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I love coffee. Sometimes people try to switch my coffee to decaf when I’m not looking. I can always tell the difference. I also like Pringles, but only the reduced fat kind because they crunch better when you bite into them and they don’t leave grease on your fingers. I’m…

About Me
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As part of our quest to support women’s issues, Katana Photography is excited to announce our first ever Celebrating Survival contest!
Having any kind of cancer is frightening and confusing. In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Katana Photography is welcoming all survivors from all forms of cancer to participate…

Weekly Photo
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When I was looking to buy my wedding invitations (back in April), I found a lot of designers on Etsy. After narrowing it down to a couple different designs/companies, I contacted both for their pricing list. One was pretty significantly more expensive–almost $2 per invitation more. Which I think all…

Weekly Style
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When talking to people about photography, I hear one phrase over and over again: Kids and dogs are the hardest subjects to photograph.
I, personally, don’t have this problem with my clients…kids and dogs are among my favorite things to photograph. Maybe it’s because I like to have any excuse…

Weekly Puppies
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Last week, Sean and I had our morning coffee on the balcony and watched as the Enterprise shuttle was pulled down the Hudson on a tug boat. It’s on its way to the Intrepid and I can’t wait to see it up close at the museum!

Weekly Coffee

Halloween In July

Merry is having a contest about supernatural/paranormal/slasher/ghost stories. Pretty much, tell a scary story. Well, Merry, mine is a true story, or at least those who were involved believe it’s true…but not one that I necessarily remember. I was just a baby. But it has been recounted to me numerous times by both my mother and siblings.
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Sharon Katana tore open yet another brown box labeled “Kitchen Junk.” It was written in messy cursive with a sharpie by her husband. It had been a busy week. In the past ten days she had moved her family and all their belongings to a new city, given birth to her third child, and her husband had started a new job.

This new job was a demanding one. They kept him busy night after night with meetings and welcome parties. And what was worse, they expected her to be at his side for these events. They apparently didn’t care about the fact that she had a newborn hanging off her nipple and barely had the energy to sip her coffee, pack lunch for her seven-year old son, and chase her four-year old daughter all day, let alone attend party after party. “It will calm down soon,” Bob had said as he kissed their newborn’s forehead and rubbed his wife’s shoulders. “I promise.” And with that, he turned to leave for another black tie benefit, thrown by his new office.

Bridget ran after him, her chubby thighs brushing against each other. “Daddy!” She shrieked, her arms extended toward her father. Tears gleamed in her eyes and her bottom lip jutted out, quivering. “Don’t go tonight, daddy! Stay home and read to me!”

Bob bent down and lifted the tiny child into his arms. “Tomorrow night, princess. I promise.” He kissed her cheek with two quick pecks and placed her back to the floor. “Take care of the ladies, while I’m out, Bo!” He called upstairs to his oldest son and Bridget ran up the stairs to join her brother.

“Bye sweetheart,” he kissed his wife on the lips and was quickly out the door.

Later that evening, Sharon rocked her baby, Colleen, while humming her best rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of my Life”. She saw her tiny daughter’s eyelids flutter within a dream and she slowly stood up to put the baby in her crib and check on the other two. She hadn’t seen them since dinner and the house had been unusually quiet. With Colleen cradled against her breast, she turned off the lights and quietly made her way up the stairs.

She could hear whispering coming from the nursery. They know they’re not supposed to be in the baby’s room, Sharon thought, preparing herself to lecture her offspring. She followed the whispers into Colleen’s room and sure enough there were her kids, standing over a broken bassinette. “Bo! Bridget! What did you do?!” She tried to whispered as threateningly as she could without waking the sleeping baby.

“Nothing! We swear!” They each shrieked. “We heard someone singing in here,” Bo continued, “We thought it was you and followed the singing into Colleen’s room. The cradle was already broken!”

“We swear!” Bridget repeated.

Sharon sighed and placed Colleen in her crib. Luckily she had mustered up the strength to put that together earlier today. “Ok, help me clean this up and then let’s all go watch a movie together.” She knew a cry for attention when she saw one and with the guilt of their father’s busy schedule and the demands of having a new baby, she decided to let their actions go unpunished. Just this once.

“Mommy, you should have heard this voice,” Bridget whispered, her eyes wide. “It sounded loud…much louder than you sing.”

“And it didn’t sound like no grown up either,” Bo interrupted.

“Didn’t sound like a grown up, Bo. Not “No grown up.” Sharon scolded. She would not have her kids sounding illiterate.

She looked up to the shelf high above Colleen’s crib where her collection of teddy bears was starting. She had three for her baby, so far. Her breath caught in the back of her throat. All three bears had their heads ripped off. The bodies of the teddy bears were sitting as normal and next to each bear was its decapitated head. She looked at her children, oblivious to the bears. No guilt read across their faces. Besides, the shelf was too high for either of them to reach. She looked at their dog, Bear, laying next to the crib. She found it odd that her dog, usually so lazy, seemed to be in full alert mode. His muscles were tensed despite the fact he was laying and his ears stood straight up from his head staring at the closed window.

A chill ran down her spine despite July’s heat.

* * *

Later that night, all the kids were finally asleep. Plenty of tears and nightmares about some young child singing kept everyone awake. But finally, she lulled everyone into a deep sleep. She tiptoed out of Bridget’s bedroom and crept downstairs. When she reached the bottom step, she froze. Every single light in every room was on. Even rooms that she hadn’t been all day had lights on. Table lamps, floor lamps, the chandelier over their dining room table…all were shining brightly.

“Bob?” She called out praying that she would hear her husband’s voice. No one answered. She knew that 10pm was way too early for him to be home. She’d be lucky if she saw him home before 1am tonight. Slowly, she made her way first to the dining and antique rooms to turn off all those lights. Then, in the kitchen, she shut off the overhead lights…even the oven light was on. Moving into the television room, she switched off those as well, leaving the hallway light on, so to be able to see her way back upstairs. As she turned to head back to bed, she noticed the lights in the laundry room were on and a low, humming buzz was coming from one of the bulbs. Sighing, she walked in and as she put her hand on the switch, she heard a noise. Singing—coming from the garage. A voice just like her children had described. A young girl, singing the Stevie Wonder song she had lulled her daughter to sleep with hours earlier. Only this little girl’s voice was loud. Abrasive even. She sang Stevie Wonder like a gospel hymn out of a Baptist’s church songbook. Sharon flipped the lights off in the laundry room and through the cracks of the door leading to the garage, she could see those lights were on too.

“H-hello?” Sharon’s voice cracked. The singing stopped and the lights in the garage went out.

Within moments she heard the voice right behind her. She could feel the breath on her ear as the voice whispered: Mama?

None of her children called her Mama, ever. It was always Mommy. Tears welled up in her eyes and she ran out of the laundry room, through the living room into the hallway reaching the bottom of the stairs.

Woof Woof Woof! Upstairs, Bear began barking and growling. Sharon ran, taking two steps at a time. When she reached Colleen’s room, her dog was standing on his hind legs barking into the crib. “Bear!” Sharon yelled, no longer caring about waking her sleeping children. She grabbed the dog by the collar and pushed him out of her way. Her baby was lying face down in the crib. She lifted the child who immediately began crying, her face bright red. She looked into the crib and could see indentations where her baby’s face was. As if the back of her head was being pushed into the mattress, suffocating her. A breeze danced around Sharon’s body and she noticed the window was open—not her doing. She held her crying baby and patted Bear’s head. “Good boy, Bear.”

She heard keys in their front door and crept to the top of the stairs. “Bob?”

He peered at her over the banister. “Hi honey,” He called up. “Sweetheart, you left all the lights on down here! Even the garage light!”

* * *

Over the next few months, peculiar things continued to happen. Sharon and her children would hear singing, always in the same voice, repeating whatever song Sharon had sung earlier. Windows would be opened and slammed shut in the middle of the night. Sharon stopped buying Teddy Bears for her kids because they would be mutilated during the nights. Lights were turned on and would flicker at odd moments. And every so often, she would hear Mama being whispered in her ear. Even Bob, who never believed in any sort of ghost or supernatural stories admitted that something odd was happening in their house and with their “electrical system.”

Colleen caught pneumonia from the open windows and while her older children were frightened, no one was so much as Sharon. She feared the nights Bob worked late.

One November night, Bob was working late again. Bridget and Colleen were both asleep and Bear was patrolling between the two rooms. Bo was playing in his bedroom when he called for his mom. “Mom, can you get me a glass of milk?”

“Bo, you’re old enough to get your own milk. I’ll go with you to the kitchen, though.”

“No, that’s ok. I don’t want to disturb Martha again, Mom.”

Sharon’s body stiffened. “Martha?”

“Yeah,” He said, not tearing his eyes away from his Nintendo game, ”She’s our ghost.”
“And you’ve—run into her?”

“Not exactly. I went downstairs once in the middle of the night to look for my birthday presents and all the lights were on. I thought it was weird and then that night I had a dream where Martha talked to me.” He spoke nonchalantly, as if she was a houseguest sleeping on their couch he didn’t want to disturb.

She breathed a sigh of relief that his run in with her wasn’t anything more. “I’ll get your milk, buddy.”

At the bottom of the stairs, she could see all lights were on again and Bridget’s coat was on the floor. She hung it on her daughters small coat rack (one that Bridget could reach, herself) and turned to get the glass of milk. Behind her, she heard the coat fall to the floor. She turned and hung it up again. As soon as she stepped away, it fell to the floor with a rustle. Sharon had had a long day, this was the last thing she needed right now. She stomped over to the coat picked it up and shook it in the air before hanging it roughly back on the coat rack. “So help me if you knock this coat off one more time…” Before she could finish her sentence, the coat dropped to her feet, halting the words within her mouth. The hall lights flickered around her.
She swallowed and goosebumps rose on her arms. “Martha?” Sharon whispered.

Mama?

The breath traveled across her ear and tickled her neck.

Sharon closed her eyes. “No. I’m not your mama, Martha. I’m sorry.”

Mama…

The voice sounded further away. Sharon followed it into the kitchen. “You can be a part of our family. You are welcome in this house, but no more scaring us. No leaving the lights on.”

Mama…

Again, further away. Sharon followed the voice into the family room. “No more opening windows and tearing apart toys.”

Mama…

Further away, still.

Sharon looked out the back window into the yard. It was a clear, calm night. The tire swing circled, gently rocking. In the center of the yard was a foggy patch, which looked slightly blue in hue.

All the lights downstairs shut off.

Later that night as Sharon climbed into bed, she whispered: “Goodnight, Martha.”

Silence.

* * *

Small things happened from time to time. Every now and then, the family would hear something in the garage. Or a light would be left on, but it wasn’t very frequent. Bear relaxed and felt less need to patrol the bedrooms. Colleen’s pneumonia got better and Teddy Bears stopped being ripped apart.

For five years, the Katana’s co-existed with this…spirit? Ghost? Dream? Call it what you like.

Every night as Sharon tucked in her three kids, she would also whisper goodnight to Martha, mentally tucking in the disturbed spirit. Every now and then she would hear “Mama” whispered in her ear, but it was rare.

As Colleen grew, she was the only child who ever called Sharon Mama instead of Mommy and still does to this day.

When Colleen was five years old, a body (skeleton) was found in the woods at the end of their neighborhood. An article was released stating that the victim, Martha Jones, was a girl who used to live in the neighborhood. She was ten years old and had been beaten to death by her stepfather. The article also featured a picture of the girl holding her favorite Teddy Bear and stated that she had finally been buried with her favorite toy, her stuffed teddy bear, named “Bear Bear.”

Two days prior to the article, Bridget was nine, Bo was twelve and Sharon—well, Sharon would never reveal her age—everyone stated how calm and peaceful the house felt. They knew Martha was gone before they knew why.

Ways to Charm Me:

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about ways to annoy me. I decided to write a not so negative slant in similar form entitled–

Ways to Charm Me:

Deny that you’re stoned when you’re, like, really really stoned.

Try to defend your wearing socks with sandals. You’re cute when you’re nerdy.

Understand that the food on your plate will always taste better than the food on my plate.

Nominate Clive Owen for an Academy award. Next step: convince him to do porn.

Trip while walking along down 5th Ave and then immediately look around to see if anyone noticed. THAT’S RIGHT! I NOTICED!

Tell your mother that you learned the word “Fuck” from your Aunt Colleen. Oops.

Imitate the Tom Cruise Risky Business scene, dancing around in your dress shirt and undies while I’m on the phone with my very conservative, very strict, republican father.

Tell me that an octopus has eight testicles instead of tentacles because you’re six and you don’t know any better.

Don’t make fun of me when you catch me almost crying during reruns of Grey’s Anatomy episodes.

Join me in singing 80s power ballads. In the middle of Times Square.

Let me hit the snooze button 12 times in the course of one hour.

Tell me the sloppy brown colored pasta sauce I spent an hour cooking still tastes good even if it looks like puke. You’re such a good liar.

Pretend not to notice when I burn my tongue on my coffee causing some to dribble down my chin.

The Boyfriend! Reads my blog…

The above statement should be a given, right? But he doesn’t usually read, which is totally fine by me. Cause let’s face it…he provides a lot of the ammo for that which I write about.

After reading my post about turning 25 and the quarter life crisis I am staring eye to eye with, his only response was: Please don’t ever mention your mother’s vagina to me again. EVER.

And I was all: What? My MOTHER’S VAGINA? Why don’t you want me to mention my MOTHER’S VAGINA? What made you think of my MOTHER’S VAGINA? MOTHER’SVAGINAMOTHER’SVAGINAMOTHER’SVAGINA!!!

And he said: Say it one more time. Seriously, I dare you.

So that night just as he was about to fall asleep, I leaned over and whispered: My mother’s vagina…
After which he promptly got up, filled a glass of water and dumped it all over me getting the entire bed soaking wet. It was still totally worth it.

My Personal Prime

First of all, thank you all SO MUCH for the birthday wishes. And as an FYI, along with the eye cream I’ve been needing, I also discovered a chin hair which I quickly tweezed. I also read online that once a woman turns 25, every year 4 pounds of muscle will transform into fat. For this reason, I am upping the intensity of my daily workouts.

But, I digress. Last week, I met my best friend Eliza and her daughter, Maddie (whom I’ve talked about many times) for lunch. I had taken a long shower that day, dried my hair, and put on makeup and a dress. I meet the two of them at Liza’s office where Maddie was sitting at a little table having a snack. She stopped chewing a gummy bear and with her mouth full of a masticated gel-like teddy bear said: “Aunt Colleen, you look so beautiful!”

I felt very proud of myself. A compliment of that magnitude from Maddie is rather rare and was a definitely better than what I was going for. And what I was going for was just a small step up from my usual look which bears a striking resemblance to the beat up, rusty Chevy sitting on cinder blocks in the front yard next to overgrown bushes and weeds.

I would have been just as happy if she had responded to the site of me by saying: “Aunt Colleen, you don’t look like walking death today!”

45 minutes later, we arrived at a little restaurant called Bread which has the most delicious tomato soup I have ever ingested. We all ordered the soup with different sandwiches and when the waitress brought the bowls creamy orange soup with imported grated cheese over top, freshly baked bread in the center and organic basil draping the cheese, Maddie could hardly contain her excitement. Her eyes grew wide and twinkled, the orange color reflecting off the brown in them. She grabbed the spoon and still staring at the bowl of soup, yelled, “IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL!”

The tomato soup qualified for a completely capitalized, italicized beautiful.

I should probably be more upset about the fact that I am not as attractive as a bowl of pureed tomatoes. But I just checked my schedule and realized I won’t have time to dwell on this what with my busy week of scratching my butt and growing toenails.

Another Year Under My Belt

I am 25 today. Yes, today is my birthday.

Usually people become reflective around New Year’s Eve; I, however, always find my birthday to be a little depressing. I’m always stunned by how fast the years seemed to have passed. I miss the days when birthdays were like Christmas. When I would wake up anticipating my favorite breakfast being made by my parents and themed parties with loads of presents and cake and SUGAR! But sometime after college, all that went away. Birthdays became just another day. Just another day that I still had to go into the office. Just another day that nobody really knew was the day I came head first out of my mother’s vagina. And in the uncomfortable event that the topic did come up, it was followed by a half-hearted “Happy birthday. Now, back to these spreadsheets…”

I use eye cream now every day. Not for preventative reasons but because I NEED IT. Oh my God, do you see how monumental that is? And I prefer spending an evening at home playing Scrabble on my computer than an epic night of parties and drinking. And I no longer fit into my favorite pair of Seven Jeans despite the fact that I go to the gym 4 times a week. (I’m not sure I can blame this on the fact that I’m 25, but I’m sure as hell gonna try). And the worst part of everything is…Mean old Ms. Kruger from the second grade? The meanest teacher at Centerville Elementary School? SHE WAS 25!!!!!!!! I am the same age as mean old Ms. Kruger. Pretty soon I’ll be married with babies and those babies will be having birthdays and before I know it, my children will be all: “Mom, seriously? Those shoes with that dress? That’s soooo 2008.”