer Literary Agency] who requested to see more (the third agent I shared an entertaining meal with, Laura Bradford of The Bradford Agency, was the final judge of the young adult category of The Heart of the West contest so she'd already read my stories. Fingers and toes crossed, and cramping. I swear the butterflies in my stomach never stop, only multiply.

Tonight I unpacked my bags, lined up my award certificates, and thanked my guardian angels for sticking with me. Again, I don't know what will come of my new submissions, but I've taken a few more scary steep steps on my "ladder to success." When I think of how far I've come in a the last three since Designer Genes hatched on Harley trip to Laughlin, Nevada, I wrap myself in a well-deserved embrace, truly proud of my decision to become a writer, burning my "box" and never looking back.

Harley Brooks is going places. I hope you'll climb inside my "limo," grab a crystal goblet full of whatever tickles your nose and warms your gizzards, and ride along with her on the journey. She's full of surprises! I know she's gotten under my skin...

As always thanks for stopping by and supporting my "multiple" personalities.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Current listen :  "Summer is Over" courtesy of Jon McLaughlin

Walk with me this morning. Bundle up in your favorite sweatshirt, sturdy shoes, and bring a mug of filled with something to warm you. For me, that's heating my cream and sugar with a smidgen of coffee. Not sure which rush I'm going for - caffeine or sugar.

The air is crisp, cool and slightly biting in the early morning hours. The sun is just starting to stretch its long golden fingers into the lavender heavens, threading through a puff of white here and there, turning the sky an apricot blush. You take a sip of your hot morning brew, savoring the warmth trickling down the back of your throat. A sigh of contentment forms a misty puff around your mouth. Beneath your feet, leaves fallen from the grace of the trees that once gave them life, form a colorful carpet over the dark loam of the forest floor. As you step, they crinkle and bend at whim.

Overhead, blue jays play a game of tag and squirrels bustle between branches with their latest stash tucked in their cheeks to hide for a cold winter's day. The air is heavy with the scent of pine and summer's decay, and the evergreen branches bow in the breeze as if you were royalty walking through Nature's court.

Yesterday, October tapped September's shoulder with a ghostly finger and whispered "it's time for you to go."  September whisked quietly away, stealing Summer in its retreat, and October settled in. Marked with crackling anticipation as the first scene in a three act play, taking us through a whirlwind of activity (draining our financial resources in the process) and filling us with childlike expectations of the holiday season fast approaching. October plays a soundtrack of melancholy memories of childhood, loved ones who have passed but left an indelible bruise on our heart and smile on our lips, along with a bittersweet knowledge that another year is coming to a close. Halloween, with its mystical powers at the hands of ghosts, goblins, and frolicking witches, will mark October's flamboyant exit and usher in November, full of mouthwatering anticipation of pumpkin pie and a turkey feast. When Thanksgiving leaves us grateful for the small things we take for granted, November will bow respectfully, as December, in all its grandeur enters. From there, folks, its all downhill, but the "ride" will be exhilarating, glamorous, and leave another page of our life written for the next generation to stand witness of.

October 1st marks another special day, for me, anyway. Last year on October 1st, I officially launched my career as a writer. I called myself an author, I'd finished my first manuscript and was ready to send my "baby" out. I attended my first writing conference, met agents and publishers, and actually pitched Designer Genes, resulting in a request for three chapters. I also got my first rejection.

The other amazing thing last October gave me, was an amazing group of writer friends I'd never have met if I hadn't embarked on this wonderful journey. I belong to two big ones, Romance Writers of America and Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, but its the smaller chapters formed under these power houses that I enjoy. My Utah chapter of RWA connected me with all the "author celebrities," but they gathered me under their wing and fed me worms to nourish me on my way to "flight." The talent these members have astonishes me and the way they support each other beyond the scope of writing is phenomenal. I love being counted among them.

Another smaller, intimate group, holds a special place in my heart. The "Writing Divas" were hatched from an online class given my well-known author, Eliza Knight. We were all "fledglings," morphing into something we hadn't quite figured out. A couple members had published and served as "seeing eye dogs" to the rest of us. When the class ended, our friendships didn't. We wanted to stay connected, so we formed our own writers' group, with the intention of critiquing. However, it has served more as a cheerleading squad, a shoulder to lean on, and comedic relief. It's a place where we try on our different author hats to get an opinion, before showing the world. We got our feet wet together learning to blog, create websites, and share news both personal and professional. What's amazed me, is watching these ladies complete their metamorphosis. Knowing I get to read completed stories from the glimpses I fell in love with in writing class is exciting. October 1st last year, the group was created and is still going strong. I hope our relationship lasts a very long time, and maybe one day, we'll actually get to meet in person. 

Belonging to these amazing organizations has taught me something. While my dream is to become a renowned published author, my unexpected joy has been in the journey. The goal to be published is the pot of gold at the end of rainbow, filled with colors that take my breath...just like the experiences along the way to my goal.

If I could share one thing, it would be to remind you not to focus so much on the destination that you miss the "scenery" along the way. That's what makes a trip memorable. All the little stops along the way to learn something new, see something different, discover something new about yourself. Enjoy the journey on the way to making your dreams come true. Be grateful for those who help you along the way, even if it's just to open the door to your next adventure. Hard as we may try, we can't go it alone. Goodbye September. Hello October! Who knows what I'll get in my "trick-or-treat" bag this year. 

Pause, reflect, remember, and find joy in your journey.

As always, thanks for stopping by.  Harley Brooks today...wearing her witchy hat!