Thursday, November 29, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012 -- FREEDOM!

Yes, I did it!  I was ready to quit last week...and the week before...and two days in...  I persevered, however, and wrote the most completely crappy 50,000 words of my life.  But it's a novel and it's mine and it counts, so I will gladly accept the applause of the lovely NaNoWriMo folks above and I will print out my certificate and I will feel like I accomplished something this year.  And, if I haven't mentioned it before, I give permission for anyone to bludgeon me with a ceramic turkey next year if I even hint that I am going to do this again.  Never, ever, EVER again!

You would think that after I wrote about the agony of NaNoWriMo last year and the much easier, but challenging, NaBloPoMo I would have known better than to take up this writing marathon again.  Yeah, right.  And you would think someone who KNOWS she gets horrendous acid reflux when she overindulges on candied sweet potatoes would only have a small amount on Thanksgiving.  Let's just say I need to get more Pepcid AC at the store.  


* NaNoWriMo Vs. NaBloPoMo

* Don't You Have Anything Better To Do?

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Many thanks to my friends and family who thoughtfully donated to my son's Haiti fundraiser.  (If you don't know about it, please read here.)  If anyone sent a check directly to the school and didn't get thanks from me, it's because I wasn't aware!  PLEASE know that my son and I are truly grateful for any and all donations.  I want to give a special shout-out to Alison Hector at Embrace the Struggle, who sent a generous donation all the way from the great state of Maryland!  Her kindness earned her a phone call from my son's French teacher, who wanted to personally express her gratitude.  (Alison wrote earlier this year about Haiti two years after the earthquake here.)

Now, on to the $1 for Haiti Challenge.  Mrs. Pecsok, my son's French teacher, wrote today in the From Loveland to Haiti:  French Students Providing Hope blog post that they had reached the milestone of 9100 views.  (You can read the post here.)  One student marveled at how much money the class could raise if each person who viewed the blog gave just $1.  The $1 for Haiti Challenge is born!  Each and every dollar means so much to these kids, giving them a chance at education, nutritious food, and a safe environment in which to grow.  If you can spare just $1 (plus the cost of a first class stamp), you can help change the lives of the children pictured here

Details of the project as a whole can be found on the From Loveland to Haiti:  French Students Providing Hope blog here.  For specifics on the $1 challenge, click here.  Donations can be sent to:

Loveland Middle School
Attn:  Hilary Pecsok - French Class for Haiti Fundraiser
801 South Lebanon Road
Loveland, Ohio  45140
In this season of giving that is quickly approaching, could you spare a dollar for a child in need?  Even if you don't wish to donate, please check out the links below for more information on the kids of Haiti.  Thank you!

* "Loveland Students to Help Peers in Haiti" - Article in the local newspaper, The Loveland Herald.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Sniff, sniff.  Talk amongst yerselves.  I'm a little overwhelmed this morning.  You may remember that my 70s-obsessed self was reeling from the e-mail response I received from Carol Brady Florence Henderson a few weeks ago.  Well, imagine how I felt when I opened the mail and found this little goody in a manilla envelope:

In all fairness, there's an address on her website where you can send an SASE and request an autographed photo.  I figured I'd get one with her signature, one of many out of a huge stack she signs while she's watching CourtTV.  (Wait, that's my t.v. obsession.  You get the idea, though:  hours parked in front of the t.v. churning out signed photos like an assembly line.)  What I didn't expect was for it to have my name on it as well.  She signed to name...with hers.  Even my uppity daughter seemed impressed, although she kept insisting we could pawn it and it was worth a billion dollars.  She did ask if I was going to frame it and put it next to my autographed photo of David Cassidy.  Was there ever any doubt?


 * The Warden's Jail Break

* Carol Brady Would Be So Proud

Friday, November 2, 2012


This is a reprint of last year's November 2nd post.  I was going to write a new one, but A) I'm too busy doing NaNoWriMo and B) my mom really liked this one.  

Growing up Catholic, November 2nd meant All Souls Day, although I don't really remember anything in particular happening at school other than going to church.  My sister, 16 years my senior, has more vivid memories and perhaps things had changed some before I entered parochial school.  In recent years I've heard a lot more about the celebrations around Day of the Dead, which sound like a much more fun way of honoring the deceased.  I have a thing about altars anyway, so the idea of setting one up for departed loved ones and then munching on some sugar skulls is right up my alley.

Today on my sister's writing site, Nudged to Write, she talked about Day of the Dead and gave a prompt (or "nudge") of writing about death-related customs.  I don't really have any myself and my father is probably furious in the afterlife that I don't go to his grave every holiday with plastic flowers as was his custom.  (He always bragged, "Hell, I got these for 99 cents each at the dollar store.")  I love to wander around cemeteries, but not the ones housing my close family.  I'm not one who thinks that any part of the person lingers where he/she is buried.  If I want to visit with my maternal grandmother, for instance, I prefer to go to Morrow, Ohio, where she spent her childhood years.  If her spirit was going to hang out anywhere it would be there.

The other day I read an article about pagans preparing to celebrate Samhain and one in particular who held a dinner with place settings for her departed relatives.  According to the article, on October 31st the "veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is believed to be the thinnest of any time during the year."  I'm always too busy out trick-or-treating with the kids to serve dinner for relatives, living or dead, but I really like the idea and it got me thinking of who I'd invite and what I'd serve.

My father passed away two years ago following a stroke.  While he was alive, though, he liked his food.  I could go with Montgomery Inn Ribs, White Castles, or KFC chicken strips, all favorites.  I definitely would skip his more disgusting taste treats like pickled pig's feet and Limburger cheese.  Ultimately I would go for Swedish meatballs.  At the buffet at my wedding reception he pretty much single-handedly cleaned out the steam tray devoted to them.  When he returned to the head table, my step-mother looked at the plate and said, "I can't eat all that."  He returned with, "Goddamn, they ain't for you."

Grandma Martha
My maternal grandmother shared my love of food...and my weight issues.  When I was ten she joined Nutri-System and during counseling they talked about "notorious eating companions."  Yep, I was labeled as hers.  I can't think of Grandma without remembering her chocolate pudding, the ribbon candy she put out at Christmas, and her "recipe," which was a mixture of Ginger Ale and Mogen David Wine.  For my dinner, though, I think I'd go with black walnut ice cream, which she never passed up.

My step-father, who I always called "Imi", died in 2004.  He did not have sophisticated taste in food and was perfectly  happy with a lunch of canned soup and fried baloney sandwich.  He was an avid gardener and would grow zucchinis the size of baseball bats.  For that reason only I'd serve zucchini bread at the meal in his honor.  (Plus I can't abide the thought of a fried baloney sandwich.)

Grandma Mary
My paternal grandmother quite honestly never seemed to think much of anyone's cooking but her own.  She was known in the family for her apple pie and coffee cake, although I seem to remember lots of Jello cookies and the time she made boxed macaroni and cheese, not understanding you were supposed to mix up the powdered cheese until it dissolved.  I doubt she'd like anything I cooked (although she loved me and probably wouldn't have my face).  I think I'd go with something familiar from my childhood with her but which tastes the same no matter who prepares it:  Rice Krispies treats.

Shirley on left, my mother
on right
Aunt Shirley
My mother's only sister died just last year and I don't really connect her with food.  She was glamorous.  She had very blonde hair that was usually very big, brightly painted red fingernails, and rings on every finger.  She had a nice figure up until the last decade or so of her life when health problems took a toll.  For her I'd probably go back to a treat from her childhood, when her mother would make fudge.  So, for Shirley there is Grandma's homemade fudge.  (Unfortunately Grandma took the knack for making it to the afterlife with her and we've never quite been able to duplicate it.  Same with her "recipe.")

Aunt Margaret
My father's sister passed away weeks after his funeral.  I'm sure Aunt Margaret liked to eat, but honestly when I think of her I see her with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other.  (My sister still remembers, with horror, Aunt Margaret crushing up her Sno-Cone for her with a cigarette between her fingers and the ashes falling in with the ice and sugar.)  I believe she gave up both drinking and smoking in her later years, but I'm sure it wouldn't be a heavenly feast for her without a Budweiser.

I've already made clear to my family that I want to be cremated and my ashes put in a Dooney and Bourke purse.  My sister is planning how she can line the thing and waterproof it.  I used to say I wanted to be sprinkled on Wrigley Field near home plate, so when Ryne Sandberg slid some of me would stick to the back of his pants.  He retired before I died so now I go with the Dooney option.

Anyone else already have their burial plans in place?  Any unusual requests?

** Unrelated note:  I do not control the content of the ads on my website.  In particular, I want it to be known that any political ads are not an endorsement by me.  I've had candidates from both political parties show up in ads and I don't want readers to think I'm pushing an agenda one way or another.  If you disagree with a candidate shown, please don't hold it against me.  Depending on who it is, I may not like him/her either.


* Favorite Haunted Places - Kings Island

* Favorite Haunted Places - Mansfield Reformatory

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo, the November writing marathon.  To meet the 50,000 word goal by the end of the month, the writer needs to average 1667 words per day.  I aim for a total of 2000 to make up for days when I'm busy and don't hit my quota or (gasp) don't write at all.  This morning I wrote just short of 1800 words.  And I pretty much used up all the ideas that have been floating around my brain the last two weeks.  What the hell am I gonna write about tomorrow?!?  Now I remember why every year at the end of NaNoWriMo I say "never again."  Time to break out the supplies...

** Unrelated note:  I do not control the content of the ads on my website.  In particular, I want it to be known that any political ads are not an endorsement by me.  I've had candidates from both political parties show up in ads and I don't want readers to think I'm pushing an agenda one way or another.  If you disagree with a candidate shown, please don't hold it against me.  Depending on who it is, I may not like him/her either. 


* The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

* NaBloPoMo vs. NaNoWriMo

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Kings Island amusement park opened in Mason, Ohio when I was two years old and it's been one of my favorite places my entire life.  (It also happens to be the location of my favorite Brady Bunch episode and my favorite Partridge Family episode and I am not obsessed.)  I had known for a long time that there was a cemetery on the grounds (specifically in the parking lot), but it wasn't until a Ghost Adventures episode piqued my curiosity that I actually ventured in there myself.

This small cemetery is maintained by Deerfield Township and is known as The Dog Street Cemetery, Union Methodist Cemetery, Dill Graveyard, and The J.D. Hoff Farm Cemetery.  The graves date between 1828 and 1869, with approximately 70 people interred and 50 tombstones still standing.  This map shows the Kings Island land in 1867, with the yellow square representing the cemetery on the Dill farm.

Missouri Jane's tombstone.
As for ghosts, stories have been making the rounds for decades.  The most prominent (and featured in the Ghost Adventures episode) concerns the spirit of a little girl in an old-fashioned blue dress who has been seen in the parking lot, around the front gate, and in the International Restaurant. She is sometimes known as "Tram Girl", as she is often seen by the tram drivers transporting patrons to their cars at closing time.  One tale says she is the spirit of a young girl who drowned in a lake located on the farm.  Some folks have made the link between the ghost and a tombstone in the cemetery belonging to five year old Missouri Jane.  Some of the Ghost Adventures investigators chose to look for her by calling out for "Missouri Jane."  If the ghost is, in fact, some other little girl it's no wonder she didn't make an appearance for the cameras.  Girls are not thrilled with people who get their names wrong.

If you see the Ghost Adventures episode, be aware there are some hefty factual errors.  At the beginning the Kings Island rep stated that there had been a munitions plant on the property and that a 1942 explosion killed hundreds of people.  Later a couple of the investigators went into the graveyard and the female stated that there was a gun powder factory on the grounds and an explosion in 1890 killed 50 people and a lot were buried there.  The Kings Great Western Powder Works did indeed have an explosion in 1890.  However, the blast killed about a dozen people and it was not located on the Kings Island property but about a mile away.  I know of no explosions which took place in 1942 in the area, let alone one that killed hundreds.  And since the newest tombstone in the cemetery is from 1869, obviously none of the inhabitants died in the explosion. 
In addition to the little girl in blue, there are also tales of a ghost haunting the Eiffel Tower, a spirit who hangs around The Racers roller coaster, and miscellaneous sounds, sights, and flying objects.  Kings Island has been the scene of some real life tragedies including the death of a high school senior in 1983 after a fall from the Eiffel Tower.  (Some refer to the ghost seen around the structure as "Tower Johnny.")  Other documented deaths include two men who were electrocuted in a pond, a woman who died after falling from the Flight Commander ride, and a ranger who was mauled by lions after leaving his vehicle in the Lion Country Safari.

I personally have had no strange experiences at Kings Island outside of the usual antics of obnoxious teenagers.  Well, there was one kind of strange thing.  Over the summer my brother and his family were visiting from St. Louis and we went to this cemetery.  I got out my trusty iPhone with the Ghost Hunter M2 app and turned on the EVP analyzer.  I got a number of words as I wandered the cemetery.  As I mentioned in a previous post I don't necessarily believe this $.99 piece of software is a phone to the spirit world, but...  My brother has a rather unusual middle name.  For his privacy's sake I won't reveal it, but let's say it's not your classic name like Michael or Paul or Joseph.  As I was in one corner of the fenced cemetery, his middle name appeared on my ghost meter.  If he had a regular old common middle name I'd say coincidence, but since he doesn't (and since that name never appeared on my meter before or since) I'm open to thinking somebody was trying to tell him something.  The ghost wasn't very specific, though, so I don't think my brother got the message.  He's kinda dense that way.

** Unrelated note:  I do not control the content of the ads on my website.  In particular, I want it to be known that any political ads are not an endorsement by me.  I've had candidates from both political parties show up in ads and I don't want readers to think I'm pushing an agenda one way or another.  If you disagree with a candidate shown, please don't hold it against me.  Depending on who it is, I may not like him/her either.


* Favorite Haunted Places - Bobby Mackey's Music World

* Favorite Haunted Places - Mansfield Reformatory

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Unless you're my husband.  Then you grab the Excedrin and lock yourself in your office and mumble a lot, as if the wife had just said she ordered herself one of those spanking new (and much coveted) iPad minis.

It's November.  And November means NaNoWriMo!  For the uninitiated, that's National Novel Writing Month and it's a 30-day word production marathon.  The idea is simply to write a 50,000 word (or more) novel in November.  Nobody judges the quality, only the quantity.  (Whenever I do NaNoWriMo it's helpful to constantly reread the chapter on "Shitty First Drafts" from Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, one of the best writing books ever.)

Last year I did NaBloPoMo or National Blog Posting Month.  Its rule of one post per day was hard, but not nearly as hard as NaNoWriMo.  I've finished NaNoWriMo twice and both times I found myself on the first of December mildly twitchy and baggy-eyed and confused, like I just woke from a a different century.  I usually spend the rest of the holiday month binging on Entenmann's fruitcake.  For myself and those around me, November is even worse. That's when my already pitiful housekeeping standards fall and my already pitiful meal-cooking enthusiasm diminishes and I become as grumpy as Donald Trump when a Democrat wins.

So why take part in the insanity again?  Probably for the same reason I write at all.  It's certainly not for fame or riches or worldwide acclaim (which all have so far eluded me).  It's because I feel a compulsion to do so...and I'm insane.  I have made a deal with myself that if I start to get too overwhelmed and crazed and/or we can't find the living room floor (or the dog) under piles of trash and clutter, I must give up.  There's no shame in that.  Well, actually, I feel a little shame when I don't succeed.  And I beat myself up mercilessly until the end of the year.  And I binge...a lot...  But there's nothing wrong with quitting.

NaNoWriMo suggests announcing to any and all who will listen that you are participating.  They figure that people might feel sorry for you and give you the quiet and space to write and maybe bring you things like fruitcake to sustain you.  They also figure if you annoy enough people with your constant chatter about how you're going to write a novel, you'll be too embarrassed to not finish.  I guess I just completed that suggestion.


* NaBloPoMo

* Don't You Have Anything Better To Do?

Friday, October 26, 2012


{this moment} - Inspired by SouleMama

A rare treat and worth remembering!  The Professor could earn extra credit in French class by preparing a French dish for his family.  Luckily he chose dessert!  We had crepes with a strawberry and cream cheese filling.  The recipe came from Zoom Yummy and can be found here.  He added sliced strawberries sprinkled with sugar over the top.  Bon appetit!

On a different subject, if you didn't see my post the other day about the French classes' fundraising efforts for child slaves in Haiti, please check out the post here.  Even if you don't wish to donate, please at least read a link or two that has information about the horrors of child slavery.  Thanks!


* Kids Helping Kids in Haiti

* Invisible Children

Thursday, October 25, 2012


I recently read Life is Not a Stage, Florence Henderson's memoir of her years in show business.  Regular readers of this blog know I have a slight 70s obsession.  I'm wild about all things Partridge and Brady and owl-ish and Mystery Machine flowery.  Well, I read in Carol Brady's Florence Henderson's book that she reads all the e-mails sent through her website and responds.  I didn't quite believe that, but I went ahead and sent a message anyway, telling her about my obsession with love of the show and how my daughter and I watch the show regularly together and what a fan I am.  And this came in yesterday's email:!  Carol Brady wrote to me!  I showed my daughter and bounced in my seat and forwarded it to my mother and sister and then read it a couple more times.  Ranks right up there with touching David Cassidy's hand.  Later Foghorn came in to ask if I wanted to watch The Brady Bunch.

"You mean watch my best friend?  Of course I wanna watch!"

"Mom!" she squealed.  "She's not your best friend."

"She wrote to me!  Right here!"

"She wrote you three lines."

"Nope,  nope.  We're besties.  BFF's.  Me and Carol Brady," I chirped.

Foghorn rolled her eyes and then said in her most condescending tone, "Mom, you really need to grow up."

Whatever...  Even she can't piss in my Wheaties today!  I'm in some groovy, bell-bottomed 70s heaven and feel like I'm floating six inches above my green shag carpet.

** NOTE:  Over the years I've been asked what I said to Florence Henderson to make her "laugh out loud."  In my email to her I wrote that I had been impressed by her work over the years but especially when she went on Dancing with the Stars (in her late 70s, no less).  I then said, "I mean this in the most loving and respectful way but you've got balls!"  Apparently she liked that.  R.I.P., Mrs. Brady.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Last week I gave you three hints to this week's haunted place -- Johanna, Walling, and "Anniversary Waltz."  Can you guess it?  Oh, wait.  It's in the post title.  It's Bobby Mackey's Music World, known by some as "The Most Haunted Nightclub in the USA".

The men's room, where a patron was
attacked by an evil (and evidently perverted) ghost
 Country singer Bobby Mackey purchased the roadhouse in 1978 and turned it into his own nightclub, with live music, lots of drinking, and later the requisite mechanical bull (which my father took great pride in telling me he once rode).  Ghostly encounters began almost immediately, with Bobby's wife Janet being an early victim of an unknown presence who, among other things, pushed the pregnant woman down a flight of stairs and tried to knock a ladder on top of her.  The other most famous victim was Carl Lawson, the caretaker who lived on the premises.  He was tormented nightly by unseen voices and a jukebox that played "The Anniversary Waltz"...even when unplugged.  The ghosts' behavior escalated to the point that he was supposedly possessed and required the services of an exorcist.  (His story is told in the book Hell's Gate:  Terror at Bobby Mackay's World, a really poorly written, but thorough, account of Carl Lawson's nightmare.)

So, why would a honky tonk be haunted?  There are a number of stories floating around.  The club is located on the former site of a slaughterhouse.  In 1896 a 22-year old pregnant woman named Pearl Bryan was murdered (by decapitation no less).  Scott Jackson and Alonzo Walling were convicted and hanged for the killing.  There are wild stories that the two were actually satanists who murdered Pearl inside the slaughterhouse as a blood sacrifice and dumped her head down a well that sent all the blood and entrails from the cattle into the Licking River.  No actual evidence has ever been dug up to substantiate this story, but that doesn't stop some from saying it's Pearl haunting Bobby Mackey's. 

Another story revolves around a woman named Johanna (also the name of one of Bobby Mackey's hits), who was a dancer at the Latin Quarter Club which operated inside the Bobby Mackey building in the 1930s.  Johanna lost her lover at the hands of her father and in her grief committed suicide on the property.  This story features prominently in the episode of Ghost Adventures filmed at Mackey's in 2008. 

The "portal to hell"
Is the location actually haunted?  There are a number of employees and patrons who will say it is.  I personally have not been there during actual operating hours.  I was inside, though, as part of a Haunted Cincinnati bus tour through Cincinnati Museum Center.  I can't say I experienced any ghostly vibrations, although I did find the place a bit scary.  It smelled strongly of tobacco and beer and the floors looked like they had 30 years of cowboy boot dirt embedded in the linoleum.  Our tour included the basement with its famous "Room of Faces", which features ghostly demonic and human images on the walls, and the aforementioned well.  It is speculated that when the well was uncovered after Bobby Mackey purchased the place, a "portal to hell" was opened which allowed in the evil spirits that went on to possess Carl Lawson.  (I will go on the record saying I don't believe in demonic possession or curses.  My son believes in both and when I try to argue my case against curses he pierces my poor Chicago baseball-loving heart by snarling, "Then how do you explain the Cubs?".)

We took a number of pictures, but admittedly only one showed anything unusual.  Is that an orb in the upper center of the picture?  Or one of many dust particles blown in from the busy highway outside?

The publicity doesn't seem to have done Mackey's any harm.  In fact, he seems to have embraced the ghostly spirits, at least in terms of marketing.  His official web site lists the club's signature drinks of the Poor Pearl, Hell's Gate, Johanna Bomb (with limited edition souvenir cup), and Ghost Punch. 

There's a good page on Mackey's official website with various articles, audio interviews, and video footage here.  The Ghost Adventures wiki has details of the episode here.


Things to Do in Cincinnati - Spring Grove Cemetery

Favorite Haunted Places - Mansfield Reformatory

Monday, October 22, 2012


Yeah, the alliteration fairies got a hold of me this evening.  What can I say?  Anyway, I've written before about my beloved Tristan, the former abused dog, and my beloved Lori, his owner.  I couldn't let the month of October go by without sending Tristan and his schnauzer brother/tug-o-war partner a gift.

The Jack O'Lantern who ate
a trailer park.
I found this cute and easy Jack O'Lantern knitting pattern at curlypurly.  (You can find the free pattern here.)  Then I made it look like it had mated with a giraffe.  See, for Tristan a toy is just not a toy if it doesn't have long arms and legs which can be grabbed and pulled and growled over and slobbered on and ultimately ripped off.  After knitting up and stuffing the little pumpkin head, I simply did half a dozen rows of single crochet, folded over and stitched, to make a nice, sturdy leg...or arm...or two of each.  I think the results were successful, at least by doggie standards.

Oh, the anticipation!


If you haven't already done so, please check out Lori's Dog-Lbs. blog and learn about her weight loss/fundraising project for Recycled Doggies.  She's lost over 70 pounds and raised thousands of dollars for a great cause.  Our own St. Jimmi is an alumni of Recycled Doggies and they do simply fabulous work.


* A Furry Kind of Love

* Sunday in the Park With Dogs

Saturday, October 20, 2012


The Professor
Today's post features a guest blogger of sorts -- my son, known here as The Professor.  His school's French classes are endeavoring to help kids in Haiti who are victims of a form of child slavery, known as restavek, through the Jean-Robert Cadet Restavek Organization, started by a local resident and former child slave.  The classes are sponsoring a group of children who will get the opportunity to attend school for the first time.  To do so, they need to raise $5,000 to $6,000 to cover the academic fees.  In addition to monetary donations, the kids are also collecting school supplies, clothing, shoes, and other essentials that the kids will need.  My son is very passionate about this project, just as he was when he attempted to raise money for Invisible Children last year.  He's going to tell you a little about this project and then I have some details on how you can help if you'd like.

From The Professor:

The purpose of this project is to raise money for children in Haiti so they'll be able to go to school and buy the many things that we have but they do not.  In other words, it's all about helping those less fortunate.  I feel that this project is important because it's helping kids who really need it and it can have a positive impact because the children in Haiti will have a chance to go to school, get nutritious food, and have a future.

I care about this project because I think that children in Haiti deserve a better lifestyle than they currently have.  The life of these children right now is dreadful, they are forced to work like animals and are treated like slaves.  Kids in restavek are pretty much servants to a family.  They get up before everyone else, do the cooking, the cleaning, they're often hungry because they don't get good food, and it's not unusual for them to be abused.  They don't have a fraction of the stuff we have and without an education they don't have a chance to make their lives better.  Please make a donation so that we can help provide these kids with clothing, blankets, school supplies, shoes, and, most important, an education.  Thank you!

The Professor's French teacher has created the From Loveland to Haiti:  French Students Providing Hope blog.  There you'll find information on the community service project, as well as regular updates.  If you'd like to help with a monetary donation, you can do so through me (contact me at josherpoodle for my address) or a check can be made payable to Loveland City Schools with LMS French Class for Haiti in the memo line and mailed to:

Loveland Middle School
Attn:  French Class for Haiti Fundraiser
801 South Lebanon Road
Loveland, Ohio  45140

All the kids are working very hard doing extra chores for money, organizing bake and craft sales, and many have plans for taking a donation box around on Halloween to solicit donations while trick-or-treating.  It melts my cold, cynical heart to see kids helping kids in this way.  If you're interested in just who the Professor's school is helping, you can view their pictures here.  Seeing these sweet kids, so much like my own but living such different lives, makes me all the more determined to help my son help them to succeed.  

Even if you don't wish to donate, please check out the links below for more information on the kids of Haiti.  Thank you!

* "Loveland Students to Help Peers in Haiti" - Article in the local newspaper, The Loveland Herald.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Okay, full disclosure.  Morgan Freeman was not there when I toured the prison.  I wish Morgan Freeman had been there, as I adore the man, but alas our only companions were two couples who arrived on motorcycles.  Morgan Freeman did, however, film a movie there and I consider that close enough to meeting him.  (I also think one pound lost is close enough to twenty pounds for me to earn a reward.)

I've loved the movie The Shawshank Redemption (and Stephen King's Rita Hayworth and the Shawkshank Redemption, upon which it is based) for many years and I knew it had been filmed in part at the Mansfield Reformatory.  There are many scenes with the imposing structure in the background, such as the bus arriving with the new inmates and Andy having a conversation with Red against one of the walls.  What completely shocked me when we started the tour was that a fair amount of the movie was also filmed inside the prison.  Granted, this was nearly twenty years ago, but how they managed to shoot in a place so run down and decayed and have it look fresh is incredible.  For those not familiar with the movie, get it from Netflix ASAP.  It's awesome!

For those who have seen the movie, you will of course remember good old Warden Norton.  This room, in real life the bedroom of the assistant warden, was used as Warden Norton's office.  You'll notice the lane leading up to the building, visible from the window, just as it was in the movie before...  (Nope, no spoilers here.  Nope, nope.)

Andy had a desk and work space just outside the warden's office and those scenes were filmed just outside the room above.  (Foghorn wasn't thrilled with the tour, more because she feared ghosts than anything.)

There were several scenes of Red appearing before the parole board and those were shot in this room.

This cavernous space was the prison cafeteria in the film.

Most surprising to me was that the room at the boarding house used by Brooks (and later by Red) was actually shot here.  I had assumed all these scenes were shot on sound stage sets.

Andy first has contact with the evil Bogs while standing in this shower.  Do I detect orbs in this photo?  If I were a ghost I'd pick some place more pleasant to haunt.  Hate to think what went on in those showers.

It's obvious that my photographic skills are limited, to say the least.  I found a really great blog post online at Queen City Discovery and she has beautiful photos of the place, as well as a few shots showing the actual reformatory versus the scene in the movie.  Highly recommend it and you can find  it here.

What ghostly adventure will I take you on next week?  Hmmmm...I'll give you a couple hints:  Johanna, Walling, and "The Anniversary Waltz."  If you have a guess, leave it in the comments.


* Favorite Haunted Places - Mansfield Reformatory

* The Crytozoologist