Ghosts

October 31, 2017 – A recent CBS poll states that 48 percent of Americans say they believe in ghosts. So, if there are such things as ghosts, there must be haunted houses. After all, ghosts have to live/haunt somewhere.

If you’re among the 52 percent who believe ghosts are a bunch of hogwash, you may be interested to know that the United States government at one time kept track of haunted houses. There are more than 25 legendary haunted houses in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

In the spirit of Halloween, let’s visit a few:

Close to my home, in New Hope, Pa., there is a striking list of haunts. New Hope claims to be one of the most haunted towns in the country, and with a history dating back about 500 years, that’s not surprising.

The Logan Inn located on the main road through New Hope is said to have four ghosts. Room #6 is the most requested by ghost hunters who spend a night hoping to experience the super natural. Many guests claimed to have seen a man’s reflection in the bathroom mirror, only to have it disappear when they turn around, and others say two ghostly children have greeted them. A Revolutionary War soldier has been spotted walking the halls and in the bar, and in the hall a portrait of a Colonial woman, who was famous for wearing lavender perfume, hangs for all to see. Many have claimed to smell the scent when they pass her by.

A little further south, in Washington DC, the most famous house in America, the White House, has a reputation for being one of the most haunted houses in the country. Among those who believe are former President Harry Truman, Kennedy’s Press Secretary James Haggerty, former First Lady Hillary Clinton, and the late Maureen Reagan, daughter of President Ronald Reagan. All have claimed to come in contact with a past resident of the home from Abraham Lincoln to Dolly Madison, and William Henry Harrison to Abigail Adams.

Winston Churchill also claimed Abraham Lincoln visited him when he spent the night in the Lincoln Bedroom. Upon Churchill’s next visit, the English leader refused to spend the night in the White House altogether.

Across the Potomac River from Washington, Virginia’s list of haunted houses is just as impressive. The small town of Fredericksburg alone has eight famous haunts. One is Kenmore, where Col. Fielding Lewis, who organized Virginia’s Militia, is spotted reading a newspaper. Another Belle Grove, once a wealthy plantation where a young woman who was murdered still roams. In Colonial Williamsburg, a woman named Lady Skipwith haunts Wyth House, and in Alexandria, the ghost of William Ramsay, the city’s first mayor, has been spotted in the upper windows of his old home. Also in Alexandria, the home of Harry Lee, a Revolutionary War hero and the father of Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate forces during the Civil War, is haunted by a little boy. Locals believe the boyhood spirit is Robert.

Happy Halloween!

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It’s that time of year, Charlie Brown!

October 9, 2017 – Walking through the mall this weekend, I noticed that the friendly newsstand outside of Macy’s is stocked up and ready to sell 2018 calendars. Front and center was the Peanuts Wall Calendar, which I buy my son each Christmas. I also pick one up for my cubicle at work. It’s tradition.

It is too early to pick them just yet, but it got me thinking that Charlie Brown season here once again. Soon we’ll see promos for television specials like “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” and yes, even “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

Good grief! It’s the best three months of the year.

Keep your nose clean, it’s Father’s Day

June 19, 2017 – Yesterday we celebrated Father’s Day and honored all of the men who do right by their families every day.

Real dads (and moms) know firsthand that being a parent is a difficult, but rewarding job. Running a corporation or operating on a human brain, for example, pale in comparison to being fully responsible for the outcome of a human being during the first 18 years of his or her life.

While it’s true that moms usually get their due respect – and their share of the blame at the psychiatrist’s office in later years – dads are no longer overlooked in the child rearing process. We’re not the “Wait until your father gets home” generation anymore, and the role of a dad is every bit as important.

Dads are the wise owls, ready to bestow their wisdom and advice about navigating through the harsh reality of life, while moms coddle and coo, arms open wide with compassion, forgiveness and love. All of this is stereotypical, of course; growing up in my home the roles were often interchangeable.

I can’t pinpoint the wisest advice I ever got from my dad, but I remember the phrases he used most often in my childhood, and I catch myself sounding like him whenever I say something like “This simply mystifies me” or “This is what you call your boring game.” I refer to them as dadisms. Others include “What’s on your alleged mind?” and “Common sense would indicate…”

His favorite and most widely used dadism had to do with keeping one’s nose clean. “Are we going to the shore this summer, dad?” “If you keep your nose clean.” “Can I go to the movies later?” “If you keep your nose clean.” You get the picture. The origins of the phrase, which date back to 1887, obviously mean to keep out of any kind of trouble. To a kid like me who took things literally, all sorts of images would run through my head when he said those words, from scrubbing my nose with a toothbrush (I thought it would fit nicely) and soap, to thinking about how I could turn my head upside down when I took a shower.

Happy Father’s Day, dad, and to every other man who has the honor to be called dad.

10 Things I Love About Spring

April 17, 2017 – After a cruel winter, it is a pleasure to welcome spring. Here are 10 things I adore about the season:

10. Longer days – What a joy it is to drive home from work and still experience daylight.

9. Warmer temperatures – Spring is perfect “no utility” weather. There is no need for heat or air-conditioning.

8. Taking photos – Everywhere you go looks like a picture postcard. Fresh blooms are enough to make any amateur photographer look like a pro.

7. Birds singing – Even the sound of birds chirping in the morning is a true pleasure.

6. Dining alfresco – I love sitting at outdoor restaurants and cafes in the city on spring days. It is great for the soul and for people watching.

5. Spring cleaning – Is it crazy that I love to clean in the spring? It makes me feel lighter to get rid of stuff we do not use.

4. Shopping at the farmer’s market – We have our pick of plenty of options in southeastern Pennsylvania, which gives us access to the best fresh produce around.

3. Cherry blossoms and azaleas – I like flowers, but never have I gone completely bonkers over them. I do enjoy spring blooms like cherry blossoms and azaleas, though. They are short-lived and much appreciated.

2. Sandals and open toe shoes – To get my feet in shape for the sandal season, I used a Pure Pedi foot peel. I was skeptical, but it worked wonders. Like a snake, I shed a lot of skin on my feet (and that was a little gross). However, I love the baby soft skin underneath.

1. Open windows – Yes, open windows are my most favorite thing about the season. There is nothing better than letting the fresh air in and watching the curtains flutter in the breeze.

The Happiest Place on Earth

March 27, 2017 – If Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, shouldn’t the U.S. rank higher than #14 in the latest survey of the happiest people on earth.

Perhaps more people need to visit Disneyland, or Disney executives have been deceiving us for decades. Either way, the survey suggests Americans aren’t making the grade.

Before we start with the political slant that people were happier under President Obama, we ranked 13th for the past few years, we’ve been unhappy for years.

The survey released last week stated that this year’s happiest place on earth is Norway, leaving me to wonder if Nordic people have a monopoly on happiness. Denmark was last year’s champion, falling to #2 on the list, followed by Iceland, Switzerland, and Finland rounding out the top five.

The survey ranked 155 countries based on gross domestic product per person, healthy life expectancy and a few other necessities. While money did play a role in the survey, it was more about having enough to live a decent life. Having abundance didn’t figure into the results.

Americans may not be the happiest, but we’re far from the saddest. That misfortune belongs to the Central African Republic, followed by Burundi, Tanzania, Syria and Rwanda slightly ahead.

I guess ranking 14th out of 155 isn’t so bad after all.