Friday, December 19, 2014

Short Story: For the Man Who Hated Christmas

White Envelope in the Tree

by Nancy W. Gavin

It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas – oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it – the overspending … the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma — and the gifts given in desperation, because you couldn’t think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. 

These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. 

As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears.

It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.” 

Mike loved kids – all kids – and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That’s when the idea for his present came. 

That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. 

For each Christmas, I followed the tradition–one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn’t end there.

You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.

Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down the envelope.

Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always be with us.
Editor’s Note: This true story was originally published in the December 14, 1982 issue of Woman’s Day magazine. It was the first place winner out of thousands of entries in the magazine’s “My Most Moving Holiday Tradition” contest in which readers were asked to share their favorite holiday tradition and the story behind it. 
The story inspired a family from Atlanta, Georgia to start The White Envelope Project and Giving101, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating youth about the importance of giving.

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Poem: "The Adonis": by CJ Heck

Loaded Birthday Cake
"Beautiful young people are accidents of nature; beautiful old people are works of art." ~Eleanor Roosevelt

How strange this whole aging thing is.

Every year we celebrate a birthday, then another, then one day, we are suddenly my age.

It seems like it all happened so fast, but the truth is, "life" happens.

Between the birthdays, life captures all of our attention, moment to moment, day by day, and in its grip, we are so emotionally invested, we are unaware of time passing.

I can't say I ever think of myself as "old".  The mind, which is supposed to be the smartest part of us, takes a lot longer to wise up.

I still feel the same age in my mind as I did at eighteen; however, a word of caution:  Avoid Mirrors!  Mother Truth hides in them.

Jimmy Buffett put this line in one of his songs:
"... wrinkles only go where the smiles have been ..."  
Smart man.  I must be a happy lady ...

Here is my new outlook on getting even older ...

An Adonis-Type of Guy

The Adonis

Young god,
head held high,
proud mane blowing
in the city's dirty breeze,
clothes just enough wrinkled
to make a woman believe
you just climbed out of a quickie
or stepped off of page 42
in this month's GQ.

Do you mind
that I turn and look
as you walk by?

No, of course not.
You don't see me as a threat.
You don't even see me at all.

But just give me
another ten years ...
by then, I'll be old enough
to reach over,
give your butt a squeeze
and say, "Mmmm ... nice buns."

... life is good.

(From the book, "Anatomy of a Poet", by CJ Heck)

Read a Preview of Anatomy of a Poet

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Children's Poem: "To a Snowflake ..."

To a Snowflake ...

by CJ Heck

Hello there, little snowflake.
Where are all your friends?
Should I expect a lot of them
before the morning ends?

I love it when you visit me
and you all fall down together.
I get dressed to visit you,
toasty warm in cold, cold weather.

It's fun the way you all pile up
outside in my back yard.
I like to roll you in a ball
and make a snowman -- it's not hard.

Or maybe, I will build a fort.
All my friends will come and play,
and if you plan to stay awhile,
we'll come see you every day!

Sometimes, I make snow angels
and their arms and legs look puffy,
but I can only do that IF
you come down light and fluffy.

Could I ask you guys a favor?
White is nice, but nothing's duller ...
Could you all please -- just one time --
come down in hearts, or colors?

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Monday, December 15, 2014

Billy Crystal's Touching Tribute to Robin Williams

Robin Williams and Billy Crystal

“If heaven exists, to know that there’s laughs, that would be a great thing…” 
 --Robin Williams, Inside the Actors Studio 

When the world suddenly lost Robin Williams in August at the age of 63, friends and fans of the comedian were heartbroken. So was Billy Crystal, his longtime pal and comic cohort. 

Here, Crystal bids farewell to his dear friend by imagining Williams doing stand-up for the most heavenly audience of all ...

Billy Crystal's script of Robin Williams' first night in heaven:

For you, Robin. —Billy Crystal



Beautifully decorated, a celestial theme dominates. The ceiling is a mass of twinkling stars. The room is jammed, anybody who was anybody is there filling tables and banquettes and a balcony: Waiters and waitresses with small wings scurry to tables bringing libations. Excitement, anticipation…the lights dim…
The crowd goes crazy…..DRUM ROLL.

DON PARDO (V.O.): Please welcome to the Big Room making his heavenly debut, Robin Williams!

Huge ovation from the enormous crowd that seems to go on forever. A spotlight finds Robin as he enters. He strikes many poses as he runs across the stage, at times grabbing himself. He looks at the enormous crowd…

ROBIN: Oh my, please stop hovering and sit down! Amazing, it’s Woodstock with wings! (in a child’s voice) I don’t think I’m in Kansas anymore! (as John Wayne) Well, Pilgrims, as the frontier gynecologist said to the pretty lady, “You got a nice spread.”… Please don’t be afraid.

Crowd is already his. He roams the stage looking at the folks sitting ringside.

ROBIN (CONT’D): (as Bob Hope) This is wild…you kids here with the wings and the halos…this is like Da Nang meets Lady Gaga! (now in his own voice) Look at all of you, who’s that sitting in the balcony? Oh, Mr. Lincoln?

Abraham Lincoln, sitting in an opera box, smiles and waves.

ROBIN (CONT’D): Wanna know how the play ended? Spoiler alert!  Spoiler alert!

Lincoln doubles over, the crowd roars.

ROBIN (CONT’D): Oh my, he’s sitting with Lena Horne!  Honest, Abe, (quickly) I know, cheap but effective, you did pretty good for yourself. First the penny, now Ms. Horne, (singing) “Stormy Weather”… wow, you are so beautiful… (grabbing himself) The Emancipation Ejaculation. Don’t be afraid, so this is heaven?

VOICE: Well, it sure ain’t Iowa!

Big laugh from the audience. Robin peers through the spotlight.

ROBIN: Oh my, is that Burt Lancaster?

He rushes over and shakes Burt’s extended hand.

ROBIN (CONT’D): Man, when Burt Lancaster gets laughs, it must be heaven…I know what you’re thinking, Burt, but Kirk isn’t ready yet. What a night, how much money have we raised so far???

He moves around the stage searching the crowd. He finds a stoic-looking couple.

ROBIN (CONT’D): Oh, sad faces, there’s always a few. Let me guess: comedy development at CBS? I know you’re not the Rosenbergs.

Big laugh as he moves on and finds a young girl.


GIRL: Anne Frank.


ROBIN: Good to get out, isn’t it?  Anne, is it true that being Jews, on Sunday nights you would get Chinese food…takeout? (whispering as Otto Frank making a phone call with a German accent) Yes, kung pao chicken, spare ribs, and fried rice for eight…and leave it by the bookcase…

Huge laugh: He reaches out to her, they hold hands for a second, and she blows him a kiss. He moves on to a white-haired man.

ROBIN (CONT’D): Oh no, it can’t be…you are my hero. Greatest mind of the 20th century and I can’t remember your name…

Big laugh, he’s rolling…

MAN: Albert Einstein.

ROBIN: Al, wanna know my theory of relativity? Never lend relatives money ’cause you won’t get it back.

They shake hands as Einstein laughs and shakes his head as if to say, “He’s right.” Robin is in the audience now, someone comes up behind him, puts his hands over his eyes.

JONATHAN WINTERS: (as Maude Frickert) Guess who, baby boy?

ROBIN: Elaine Stritch?

Robin turns and throws himself at Jonathan.

ROBIN (CONT’D): Jon! Oh, Jon, you’re the first one I wanted to see…(Southern voice) ‘Cuz, Clem, that truck you sold me had a squirrel in the gas tank…

JONATHAN WINTERS: (Southern voice) Just marinatin’ him for lunch. We’ll talk later, my fuzzy friend.

They hug, Robin grabs Jonathan’s ass, Winters does a great take, the audience loves it.

ROBIN: (as a stereotypical American Indian) Many moons come. Me wonder what is in heaven. Now me know. Big crowds and no fire water.

MAN: Hi, Yo!

ROBIN: Except for this guy. Ed McMahon, everyone. Where’s my check?

Ed McMahon is laughing that huge belly laugh and then…

JOHNNY CARSON: Hey, kid…just taping across the hall?

ROBIN: Oh, yeah! The silver fox! This is amazing, I am so happy to see you, Johnny…(holds up his hand and talks with it like SeƱor Wences with a high-pitched voice) “and I am so happy too, let me say hi…you told me Johnny was God”…

Big laugh…

ROBIN (CONT’D): Well, he is to me, (looking around and skyward) I hope “You Know Who” didn’t hear that or I’ll be audited…

He heads back to the stage shaking hands, getting hugs. It is pure joy as he meets an African-American man. He puts his arm around him. Then as if he’s making an announcement…

ROBIN (CONT’D): Martin Luther King, white courtesy phone, Martin Luther King, white courtesy phone…

They hug and Dr. King extends his hand to a man sitting next to him…

ROBIN (CONT’D): Mr. Mandela, don’t be afraid, “I am a Yankee”…

Big laugh. Mandela is all smiles. Robin makes his way to the stage, crowd is loving every second, so is he…

ROBIN: This is amazing, thank you for being so great, I was nervous, sort of like a hemophiliac working in a razor blade factory, but this is beautiful, more than I could hope for, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it.

VOICE: Robin?

ROBIN: Hecklers, even in heaven, but they mean no harm, not like those dopes on Twitter…

No response; he continues…

ROBIN (CONT’D): Twitter?

VOICE: What’s that?

ROBIN: OH MY GOD, THIS IS HEAVEN!!!!  I can’t see you, what is your name?

VOICE: Robin, it’s me, Richard Pryor…

Robin jumps off the stage to embrace Pryor. It is long and emotional.


RICHARD: Hey, man, say hello to Lenny Bruce. George Carlin, you know…sit with us. Sinatra’s on next…

They all hug and Robin jumps on the stage, turns to the crowd.

ROBIN: Be good to your waitress, I’ll be here all week. Wait ... I’ll be here period!

The audience stands and cheers. He looks around at the beautiful sight, gazes at the starry sky, his eyes glisten.

ROBIN (CONT’D): Heaven, what a concept!

Robin makes his way back and sits with Pryor, Lenny Bruce, and George Carlin; they pat him on the back. He looks around and George Burns nods, as does Groucho. Gilda Radner blows a kiss, and Chaplin tips his derby in respect.

FRANK SINATRA (O.C.): Wow, that cat is something else, baby… Hit it, Jack… (music) “Start spreading the news…”



“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Friday, December 12, 2014

Santa Claus Loves Books ...

A Whole Tree of Books!

Ho! Ho! Ho! 

Merry Christmas!

I know you're busy, but I want to tell you a secret.
Shhhhh ... I know Santa Claus.  
Santa told me he loves to read and he loves filling his sleigh with books for gifts and stocking stuffers.

Hey!  How about my books?  I have one for every age.

A book is the perfect gift for children, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, sisters and brothers, and friends  ... 

Children’s Books:  [Paperback or Kindle]

Barking Spiders and Other Such Stuff

Barking Spiders 2 (the sequel)

Me Too! Preschool Poetry

Adult Books:  [Paperback or Kindle]

Anatomy of a Poet

Bits and Pieces from a Writer's Soul

Merry Christmas!  

~Hugs from CJ

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Night Before Nuptials: by Rick Turton

The Night Before Nuptials

The Night Before Nuptials

by Rick Turton

‘Twas the night before Nuptials,
And all through the house;
There was cursing and screaming
And fires to douse.

The tuxes were hung
In the closet with care;
In hopes of no wrinkles
And the dog sheds no hair.

The couple was nestled
All snuggled together;
Now, stop that you two!
[There’s time for that later].

The children were debating
This much is true;
Do we really have to do this?
So much left to do.

Should we elope or
Perhaps run away?
There’s much left to do;
For THIS wedding day!

With skinny ‘ol Mama
All dressed to the nines
And pudgy ‘ol Papa
Just waiting to dine.

Away from our TV‘s
We flew like a flash!
We should be getting ready
For our big bash!

When out on the lawn,
There arose such a clatter!
I sprang from my chair;
Lost control of my bladder!

When what to my wondering
Eyes should appear?
But family and friends
From far and from near.

There’s Steve & Mary Ann and
There’s Guido, you see.
Their presence would be missed
On that we agree.

Margo and Hanna,
And oh, look! There is Marty!
Came to join us
At this here massive party!

David, & Carolyn,
Scott & Jason too!
Cousin Margaret and Nathan
They know what to do!

There’s Ray, & there’s Hugh,
Shirley, Mike & Aunt Ellen!
All come to see,
What it is that we’re sellin’!

Veggie plates they’re making,
And dips just for you!
More rapid that eagles,
Their knives how they flew!

They went right to work
This I could not dread
Everything’s getting done…
So I’m off to bed!

The party winds down,
Like logs on the fire
But our only hope, is that your
Love will get brighter.

There are just two more thoughts
I’d like to leave with you.
Two pearls of wisdom,
In sight of this crew.

If you work real hard and
Love one another,
You two can be married
For as long as his Mother!

The next time we visit,
This much will be true:
We’ll be the feared in-laws…
But then ... so will you!

Rick Turton

Rick Turton
Vietnam 1970-1971

Other posts by Rick:

Poetry: by Vietnam Vet Rick Turton

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Senior Christmas Poem

Christmas at Rock-Away-Rest

I'm not making fun of seniors ...

I AM a senior.


~Author Unknown~

T'was the night before Christmas at Rock-A-Way Rest,
and all of us seniors were looking our best.
Our glasses, how sparkly, our smiles, oh how merry;
our punch bowl held prune juice, plus three drops of sherry.

Support hose were taped to our walkers in hope,
that Santa would bring us soft candies and soap.
We surely were lucky to be there with friends,
secure in our residence and our Depends.

Some of our grandkids sent Christmassy crafts,
like angels in snowsuits or penguins on rafts.
The dental assistant here borrowed our teeth.
From them she crafted our holiday wreath.

The bed pans, so shiny, all stood in a row,
reflecting our candles in a magnificent glow.
Our supper was festive, the joy wouldn't stop,
with creamy warm oatmeal with sprinkles on top.

Fruit salad with Jello, all jiggly and great,
and puree of fruitcake was spooned on each plate.
The social director then let us play games,
like "Where do You Live?" and "What Are Your Names?"

Old Mr. Looper was feeling his oats,
proclaiming that reindeer were just fancy goats.
Our resident wanderer was tied to her chair,
with hopes that at bedtime she still would be there.

Security lights on the new fallen snow
made night look like day to us old folks below.
Then out on the porch there arose quite a clatter
(But we're all so deaf that it just didn't matter).

A strange little fellow then flew through the door.
He tripped on the sill and fell flat on the floor.
T'was just the director, all togged out in red,
who giggled and chuckled and patted each head.

We knew from the way that he strutted and jived
that our social security checks had arrived.
We sang and we hummed in our monotone croak,
till finally the clock chimed its 8 p.m. stroke.

And soon we were snuggled again in our beds,
while the nurses distributed our nocturnal meds.
And so ends our Christmas at Rock-A-Way Rest.
'fore long you'll be with us ... we wish you the best!

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Sunday, December 7, 2014

"All About That Bass": by Meghan Trainor

This post is dedicated to (all of us) women who have been conditioned by society since childhood to strive for a Barbie Doll body ... and feel like failures over a few extra pounds ... enjoy! ~CJ

"All About That Bass" (Lyrics)

by Meghan Trainor

Because you know
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass

Yeah, it's pretty clear, I ain't no size two
But I can shake it, shake it
Like I'm supposed to do
'Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
And all the right junk in all the right places

I see the magazine workin' that Photoshop
We know that shit ain't real
C'mon now, make it stop
If you got beauty, beauty, just raise 'em up
'Cause every inch of you is perfect
From the bottom to the top

Yeah, my mama she told me don't worry about your size
She says, "Boys like a little more booty to hold at night."
You know I won't be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
So if that's what you're into then go ahead and move along

Because you know I'm
All about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass

I'm bringing booty back
Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that
No, I'm just playing. I know you think you're fat
But I'm here to tell ya
Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top

Yeah my mama she told me don't worry about your size
She says, "Boys like a little more booty to hold at night."
You know I won't be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
So if that's what you're into then go ahead and move along

Because you know I'm
All about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass

Because you know I'm
All about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass

Because you know I'm
All about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass
'Bout that bass, 'bout that bass
Hey, hey, ooh
You know you like this bass

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck