Monday, December 27, 2010

Past, Present, Future

Holy cow, a new year is fast approaching and 2011 is almost here already. I know a lot of you will be busy making New Year's Resolutions. I've always done that, too. Right at the outset of each new year, I wrote down all of the things I wanted to improve upon. I guess I figured it's at least good to have a plan.

This year, I'm not going to make any New Year's Resolutions. It's not that I think it's wrong, but I'm just different now. I've decided that I've reached an age where, instead of always looking forward and worrying about it, I'm going to live more and more in the here and now. There's just no sense in wishing and hoping my life away by living in the future -- the future will be whatever it's supposed to be. God knows, time moves way too fast, and I've never found the time to address New Year's Resolutions anyway.

As to the past, the past is just that, past. We sure can't do anything to change it. We can only learn from it. So this New Year's Day, I feel it's much more important that I look back over the past year, but only briefly. I'm on a journey of self discovery now and I need to keep an eye on what I've learned, and what I have yet to learn, from the past year.

As a new year dawns, may we all be happy with who we are. If we must have a future plan, let it be to find our our inner peace and to share more love with those who matter most.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010


I was just thinking how remarkable it is how some people can understand who you really are, without meeting you, just by reading between the lines and verses of words you've strung together with common threads of humor, loneliness, delight, grief, desire, playfulness and, by adding a little fuel of their own -- some heart and soul and just a touch of magic -- they clearly 'see' you as if they've read your personal autobiography.

I got the nicest email from a friend like that in Indiana. Rusty is an upbeat, honest, and witty kind of guy that I've known for years and years, and yet I've never met him in person. His real name is Russell Daily, a thoughtful and devoted family man, and a gifted writer and poet.

Our paths first crossed in an online writing community where we soon realized we shared the same zany sense of humor, especially when it came to writing poetry for children. Over the years, we've co-written many poems together and formed a wonderful friendship. Here is what he wrote:

(Rusty and his lovely wife, Kathleen)

Just using my imagination of you sitting at your computer. Hope you enjoy.

My Mentor
by Rusty Daily

The scene:
A small wisp of
hot morning coffee.
Puffs, their proximity close,
prepared to negate
the effects of sorrow
or unmitigated laughter.
The magnetic keyboard
pulls magic from
the heart and soul.
A small knowing smile
and far away look,
into hearts

The moods,
a roller coaster of:
The playful child.
The adult-adult.
The Lost Love.
The Consoler.
The Healer.

The Effect:
A virtual crossroads
of those looking for ...

I love it, thank you. It does sound like me.  It's uncanny, how you know the real me, you know, the one I wear just under my skin and choose to show to very few. So intuitive, insightful, and grand you are, Russell Daily, and I'm proud you are my friend. ~CJ

** It is my hope that someday, I will meet Rusty in person. See, I have a hug I've been carrying around for years.  It has his name on it and I want to pass along.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book: "Rudolph": by Bob May

A man named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night.

His 4-year-old daughter, Barbara, sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Bob's wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer Little Barbara couldn't understand why her mommy could never come home. Barbara looked up into her dad's eyes and asked, "Why isn't Mommy just like everybody else's Mommy?" 

Bob's jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of grief, but also of anger. It had been the story of Bob's life. Life always had to be different for Bob.

Small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to compete in sports. He was often called names he'd rather not remember. From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in. 

Bob did complete college, married his wife and was grateful to get a job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with his little girl. But it was all short-lived. Evelyn's bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums. Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938.

Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn't even afford to buy a Christmas gift. But if he couldn't buy a gift, he was determined to make one - a storybook! Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animal's story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. 

Again and again Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling. Who was the character? What was the story all about? The story Bob May created was his own autobiography, but in fable form. 

The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was. The name of the character? A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose. Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day. But the story doesn't end there.

The general manager of 
Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. Wards went on to print, "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores. 

By 1946, Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph. That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book.

In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all rights back to Bob May. The book became a best seller. Many toy and marketing deals followed and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter. But the story doesn't end there either. 

Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and 
Dinah Shore , it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.  

"Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of "White Christmas."

The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning back to bless him again and again. And Bob May learned the lesson, just like his dear friend Rudolph, that being different isn't so bad. In fact, being different can be a 

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

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

When You're Sick

I'm sick and I'm not happy about it. I guess I'm not a very good patient and maybe it's because my patience with being sick is also sick. I'm sure it has a lot to do with having so much to do and not having the energy to do anything at all, except lay around sucking down juice, blowing disgusting stuff into tissues, gargling salt water, and feeling sorry for myself ... know what I mean?

I always miss my mother, but this is when I really miss her love the most. It's the many caring things she did, especially when any of us were sick. We knew whatever we were sick with really just had to run its course, but it was so soothing, knowing she was there with us. We had the feeling that she could heal anything with her love. She would sit and hold us and whisper that we would get better, or maybe surprise us with a cherry popsicle, knowing it would help our sore throats. If we had the flu, she would steady us as we stood over the toilet to be sick, and run a cool washcloth over our foreheads after we had thrown up, yet again. Mama was just there, and that always made everything feel better.

It wasn't until I had children of my own that I understood. You can't help but be soothing when your child is sick. Your heart is filled with such love for them anyway, and when they're sick, you intuitively feel they need you even more -- and you need them to feel even more than usual just how much you love them.

A few weeks ago, my youngest daughter, nearly a thousand miles away, called. She told me she and the kids were down with strep throat. She had given the boys their antibiotic and cherry popsicles and then tucked them into bed with a couple of bedtime stories and kisses. Then she added, "I'm feeling really awful and I just needed my mom. I called to be with you, and to hear your voice."

I've come full circle now. I understand. I truly understand, and tonight I'm going to have a cherry popsicle ...

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Saturday, December 4, 2010


I remember one Saturday morning when I was young and Daddy was outside mowing the lawn. I was oldest of six children, and about seventeen at the time. We were all watching TV when he came into the house carrying something in his hand and he was smiling. When he opened his hand, we could see four tiny, furless bunnies.  Their eyes hadn't even opened yet.

Daddy told us he found them in a hole in the backyard while he was mowing. He thought maybe the mother was the rabbit in the street a block away, hit by a car.  They were orphans! We immediately jumped into action.

My youngest sister, four, had baby bottles for her dolls -- the good kind with rubber nipples -- and she excitedly donated them for feeding bunnies. Daddy said we should feed them on a two-hour, round-the-clock feeding schedule ... did he say TWO-HOURS? As in EVERY TWO HOURS? Oh man, we were glad it was summer and we had no school! Mama and Daddy each took a turn, too, so it wasn't actually as bad as we thought it would be.

After the first week, we had only two bunnies left. Muffy and Fluffy had died. We carefully put each bunny into a shoe box and buried it in our backyard. My brother, Tim, acting as minister, said a few words and we each in turn said "Amen" at the end.

After the second week, we had lost another bunny, Brownie, leaving only one. The last one, Thumper, was beginning to look more and more like a bunny. He/she was growing fur and its ears were longer. I don't have to tell you, I'm sure, this little bunny was catered to by the whole family. Daddy called the local feed store to ask when Thumper might be ready for real food. The manager told him when the bunny had teeth, he could have rabbit pellets. Until that time, though, only milk.

Back then, our family was big on tent camping. We had a huge circus-type tent because there were so many of us. We usually went to Chippawa Lake, Tappan, Seneca Lake, or Lake Hope once or twice during each summer. That year, the camping trip was to be in late August at Lake Hope. Daddy and Mama thought it would be the ideal place and time to set Thumper free -- "After all, he would be a grown rabbit by then and it wouldn't be fair to him not to be free." We would hate to see him go, but we all loved him and agreed it would be the best thing for him.

Summer passed way too fast. The camping trip loomed just ahead. Then the day arrived and all packed and car loaded, we drove to Lake Hope and what was to be a sad farewell. We knew our routine -- each of us had age-appropriate jobs to do -- and after we had set up camp, we took turns holding Thumper and saying our good-byes. There were even a few unashamed tears. Then we walked him into the woods and watched him scamper off into the trees.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, the first morning when we woke up, Thumper was sleeping in the tent with us. We were all so happy to see him! But after a second round of goodbyes and tears, we took him even deeper into the woods and that was truly the last we ever saw of him. That was our Thumper-Summer, a very special memory from childhood, one none of us has ever forgotten.

I hope your weekend is grand!

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Santa Claus: Through a Child's Eyes

I got a phone call the other day from one of my grandsons. He's five. He told me he can't wait for Christmas and wondered what I thought Santa Claus was doing now -- right NOW.

I turned it around and asked him what he thought Santa was up to right now.

Without a second's hesitation, here's what he told me:

"Well Gram, Santa is prob’ly practicing HO-HO-HO-ing, and polishing his sleigh, and feeding all the reindeer.

I think Rudolph is ready to lead and his nose is already shining.

The elves are prob’ly putting toys in Santa’s red bag, and even if they get up early every morning, it will still take them all the way to Christmas Eve to get all the toys in the sleigh!

The elves are prob’ly cleaning up the workshop now, 'cause pretty soon, they have to start making toys for next year.

I bet elves are still finding wish lists from kids all over the place, and they prob'ly should tell Santa if the kids were naughty -- but maybe they won‘t, ‘cause tattling isn‘t nice.

Mrs. Claus is prob'ly cooking a lot, 'cause it wouldn’t be good to have a skinny Santa -- [just in case somebody peeks when he comes down the chimney]. She's even baking stuff for Santa’s trip and getting carrots for the reindeer in case they get hungry.  But Santa gets cookies and milk from kids at the houses where he goes, so that will keep him fat, too.

By the time Christmas Eve Day is here, the only things Mrs. Claus has to do is make sure his red suit is clean, his boots are shiny, and that Santa takes a nap, ‘cause he can't be cranky on Christmas Eve!"

I asked him, "Do you know why we give and get presents at Christmas?"

He said, “Sure, Grammy. It’s ‘cause God let His little boy, Jesus, be born. See we can’t give Him birthday presents ‘cause now He lives up in heaven, so they invented Santa Claus to give Jesus’ presents to kids.

Then -- I don’t know zactly when -- but then Santa Claus got real.  Gram, did you know we go to church to thank God for giving us Jesus and for giving us His presents?”

“I sure do.  How do you know Santa Clause is real?” I asked him.

“Grammy, if he isn’t real, how can we write letters to him? How can we sit on his lap and talk to him? [a loud sigh on the phone]  It’s just something all kids know.

After we hung up, I let my thoughts drift. Who could argue the innocent wisdom of a five-year-old?

As warm and fuzzy as it all is, I can’t help but get just a little melancholy at Christmas time.  It's all over in such a short time -- about as long as it takes all the little ones to unwrap what it took us weeks and months to buy.

When we look at Christmas through a child‘s eyes, believing in Santa Claus isn’t really all that bad, is it?  He is pretend, yes, but as long as children understand the truth about Christmas, then the belief in Santa is harmless -- and it brings such joy to children.

Santa and the whole mystique of Christmas is something we never forget. Let them pretend and believe ... it's such a huge part of childhood and, in the blink of an eye it's over, like a brilliant flash of light.

I'll always remember my Christmases.  I had the most fun with things that sparked creativity and imagination -- the box a huge present came in so easily became a castle or a pirate ship. The smaller boxes we taped together, making all sorts of ‘necessary’ additions to our cardboard wonders.

As I sit here this morning, wrapping a doll cradle for my granddaughter, I'm thinking about what my grandson said. It was all true. The cradle is a birthday gift I wish I could give to Baby Jesus.

Oh gee. Wait a second. Look at this ... I just finished a roll of wrapping paper and this long empty tube would make a superfantabulistic telephone! Hey, ya wanna play?

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

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Feeling Alive

I think I told you, Robert and I headed northeast to New Hampshire last weekend for Thanksgiving with two of my daughters and their families. Since we all live so far apart, we always hold it on the Saturday after, to give everyone time to get there and no one has to leave because of work the next day. My family is used to it, having done it this way for nearly forty years -- we decided long ago, it wasn't the actual day Thanksgiving was on that was important. It's what we're thankful FOR that's important, that and of course, getting as many of us together in one place as we can, so we can all be thankful together.

We had such a good time (big sigh) and many precious memories were saved. By being there, it meant I had been with all three of my daughters within a two-week period of time. I had also enjoyed the warm and wonderful fuzzies of having been with all nine of my grandchildren, too -- not an easy task when they're spread out in three different states, from North Carolina all the way up the coast to Connecticut and New Hampshire. Maybe next year, it will even be all three girls and their families ... I have so much to be thankful for.

As we were driving home on Monday, Robert paid me one of the nicest compliments I've ever received. "Honey, you're a wonderful lady, and I've always thought you have such a great personality ... but, Cath', when you're with your grandchildren ... that's when you really come ALIVE. Now I've seen the REAL you." (Thank you, sweet Robert)

I couldn't close this blog today without sharing a little happening ... Saturday, I found my three-year-old grandson with his finger up his nose to the second knuckle. I asked, "Would you like a tissue, sweetheart?"

My grandson: "No sanks, Grammy, I got it ..."

I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful!!

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