Bedtime Stories: Strange and Creepy Stories

link_getintroublePost by Mark T. Locker.

Get In Trouble by Kelly Link.

Nobody does weird and creepy quite like Kelly Link. I fell in love with her stories the first time I read “The Wrong Grave” about a self-obsessed young man whose girlfriend had died and he’d thrown a sheaf of poems into her grave, thinking it the poetically appropriate thing to do only to regret losing such amazing writing to the earth and deciding to exhume his probably terrible teenage poetry. This is one of the more likely premises of a Kelly Link story. Get In Trouble shows a bit of maturing in her writing; some of her early stories leave the reader a bit puzzled at the end, which I think was her purpose. This new collection, which was a Pulitzer finalist this year, has nine short stories covering ghost hunting reality television, fake vampire boyfriends, and superhero conventions.

Kelly Link merges the mundane and the bizarre with such casual ease that you begin to wonder what’s made up and what isn’t. The rich girl Ainslie in “The New Boyfriend” gets everything she wants, including all the boyfriends available: the Vampire Boyfriend; the Werewolf Boyfriend; and on her birthday the discontinued Ghost Boyfriend featuring Embodied and Spectral mode. He can float invisibly like a ghost. Immy is deeply jealous that Ainslie has the ghost, who she has named Mint. That’s just the first couple pages of a wonderful tale of complicated friendships and ghost boyfriends.

“The Summer People” is about a girl and her moonshiner dad who tend to vacation homes while they are abandoned. They also care for one in particular, where the Summer People live, a group of mysterious beings.

Each of her stories is dripping with atmosphere and plunges you headlong into strange and often spooky worlds. Great reading for teens and adults who like fantasy and horror but are looking for something less run of the mill.

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Movies in Bed: The Witches

witchesPost by Mark T. Locker.

Halloween is a little more than a week away. And so, it is imperative that we continue to thumb through the movies of monsters, ghosts, witches and goblins. Keeping with the theme of children’s/family friendly movies, let us turn today to The Witches, based on the 1983 Roald Dahl novel of the same name.

While young Luke is on holiday to visit his grandmother Helga in Norway, she tells him tales of the witches. Real witches, with flashing violet eyes who are repulsed by children, will lure the disgusting things and do away with them. According to his grandmother, her own sister was taken and imprisoned in a painting.

Luke is fascinated but these stories fade as he discovers terrible news: his parents have been killed in an accident. Helga takes over care of Luke and moves with him to England. One day, while in his treehouse, a strange woman with violet eyes comes by and tries to lure him down. Immediately he remembers the stories Helga had told him. Screaming for help, the woman slinks away. Shortly thereafter, Helga and Luke retire to the seaside for some R & R only to discover there is a massive witches’ convention there, under the ironic pseudonym of Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. When Luke discovers their nefarious plan to turn all children into mice, he becomes an early test subject. Luckily he has a very understanding grandma and together they fight to defeat the Witches.

Scary in the way cartoonish witches are scary, this movie is more action than horror. The witches are horrendously ugly when they remove their human disguises but not too frightening. My 8-year-old enjoyed the movie. So if you need something a bit spooky but you still want your kid to sleep in his own bed, The Witches is a great pick.

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To Nap or Not to Nap?

Post by Tracy Kaler.

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You woke up far too early this morning, or you’ve been burning the candle at both ends and you’re completely exhausted. Your meeting got canceled so you have an hour mid-day to rest, but should you take a nap?

Most experts will confirm that napping is good for your health, but if you find yourself napping regularly and for the wrong reasons, then that’s another story. If you have a need to nap even though you get a good night’s sleep, or if you’re suffering from chronic insomnia and end up catching shut-eye over your lunch hour, then naps might not be the best solution. You could have another health issue that you’re not aware of, so a doctor’s visit might be in order.

Are you overworked or do you have too much on your plate?

Stress and anxiety can cause fatigue at any hour of the day, prompting an afternoon slump which will lead to naps. Lack of sleep can cause mid-day sleepiness as well, and encourage naps even if you’re not a routine napper. If this sounds like your scenario, then napping would only be a temporary fix. You’ll need to get to the root of your stress or insomnia, and then you probably won’t feel the need to nap any longer.

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Did your parents nap?

Apparently, the gene pool plays a role in whether we take naps or not. Chances are, if your mom and dad were nappers, you could very well be a napper too. If you are one of those natural nappers, catching a short snooze during the day could be essential to your well-being. A nap could last anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes, but even the shortest sleep could recharge your battery and boost productivity.

What if you’re not a habitual napper?

That’s okay because everyone’s body is different and you might have enough energy to make it through the day without putting your head down for 30 minutes. Don’t sweat it if you can’t sleep mid-afternoon. You’re not alone, and falling asleep during the work day could have the opposite effect on you. You could wake up more tired and even groggy after a short rest. Stick to your sleep schedule and however many hours you’re getting each night, and leave the napping to others.

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Bedtime Stories: Ghosts!

ghostsPost by Mark T. Locker.

Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara

As my kid gets older, the books I am exposed to are geared towards older and older kids. Occasionally I need to remember to look backwards and find great books for younger kids. As the time of the year demands an eye towards the spooky, it’s important not to overlook the little kids who like the idea of ghosts and goblins but cannot abide actually scary spooks. That’s where books like Ghosts in the House! come in handy. It’s super Halloweeny without being scary at all. Even though, like the title suggests, there are indeed ghosts in a little girl’s house, it’s really quite okay. In fact, it’s downright adorable. The girl is a witch, so she’s totally cool with ghosts. However, they still need to be dealt with. After all, we can’t have ghosts floating about all higgledy-piggledy!

So the witch and her cat gather up all the ghosts, run them through the wash (don’t worry; a window in the washer shows the ghosts are having a fine time in there) and put them to work as curtains and tablecloths.

Simply illustrated black and white images on orange pages add to the Halloween feel of this very simple and very cute story. If you have a little one in your life who likes spooky stuff but doesn’t like to be actually scared, Ghosts in the House! is a great choice. Read it to them in bed and rest assured they won’t have any scary dreams as a result!

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Bedroom Design: Tips for Decorating a College Dorm

Post by Tracy Kaler.

Dorm Room

Living in a tiny room for four years or even two years of college isn’t all that fun unless you have a decorating strategy. Yes, you’ll mostly sleep and study in that room, and probably spend the majority of your time participating in activities on campus and in the library and classroom. But, wouldn’t you like to look forward to returning to your dorm room every night? Here are some practical yet essential tips for decorating a college dorm, and making it your home away from home.

First off, start with a comfy bed.
A great mattress will give you a great night’s sleep. Try adding a topper if you prefer that cocoon effect, and buy the best sheets and pillows that your budget allows. (Ask mom for help in this department.)

Get organized with storage.
You might have a single closet and it probably won’t be of the walk-in variety, so additional storage can keep away the clutter and make your tiny space more livable. Use freestanding units, or individual hanging shelves, as well as storage bins under your bed. Opt for a hamper for dirty clothing, an over-the-door shoe rack, and decorative boxes so every item has a place, including any miscellaneous stuff on your desk.

Accessorize, even a little bit.
Add a mirror, and perhaps an easy-to-maintain indoor plant that doesn’t require too much sunlight. Speaking of light, add lamps, both table and floor, and your new home will take on a warm glow.

Dress up a plain bed with a few bold accent pillows, and a cozy, decorative throw that you can use if your room gets chilly. Consider covering the floor with an area rug, and adding strippable wall covering that can easily be removed when you move out. Even an accent wall can spruce up the dullest interior. And don’t forget the artwork. Posters are an affordable alternative to framed prints.

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Make it yours.
Now that you’ve cleared away the clutter and accessorized, make your dorm room say something about you. Add your initials to your wall above your bed, bring in photos of your friends and family, pets, or even you alone. Be sure to have copies of your go-to magazines and favorite novels, and a small stereo to play your tunes. This compact apartment will give you a welcome respite, and a place to relax and retreat when you’re tired of hitting the books.

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