I ain’t afraid of no ghost–because I own a house

While home sick this week, I decided to take the opportunity to do something I never get to do now that I’m married. I watched a horror movie.

It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the Hubby can’t even handle the evil queen scenes in a Disney movie. The second there’s scary music and a darkened room, he’s out. When I started watching American Horror Story, I had to shut it off before he would even enter the room because the opening credits were too scary for him.  (Granted, I haven’t been in our basement since watching Murder House.  But the Hubby doesn’t need to know that!)

But he’s cute and he puts up with Downton Abbey, New Girl, Game of Thrones, and Orange is the New Black, despite claiming to hate all four of them (which is clearly a blatant lie, but whatever). And I prefer horror books to horror movies anyway, so I didn’t consider giving up my scary movies to be much of a sacrifice. And I can still watch them when he’s not home, which makes them even better because then I get the additional fear factor of NOT having him there to protect me from the evil monsters in the television.

So I sat down (okay laid down with Rosie, a cup of tea, and a box of tissues—I WAS sick after all) to watch The Conjuring. And wound up browsing Wayfair on my phone for living room furniture, the prices of which scared me more than the movie.

It’s not that I’m unscare-able. I’m quite scare-able. I still haven’t watched the clown doll scene in Poltergeist. I know the kid lives. I know the doll isn’t real. But as soon as it’s off that chair, I’m out. Too scary.

I think the real problem is home ownership. The premise of haunted house movies SHOULD terrify home owners. You’re moving into a new space and you have no idea what else could be living in there with you.   And that’s basically how every haunted house movie starts.

Although I’ve definitely gained a greater appreciation for why the family always stays in the house.  Like as a kid, I’d be yelling at the screen for the stupid family to just move out.  But now, I get it.  We sank our entire life-savings into our house, plus all of our wedding present money into fixing it up.  I don’t care if the walls bleed, there are monsters in the closets, or some demonic voices telling us to GET OUT.  I’ll tell them to either shut up or get out themselves.  We’re going nowhere!

However, since buying our dream house a year ago, I’ve discovered that there are far worse problems that a house can have than a couple of malicious spirits.

Like the toxic mold in our air vents. While the Hubby claims that I’m sick from October to April, that’s typically not entirely true. Yes, as a teacher, I get sick a little more often than the average professional (thanks, kids, for sneezing all over my computer keyboard every time you sit at it. I appreciate that oh so much). But I’ve had a chronic cough that no course of modern medicine or even good, old-fashioned chicken soup from my grandma will fix since we moved in. So the Hubby decided it was time to get the air vents cleaned. I agreed, bought a Groupon, and a nice Israeli man came and ripped all of our painted-over vents off the wall (thanks previous homeowners) and cleaned one square inch inside each one, then showed us what the rest of our vents looked like and told us the exorbitant sum it will cost to get that scum out of our house.

Pretty sure an exorcism is cheaper and more effective than that.

Not to mention the other problem that the air-vent skimmer showed us. Apparently our dryer vent was made of paper. Not metal. Not even plastic. Literal, flammable-as-all-hell paper.

Which, while scary, was not entirely surprising to us, because we have long-since discovered that the previous homeowners were the cheapest people on the planet. Mr. Previous Homeowner considered himself quite the handyman, and he therefore he did all of the wiring and electrical work in the house himself. Which means that everything is a fire-hazard. Our electrician’s eyes literally displayed dollar signs when he saw what was going on in our unlabeled fuse box.

But the fire hazards didn’t disappear when we fixed the wiring. When we pulled out the old, hideous wood-burning stove insert in the hopes of having a working fireplace, we discovered that there was no fireplace liner and that all of the 1970s tiles that predated liners in our chimney were cracked, coated in creosote from numerous chimney fires, and basically guaranteed to burn our house down if we even attempted to build a fire. Twenty-five hundred dollars later, we had a working fireplace.

Of course, the working fireplace was a necessity because every time the wind blows, a tree falls down in our backyard. Which was terrifying because many of those trees are close enough to our house to cause severe damage, but also because sometimes the trees don’t fall entirely–instead they have massive severed hanging limbs waiting to fall on poor innocent Rosie while she sniffs out the herds of deer and foxes that inherit our yard. And adding to the fear factor there is the price-tag that comes with any tree work.

Because as handy as Hubby and I can be, shimmying a tree with a chainsaw to hack off dangerously dangling limbs is not in our repertoire.

But the working fireplace is necessary for more than just the burning off all of the surfeit of wood that now takes up ¾ of our half-acre yard—because possibly one of the scariest things about home ownership is the cost of heating our house in winter. While I know that ghosts are said to lower the temperature in a house, they only do it in the rooms that they’re in. And our house is cold in all rooms. We replaced the ancient French patio doors that literally had gaps at the top and bottom and we put on fireplace doors, both of which helped. But keeping the house above 62 degrees costs more than a ten night Springsteen stand at the Meadowlands.

The bottom line of which is that I would gladly trade some poltergeists for certain elements of the realities of home-ownership. Granted, ghosts can interfere with a good night’s sleep, but I’m an insomniac anyway. And a haunting would provide excellent fodder for a new book, which could eventually help assuage some of the costs of our typical household horrors.

At least until we have kids. Because that looks like it hurts a lot and the cost of college these days is the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

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Who gets sick over winter break? Oh wait, me… but it’s Delaware’s fault!

Two weeks ago, I felt like I was coming down with a cold. No big deal, I thought. People get colds all the time. This was on Monday.

By Tuesday, I was running a fever and was pretty sure I was going to die. But again, I figured it was just a cold and that I could tough it out until the end of the week, then take winter break to recover. I’m not a big fan of using my sick days unless Bruce is touring, at which point I tend to come down with a mysterious ailment that flares up whenever he’s playing anywhere on the East coast, clears up at the end of the tour, and returns as soon as a new tour starts.

Unfortunately, Bruce wasn’t touring and it wasn’t a cold. I had contracted the dreaded flu.

Which makes ZERO sense, because I got a flu shot.

Of course, I get a flu shot every year, and it makes no difference, because I seem to get the flu every year.

My uncle (an ER doctor) told me that the reason for this is that the flu vaccine only contains the most common strains of that year’s flu, so it’s not uncommon to get the flu even after getting a flu shot.

But I’m not buying that explanation. I know the truth.

Well, okay, I don’t KNOW the truth. But I have several very plausible conspiracy theories that make better explanations.

Theory #1: It’s a plot on the part of my students to punish me for assigning them a research paper on Huck Finn. I don’t think they actually have their acts together enough to perpetrate germ warfare terrorism on this level, but when I thought about what group of people had the strongest reason to want to punish me, my students ranked high on the list. And it wouldn’t be all that hard for them to do. They’d just have to find sick people and get them to sneeze on their papers. I then handle the papers and boom! I’m sick. But kids, if it WAS you, please remember that I HAD to give you that paper. The county says so. Trust me, I’d rather write one Huck Finn paper than grade sixty of them! It’s not me you should be punishing!

Theory #2: Montgomery County has figured out that the majority of my absences coincide with Springsteen tour dates and decided to make sure that I got sick during a break so that I couldn’t use the break for anything fun. Basically they could do it the same way the kids could: infect a paper then give it to me as a memo or something. Again, unlikely, however, because I doubt the county has time to check my absences against Bruce’s tour schedule. And I’m 99 percent sure that if they can’t afford to give us raises, they’re not funding germ warfare.

Theory #3: Government Conspiracy A. This one really only applies if a lot of other teachers had the flu over break too, which I’ll find out today and get back to you on. Because what if the flu shot doesn’t REALLY do anything, and you need to GET the flu to be immune to this strain of it? I could see them infecting all the teachers during a break when we’re already going to be home and therefore saving money on substitute teachers. Think about it. It’s actually a smart plan!

Theory #4: Government Conspiracy B: The government is responsible for spreading the rumor that the flu shot makes you sick because they don’t actually have enough to inoculate everyone who would get it otherwise, and when they read my blog post about the flu shot NOT getting you sick, they realized I had to be stopped, so they infected me to keep me from blogging (which was actually quite effective for those couple weeks if that IS the case).

Theory #5: It’s Delaware’s fault. Right before I got sick, I went to New Jersey for a concert. Now I KNOW New Jersey didn’t get me sick, because I love New Jersey. I mean, if I’d been in Seaside Heights and contracted an STD, then it’d be a Jersey Shore thing, but I’m pretty sure Asbury Park isn’t spreading diseases. But I DID have to drive through Delaware to get to New Jersey. And stupid me, I stopped at the rest stop there to go to the bathroom and get gas. Which means that if Delaware WAS trying to silence me because of my blog about how much I hate their state, they definitely had the opportunity.

My best guess? Theory #5. Because when in doubt, I choose to blame Delaware. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the South Park movie would have been FAR more successful if the song was “Blame Delaware” instead of “Blame Canada.” Just to be safe, next time I head North, I’m keeping my windows tightly up and not stopping until I’m safely out of the state. I’m onto you Delaware, you’re not going to get ME sick again!

Two weeks later, I’m finally feeling mostly better. But I WILL find a way to retaliate Delaware. You’d better start sleeping with one eye open.

Just saying.