Sunday, December 16, 2012

Morgan Freeman: Newtown Tragedy

An Angel Crying

Morgan Freeman's take on what happened in the Newtown Tragedy:

"You want to know, "Why?" This may sound cynical, but here is why. It's because of the way the media reports it. 

Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter -- like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of one single victim of Columbine?

Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and they want to top it by doing something even worse, and going out in a memorable way. 

Why a grade school? Why children? Because he'll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

CNN's article says that if the body count "holds up", this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening.

Fox News has plastered the killer's face on all their reports for hours. Are there any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer's identity? None that I've seen, because they don't sell. 

So congratulations, sensationalist media. You've just lit the fire for someone else out there to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man's name, and by remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research, instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news."

Victoria Soto , teacher was 27.

Allison Wyatt was six.

Benjamin Wheeler was six.

Avielle Richman was six.

Jessica Rekos was six.

Caroline Previdi was six.

Noah Pozner was six.

Jack Pinto was six.

Emilie Parker was six.

Grace McDonnell was seven.

James Mattioli was five.

Jesse Lewis was six.

Chase Kowalski was seven.

Catherine Hubbard was six.

Madeleine Hsu was six.

Dylan Hockley was six.

Ana Marquez-Greene was six.

Josephine Gay was seven.

Olivia Engel was six.

Daniel Barden was seven.

Charlotte Bacon was six.

Rachel Davino was 29.

Mary Sherlach, the school psychologist, was 56.

Anne Marie Murphy was 52.

Lauren Rousseau, a teacher, was 30.

Dawn Hochsprung, the principal, was 47.

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Lesson in Irony

A good friend sent me the following in an email this morning:

A Lesson in Irony . . .

Food Stamp Graph

The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing the greatest number of free meals and food stamps ever -- to 46 million people!

It Works for the Animals ...

Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of The Interior, asks us, "Please Do Not Feed the Animals."

Their stated reason for the policy is, 

"Because the animals will grow dependent upon handouts, and will not learn to take care of themselves."

This ends today's lesson ... kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Rather than hand out food stamps and free meals, shouldn't the government help them find employment and/or educate them so they can earn and be independent? Would this not also give them a true sense of self worth? I'm sure you are familiar with a Biblical quote about GIVING them fish, or TEACHING them HOW to fish ... I feel the government is putting a Bandaid on the problem, instead of suturing a gaping wound ...

The same good friend who sent me this article, himself a Vietnam vet, wrote the following comment in a veteran's group on Facebook (and I quote):

"My feelings are that EVERYONE right out of high school ought to have to do 2 years of service for this country, whether it's in the military, the job corp or even the peace corp, with the government putting aside money for their education.

This breaks the apron strings back at home and, besides giving them skills in service, would give them a lasting sense of self worth. Then after their two years of service, they could go on to college if they wish, or they would be far better equipped to get a job. This gets them away from the helping hands at home and from gov't agencies..........just my 2 cents worth."

I think what he says is worth far more than a mere 2 cents, don't you?

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

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Folded Napkin

A Trucker's Story

(Author Unknown)

I try not to be biased, but I had my doubts about hiring Stevie. His placement counselor assured me that he would be a good, reliable busboy. 

I had never had a mentally handicapped employee and wasn't sure I wanted one. I wasn't sure how my customers would react to Stevie. He was short, a little dumpy with the smooth facial features and thick-tongued speech of Down Syndrome.

I wasn't worried about most of my trucker customers because truckers don't generally care who buses tables as long as the meatloaf platter is good and the pies are homemade. 

The four-wheeler drivers were the ones who concerned me; the mouthy college kids traveling to school; the yuppie snobs who secretly polish their silverware with their napkins for fear of catching some dreaded "truck stop germ" the pairs of white-shirted business men on expense accounts who think every truck stop waitress wants to be flirted with. I knew those people would be uncomfortable around Stevie so I closely watched him for the first few weeks.

I shouldn't have worried. After the first week, Stevie had my staff wrapped around his stubby little finger, and within a month my truck regulars had adopted him as their official truck stop mascot. 

After that, I really didn't care what the rest of the customers thought of him. He was like a 21-year-old in blue jeans and Nikes, eager to laugh and eager to please, but fierce in his attention to his duties. Every salt and pepper shaker was exactly in its place, not a bread crumb or coffee spill was visible when Stevie got done with the table.

Our only problem was persuading him to wait to clean a table until after the customers were finished. He would hover in the background, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, scanning the dining room until a table was empty. Then he would scurry to the empty table and carefully bus dishes and glasses onto cart and meticulously wipe the table up with a practiced flourish of his rag. If he thought a customer was watching, his brow would pucker with added concentration. He took pride in doing his job exactly right, and you had to love how hard he tried to please each and every person he met.

Over time, we learned that he lived with his mother, a widow who was disabled after repeated surgeries for cancer. They lived on their Social Security benefits in public housing two miles from the truck stop. Their social worker, who stopped to check on him every so often, admitted they had fallen between the cracks. 

Money was tight, and what I paid him was probably the difference between them being able to live together and Stevie being sent to a group home. That's why the restaurant was a gloomy place that morning last August, the first morning in three years that Stevie missed work.

He was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester getting a new valve or something put in his heart. His social worker said that people with Down Syndrome often have heart problems at an early age so this wasn't unexpected, and there was a good chance he would come through the surgery in good shape and be back at work in a few months.

A ripple of excitement ran through the staff later that morning when word came that he was out of surgery, in recovery, and doing fine. Frannie, the head waitress, let out a war hoop and did a little dance in the aisle when she heard the good news. Bell Ringer, one of our regular trucker customers, stared at the sight of this 50-year-old grandmother of four doing a victory shimmy beside his table. Frannie blushed, smoothed her apron and shot Belle Ringer a withering look.

He grinned. "OK, Frannie, what was that all about?," he asked.

"We just got word that Stevie is out of surgery and going to be okay."

"I was wondering where he was. I had a new joke to tell him. What was the surgery about?"

Frannie quickly told Bell Ringer and the other two drivers sitting at his booth about Stevie's surgery, then sighed: "Yeah, I'm glad he is going to be OK," she said. "But I don't know how he and his Mom are going to handle all the bills. From what I hear, they're barely getting by as it is." Belle Ringer nodded thoughtfully, and Frannie hurried off to wait on the rest of her tables.

Since I hadn't had time to round up a busboy to replace Stevie and really didn't want to replace him, the girls were busing their own tables that day until we decided what to do. After the morning rush, Frannie walked into my office. She had a couple of paper napkins in her hand and a funny look on her face.

"What's up?" I asked.

"I didn't get that table where Bell Ringer and his friends were sitting cleared off after they left, and Pony Pete and Tony Tipper were sitting there when I got back to clean it off," she said. "This was folded and tucked under a coffee cup."

She handed the napkin to me, and three $20 bills fell onto my desk when I opened it. On the outside, in big, bold letters, was printed "Something For Stevie."

Pony Pete asked me what that was all about," she said, "so I told him about Stevie and his Mom and everything, and Pete looked at Tony and Tony looked at Pete, and they ended up giving me this." She handed me another paper napkin that had "Something For Stevie" scrawled on its outside. Two $50 bills were tucked within its folds.

Frannie looked at me with wet, shiny eyes, shook her head and said simply: "truckers."

That was three months ago. Today is Thanksgiving, the first day Stevie is supposed to be back to work. His placement worker said he's been counting the days until the doctor said he could work, and it didn't matter at all that it was a holiday. He called 10 times in the past week, making sure we knew he was coming, fearful that we had forgotten him or that his job was in jeopardy.

I arranged to have his mother bring him to work. I then met them in the parking lot and invited them both to celebrate his day back. Stevie was thinner and paler, but couldn't stop grinning as he pushed through the doors and headed for the back room where his apron and busing cart were waiting.

"Hold up there, Stevie, not so fast," I said. I took him and his mother by their arms. "Work can wait for a minute. To celebrate you coming back, breakfast for you and your mother is on me!"

I led them toward a large corner booth at the rear of the room. I could feel and hear the rest of the staff following behind as we marched through the dining room. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw booth after booth of grinning truckers empty and join the procession. We stopped in front of the big table. Its surface was covered with coffee cups, saucers and dinner plates, all sitting slightly crooked on dozens of folded paper napkins.

"First thing you have to do, Stevie, is clean up this mess," I said. I tried to sound stern. Stevie looked at me, and then at his mother, then pulled out one of the napkins. It had "Something for Stevie" printed on the outside. As he picked it up, two $10 bills fell onto the table.

Stevie stared at the money, then at all the napkins peeking from beneath the tableware, each with his name printed or scrawled on it. I turned to his mother.

"There's more than $10,000 in cash and checks on table, all from truckers and trucking companies that heard about your problems. "Happy Thanksgiving,"

Well, it got real noisy about that time, with everybody hollering and shouting, and there were a few tears, as well. But you know what's funny? While everybody else was busy shaking hands and hugging each other, Stevie, with a big, big smile on his face, was busy clearing all the cups and dishes from the table. Best worker I ever hired.

Plant a seed and watch it grow ... if you shed a tear, hug yourself, because you are a compassionate person.

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

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Teaching Old Dogs: The First "DUH"

Our prized possession
After a series of sad events, a lot of discussion and planning, we did it.  A month ago, Robert and I finally made our very long move from the mountains of Pennsylvania to The Villages, in Florida, and it's everything we hoped for and more.

This place is like Disneyworld for grownups!  Here, everyone's second car is a golf cart and you have free membership for life in the many world-class country clubs and golf courses scattered throughout The Villages.

We can drive our golf cart  anywhere we need to go, whether it's to a restaurant, a town square for free nightly concerts, or to shopping centers -- even through the drive-through lanes at the bank --or Dunkin' Donuts!

Robert and I love going on adventures to see if we can find our way to the many different areas here -- you have to understand it's a BIG place -- for instance, there are several Super Walmart stores here, but our favorite one is five miles from our house on one of the major roads, a road you can't drive a golf cart on unless it is street licensed and ours is not.

We found that out quite by accident when a Sheriff's car in the next lane backed his car up to ask us what the hell we were doing on that part of Morse Road without a street licensed golf cart.  We apologized and explained that we were new and learning.  He pointed out a golf cart tunnel and told us to get our butts off the main road and into the tunnel ... whew, that was close.

Like most people, we now use the specially designed golf cart roads, paths and tunnels to wind around the many golf courses, individual villages, and shopping areas. You can get anywhere you need to go in The Villages -- but first, you have to know where those roads, paths, and tunnels ARE when you're in a golf cart.

Anyway, Robert and I set out last Sunday to find our way to our favorite Super Walmart Center, five miles away, on one of the main drags.  We did it -- although we learned something very important on our little trek.

On the way home, every time we hit a bump, we heard the blast of what sounded like a car horn.  At times, we heard it without even going over a bump.  "What the heck IS that?"  We both asked, looking at each other in horror, the noise filling the air around us.

Even other folks in golf carts gave us funny looks as they passed by us.  We asked one couple if they had ever heard their cart do that.  They shook their heads and said, "No".

We pulled off the path and Robert called the golf cart dealership and explained the problem.  The guy on the other end of the cell phone told him we probably had a short in the horn.  He said we could bring it in on Monday and he would check it out.  Horn?  Hmmm, what horn?

Robert tentatively asked where the horn was -- there wasn't one on the steering wheel, only a small clip to hold a golf score card.  There was silence on the phone.  Then the man calmly explained that the horn was on the floor, just to the left of the brake pedal.

Problem solved.  Robert had been resting his foot there intermittently.  DUH ... I guess you really DO learn something new every day, even old dogs like us ... but I wonder how many other golf cart owners don't know they have a horn on board?

How to Make a Memory
The Ultimate DUH

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

Friday, October 5, 2012

Me and Rusty Daily: Poems

I'm lucky to have a grownup friend who, like me, also likes to get into a child's mind and write how they think. 

Rusty Daily
His name is Rusty Daily and, while I've never met Rusty in person, he is a good friend.
Rusty and I have written many poems together just like this: He'll write a few lines and email them to me. Then I read what he wrote, (and usually I laugh), then add a couple of lines of my own, email it back to him, and it goes back and forth, until a poem is born. 

It's fun! The biggest challenge about co-writing is coming up with the title!

Here are a couple of my favorites! Thank you, Rusty-friend!

All By Myself

by Rusty and CJ

I gotta play by myself today
'cause Mommy is cleaning and mopping.
Then she’ll be calling a sitter
for when she goes grocery shopping.

The sitter, well she’s really boring.
She’s always on the dumb phone,
or painting her nails, or combing her hair,
so I guess I’ll be playing alone …

I think I will get out my play dough
and make a spaghetti pie.
Or maybe, I'll feed all my dollies
so they won't be fussy and cry.

At two, I’ll watch my TV shows.
Till then, I'll build with my blocks.
When I'm done, I'll pick them all up
IF they'll go back in the box.

Maybe my secret friend and I
will draw a picture or two
with all my favorite crayons,
'specially the red green and blue.

I really like my toys and games
and my other good stuff … but gee,
I think ALL playing is funner
when my Mommy is here beside me.

Tattle Telling

by Rusty and CJ

Little sister is a pain.
She makes me so darn mad!
She does this little sister stuff
that's always silly and bad.

Like at supper tonight,
she hated her meat
and after chewing it up,
she spit it at me.

When mom wasn't looking,
she flipped peas in the air.
They were all over the floor,
even some in my hair.

I yelled to my mom
and I yelled to my dad.
I said Sissy was naughty
and being real bad

but I'm the one sitting
all alone in a corner
like that silly old guy,
Little Jack Horner.

Mom put me here
in a stupid time out,
'cause Sissy was crying
and starting to pout.

She said I teased her,
then she started yelling,
and like dumb little girls,
she started tattle telling.

She told mom and dad
that I said she was fat,
that I called her a stinker
and a spoiled little brat.

I showed them the stuff,
like the peas in my hair,
and the yucky chewed meat
that was still on my chair.

but I'm still in the corner
and I guess I should be,
'cause I shouldn't have said
all those things to Sissy.

I agreed I am older,
wiped the peas off my chin,
and told Sissy I'm sorry.
Geez, big brothers can't win!

We have to keep Sissy ...
she's their pride and joy,
but I wish they'd just bring me
a new baby ... a boy.

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Interview for Indie Author Network

Today I was asked to do an interview with host, Alan Ghostman Place, of Indie Author Network.  Thank you most sincerely, Alan!  It was a pleasure.

Interview with Alan Ghostman Place:

Alan Ghostman Place
In the chair today is my friend from The Villages FL, author, children's author, blogger and published poet CJ Heck. 

Hello CJ. 

Hi Alan! It's always a pleasure to talk with you. Thank you for inviting me.

You and I have been chatting a while. For those new to your work, would you please be kind enough to give us a short resume' of any new books please?

Since my first book, "Barking Spiders (and Other Such Stuff)", was traditionally published in 2000, I've spent a lot of time promoting it through my website, author school visits, and by teaching poetry workshops in schools.

During that time, I also worked on a sequel book, "Barking Spiders 2", which I illustrated and self-published in September of 2011. I'm proud to say, it was nominated for the 2011 Cybils Children's Book Award in the poetry category. It didn't win, but it was wonderful just to have the nomination and the recognition.

I also self-published a book of poetry for preschool children, "Me Too!", in October of last year. Young children love rhyme and rhythm! I'm a firm believer that little ones who are introduced to poetry at a very young age develop a lifelong love for poetry. Like the "Barking Spiders Poetry" books, this, too is written from a child's point of view and helps them find answers to the puzzling world around them.

The third book I self-published last year, "Bits and Pieces", is a collection of both flash fiction and short stories, twenty in all. It's my first venture into any books for grownups, but it won't be my last. I really enjoyed the challenge.

I also published an ebook of poetry for grownups, "A Reflection of Feelings". It's only available through Kindle and Bookrix at the moment, but I plan to also self-publish it in print within the next few weeks.

Your biography said you are from The Villages, are you a Florida-born lady?

Heaven's no. I've moved around a lot since I left my home state of Ohio, where I was born and raised.

As you are a noted children's author, do you find children hard to write for?

No, quite the contrary, Alan. I love writing for children and I find that it comes easily -- what I find difficult is writing for grownups! (Hahaha) I seem to be able to get inside children's minds and see what concerns them -- or my inner child does, and she's the one who actually does the writing.

Have their tastes changed much over the years since you have been writing? I was thinking more in general terms than the new trends like Harry Potter books.
I find that children love being challenged, both then and now, and I can't see where that will ever change. They love poetry that makes them think, laugh, feel, and even cry. They write amazing poetry themselves, which I allow them to share with me during my school visits.

I see from your profile pictures, you do a lot of school work. Do you find children more inquisitive?

Absolutely -- they question almost everything! That's what makes school visits so much fun for me. When I read a poem, they want to know where the inspiration came from, how long it took to write it, etc. Children ask very intelligent questions, too, about the writing and publishing business, itself, some even hoping to become authors.

As a published author, what part of the trade did you find most frustrating?

That's easy, Alan. Rejection letters from publishers! It's frustrating when the rejection letter is positive about your manuscript, but has the caveat added, "… but it's not what we're looking for at the present time …" I want to scream at them, "Then tell me what you ARE looking for at the present time -- maybe I have the EXACT manuscript you're looking for right here!

I love your title "Barking Spiders," what gave you the idea?

(laughing) Ahhh, a question many people ask me.
When my three daughters were small, we drove from New Hampshire to Ohio to visit family. While we were there, we went to see my youngest brother, Chip, and his wife at their home in Columbus.

Chip, the girls and I were all sitting on the floor playing Chutes and Ladders, a children's board game. About midway through the game, my oldest daughter, who was about seven, passed gas. She was embarrassed and immediately put her hands over her face and apologized. I was about to tell her it was all right, when my brother jumped up and yelled, "Sue! Grab the can of Raid! It's under the sink! Hurry! We've got a barking spider in here!"

The girls and I started to laugh, a huge gut-wrenching laughter that goes on and on and on! The kind where you're almost done and just thinking about it makes you start all over again! The kind where your eyes water, your nose runs, and you have to hold your sides because they hurt!

Okay, I told you that, so I could tell you this. Years later, when Chip turned forty, Sue had a surprise over-the-hill party for him. I wasn't able to go to the party from New Hampshire, so I wrote the poem, "Barking Spiders", as a gag gift for Chip. I asked Sue to make Chip read the poem out loud to all of the attendees ... I know, I can be a real booger, but I'm his oldest sister and he loves me (giggle).

NOW you know what a barking spider is.

Barking Spiders

The barking spiders all march in
just past dinnertime.
Some big, some small, they come to call
floating on the wind behind.

Each is clearly noticed,
although they can't be seen.
You're positive they're there though,
'cause your nose is very keen.

You know you can't outrun 'em
and a net won't get 'em caught.
Your friends laugh 'cause they're funny ...
Your mom yells 'cause they're not.

So open all the windows!
Crack the vents real fast!
'Cause these aren't normal spiders ...
barking spiders are … just gas.

Did you have to ask many publishers, before you got accepted?

Uh huh. I had a two-foot pile of rejection letters, Alan, but you know what? It only takes one
"yes". Just one "yes", and you're a published author. I always tell everyone to be persistent!

Are there any genres you would like to try to write but feel you cannot?

Not really. I've written short stories in horror, romance, science fiction, memoirs, and fantasy. I've also written erotic poetry, but I don't really have an interest in writing erotic fiction. I'm satisfied. Presently, I'm writing my first novel-length book, but it's slow moving.

I tend to write cross-genre, have you any thoughts on moving genre, or will you keep to what you are known for?

As they say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." (laughing) I tend to stay with what has worked well for me.

I ask this of all my friends who write, was there a time when you thought. 'This is not going to work!' And thought about giving up?

There were times when I felt terribly frustrated, but I never had thoughts of giving up. I love writing -- it's as much a part of me as my heart is. There are things down inside that are uncomfortable where they are. They want me to let them out into the light, so I do.

Who would you say was your biggest influence?

I would have to say my mother was my biggest influence for my love of poetry and she always encouraged me to write. I was the oldest of six children. When we were small, I can remember my mother entertaining us on a rainy day when we had to stay inside. She was ironing and she recited tongue twisters that we were encouraged to learn. I still love tongue twisters! Anyway, I think that's where my love of rhyme and rhythm, vis a vis poetry, came from.

Would you say you had been influenced by the work of authors, if so who? Or was it the genre that drew you?

Besides my mother's influence, I've always loved reading poetry by poetry greats like Shel Silverstein, Ogden Nash, and several others; however, I would have to say, my inner child is the driving force behind my writing for children and I hope she never grows up!

Have you suffered writers block? If so how did you get past it?

I think everyone suffers writers block at times. I tend to just wait it out -- the writing and inspiration always come back when it's time. With writing, it is what it is. Only a rare few are as prolific as Steven King.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of writing a book?

Do it. Just do it! Be persistent and never give up -- you have to want it so bad you can taste it.

Before we leave. Is there anything you think I have left out?

No, Alan, you have been very thorough, and more than fair, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts here for your readers.

I would like to thank you CJ, for your time in answering the questions.

It's been a pleasure!

One more thing:  Would you please give us a couple of examples of your work?

Anatomy of a Poet

Go in through the eyes of a poet
deep into her alphabet mind.
Ideas like flotsam and jetsam
dodge poetry fragments and lines.

Beware the dark shadows of memory,
knife-sharp and bloodied by time,
or gentle, orgasmic and sensual,
swirling eddies, some without rhyme.

Softly notice the spirit in hiding.
Tiptoe past the bruised heart mending there,
knitting poems, pearls strung on a necklace,
unfinished jewels everywhere.

Take note on your tour of this poet
the outside no different you see,
but inside, my God, a passion abyss,
the poet, the woman, the me.


Full Circle

A little girl clops in mommy's heels,
her dress, a floppy hat.
The borrowed pearls she's chosen
dangle halfway down her back.
Her face a shining rainbow,
ruby lips, cheeks tinted pink,
blue splashes on both eyelids,
powder snowflakes in the sink.
She'll go twirling in a ballroom,
a princess with her knight.
Or better still, be mommy
out with daddy Friday night.
In a child's imagination
everything is crystal clear,
yet the truth beneath the surface
is revealed in mommy's mirror.
That little girl is all grown up,
clothes and shoes are now my size...
but the mirror of maturation
… is my own daughters’ eyes.

CJ Heck is a published author, writer, blogger and poet who lives with her partner, Robert Cosmar, also an author, in The Villages FL. She is also a Vietnam War widow.

CJ has three daughters and eleven grandchildren. For more information, please visit her website, Barking Spiders Poetry, or call 352-299-5634.

Where to find CJ:

Please visit the Indie Author Network and Alan Ghostman Place!

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

Friday, March 2, 2012

Memories of My Dad

My Dad, Joe Parrish
I woke up this morning feeling homesick for my dad. It was only 4:30 in the morning though, and way too early to call him.

At his age, he doesn't hop out of bed quite as easily as he did when I was a child and growing up with all my siblings on Elm Street in Coshocton, Ohio.

When I was a little girl, my dad was ten feet tall. He had all of the answers for all of your questions and he could fix anything that broke.

If you got a boo boo, he would have you soak it in Epsom Salts and it got better -- if it was a cut, he painted it with "daddy's red paint" (Mercurochrome) and the cut got better, too.

In this child's eyes, my dad was the smartest man in the world and he could do anything.

He was a quiet man. It took a lot to make him raise his voice, and believe me when I say, with six children in the house, an assortment of foster kids in and out over the years, plus our friends, you would think he would blow once in awhile, but he kept his cool, no matter what.

I remember when Daddy taught each of us how to drive. We had one cardinal rule which was never to be broken. We had to wear our seat belt. We knew it was because he loved us and wanted us to be safe. We kids all secretly knew that dad would probably petition the church to add a number Eleven to the Ten Commandments: "Thou Shalt Not Forget Thy Seat Belt".

Not to wear a seat belt in our family meant losing our driving privileges for two weeks. If we broke that rule, (we all learned this the hard way) he never said a word. When the guilty party drove home, parked, and got out of the car, Daddy met us at the front door, silently holding his hand out. We didn't have to ask, "Why?" We knew, he knew.

He didn't have to say a word. The rule had come from his heart. We knew, in that one moment, we had broken it and dropped the car keys into his outstretched hand.

I also remember a lesson he taught me when I was about ten, and I never forgot it. In our home, dad did the grocery shopping. Mama made her list and gave it to dad, and then he took one of us along to help him with the grocery bags. This particular day, it was my turn.

When we got to the cash register, the cashier announced that the bill was $122.56. In 1959, that was a lot of money. To a ten year-old, that was at least the price of a new car. Well, I watched the expression on his face turn to firm resolve as he reached into his pocket for his wallet. He took some bills out and handed the money to her.

We put the groceries in the back of our station wagon and I climbed into the front seat for the drive home. On the way, I thought about how expensive it must be, having a big family like ours. I was thinking of ways I could help save money, since he had spent so much at the store.

I remembered all the times I had heard mama or daddy tell us to turn off the TV, or lights, if we weren't using them, and I promised myself I would do a better job. I must have been uncharacteristically quiet, because right about then, daddy asked if I was okay. I told him I was fine, but then I asked, "Daddy, are we poor?"

He reached across the seat and patted me on my arm and said, "No, honey. We're not poor. We're not poor at all. We have everything we need. We just don't have a lot of money."

I've thought about that day so many times in the years since. Dad taught us so many important lessons about life and love.

He would tell us not to try and live life too seriously. When we do that, we miss the real beauty, which is in the small things. Puddles are there for splashing; mud is for making mud pies; mirrors are for making funny faces; and a hug ... well, a hug will fix just about anything that a bandaid won't cover up.

Love is measured in so many precious minutes. It's important we not miss any of them, because who knows, life might be metered in hours.

His message was so clear: everything that mattered, everything that was important, we already had. Love is what's important.

To My Dad, who passed away not long after this blog post was written:

Any man can be a father.
The good ones become dad.
There are papas, pops and pa's
and even my old man,
but only the very special ones
remain forever "daddy".

I love you, Daddy.
You're still ten feet tall ...

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

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Memories and Grandchildren ...


Between the two of us, Robert and I have four children.  All live in four different states, which is why at first we choose to live in central Pennsylvania.

Last weekend, we drove to Connecticut to see two of my daughters and six grandchildren.

Last month, we headed down to North Carolina to visit my youngest daughter and her three children.  They're always whirlwind visits, but I can't complain.  The time we get to spend together is so important and it's always worth the trip.

Tyler and Jack
 As I was having coffee early this morning, I thought about those visits.  I always bring so much more home with me than what I took along when we're with children and grandchildren.  I'm not talking about material things.

What I treasure are the things we share, the memories we make.  It doesn't matter whether I'm sitting on the floor with Jack building a Lego house, reading to Tyler and Halloran, giving out hugs and kisses for heart pockets, or telling Lauren all about the great-grandmother she's the spitting image of.  What we're really doing is creating memories.

Liam, Kev, Colin and Lauren
 I remember the innocence and wonder of childhood.  Who we were as children isn't who we are now, we grow and change, and yet, we are exactly the same.

Time is the only thing that is different.  One day then was as long as twenty days are now.  The things that mattered to then, I still remember, because they matter even more now.

All of my grandparents are gone now, and so are my parents, but the memories we made are always with me.

What I remember most about my grandparents was the time they spent with me.  It didn't matter what we were doing.  The talking and sharing while we were doing whatever we did -- that is what was important.  They spent time with me and it felt good.

Will and Matty
 I love watching my grandchildren playing, pretending, or just enjoying being kids.  It brings back so many memories.

Being a child is believing in love and magic, believing that fairies do exist, and it is believing in believing.  

It is pretending to be so little that elves can whisper in our ear, and it's about turning pumpkins into coaches, mice into horses, and nothing into everything, because every child has a fairy godmother in its soul ... and a grandmother for a best friend.

Well, Robert and I moved again.  Now we're in Florida, but I can tell you I'm already looking for my next adventure when my grandchildren come for a visit.

I need that -- but what's more important is, they need that even more.

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

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Rusty and CJ Write Some Poetry Together

Rusty and Kathleen
I have a poet friend I've known for almost forever.  His name is Rusty Daily and he and his wife, Kathleen, live in Indianapolis.  That's a long way from Florida, and the only reason I've never had the pleasure of meeting them.

Between us, Robert and I have four children in four different states, and that pretty much takes up whatever free time we have, just to visit our kids and grandkids.

But I digress ... I first met Rusty years ago at an online writing community called  We were both posting poetry for children and often commented on each other's work.

Our tastes were very similar, running everywhere from the silly, insightful, or outright goofy, and somewhere along the way, we started doing some co-writing.

One of us would write a couple of lines as a starter, then email it to the other one.  Back and forth the poem went between us, until it felt right.

I want to share a few of those poems.  Oh, and I've emailed Rusty, to try and nudge him into writing a few more poems with me.  Like me, underneath that senior exterior, he's also just a big silly kid ...

by Rusty and CJ

You know what makes me laugh
and puts me into stitches?
It's when I grab ahold and pull
the waist of someone's britches.

It’s fun. It's called a wedgie
and what a super name,
just pull and yell out WEDGIE!
It‘s really the coolest game.

Hmmm, now who should I get,
lil sissy or my big brother?
Or maybe I should get my dad
but definitely NOT my mother!

And you NEVER do grandmas and grandpas.
To do that you‘d have to be nuts
('cause everyone knows that old people
don't even have any butts).

All By Myself
by Rusty and CJ

I gotta play by myself today
cause Mommy is cleaning and mopping.
Then she’ll be calling a sitter
for when she goes grocery shopping.

The sitter, she’s really boring.
She’s always on the dumb phone,
or painting her nails or combing her hair
so I guess I’ll be playing alone …

I think I will get out my play dough
and make a spaghetti pie.
Or maybe, I'll feed all my dollies
so they won't be fussy and cry.

At two, I’ll watch my TV shows.
Till then, I'll build with my blocks.
When I'm done, I'll pick them all up
(if I can get 'em all back in the box).

Maybe later, my secret friend and me
will draw a picture or two
with all my favorite crayons,
specially the reds, greens and blues.

I really like my toys and games
and my other good stuff … but gee,
I think ALL playing’s is funner
when Mommy is here beside me.

by Rusty and CJ

After all my books are read,
Mommy says it's time for bed.

Teeth are brushed, all pearly white,
and now I have to go night-night.

Daddy walks me up the stairs,
and helps me say my bedtime prayers.

He fluffs the pillow for my head,
then lifts me up into my bed.

Mommy tucks me in real tight
cause monster visits me at night.

Tippy-toe, the monster hovers,
and tries to slip beneath my covers.

Round my bed the monster dances
waiting for his little chances

to see a gap, then in he'll go
to grab my finger or a toe.

I feel him crawling up my bed!
He's started licking at my head.

If I don't run, I know that he'll
have me for his monster meal.

And in the dark, what's that I see?
Two glowing eyes stare back at me!

Should I yell with all my might
for Dad to come turn on the light?

He might get mad if I did that...
Come here, Monster, you silly cat!

More of our co-written poetry can be found on my website, Barking Spiders Poetry on the CJ and Rusty Poetry Page.  If you enjoyed these, you'll also enjoy the others!

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

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

When I Get to Heaven, I'm Gonna Ask ...

"Life is unfair, and it’s not fair that life is unfair." ~Edward Abbey, 1927~1989

Why is it ...

Someday, when I get to heaven, I'm going to ask God a few questions. I've been saving them all up. There are things that really bug me and I've never found answers to them on this human plane called earth.

Why is it that innocent children are allowed to be born to parents who don't give a darn? For the most part, the children raise themselves. They're slapped around and abused, and worse yet, they're shown no love or affection at all by the so-called parents.

Then on the flip side, there are hundreds of thousands of couples who would give most anything they have, just to be able to conceive a child. They wait with unconditional love to pour into a child, if only they were given the opportunity to have one.

Here's another question I'm going to ask. Why is it that prisons are full psychotic people who live long and wasted lives and there are so many men, women and children who die young, their goodness and talents never to be realized, nor shared with the world.

I'm also going to ask: why is it that as women, we spend our lives shaving and waxing various parts of our anatomy to fit in with society's norms and then, when we finally manage to make it to our golden years, the only places hair will even grow is on our heads, our upper lips and our chins? Why is that?

For men it's just as bad. The hair on their heads thins out, or is non-existent, and when they reach their golden years, the only places hair WILL grow -- and profusely, I might add, is on their ears and in their nostrils. Why is that?

Why is it that there are people who don't value life and who hate others, based on religion, sexual orientation, or the color of their skin? They spend their lives planning ways to unleash their hate on innocent people, like with the Twin Towers in New York City. Why is it?

Spiritual counselor, Gary Zukav, says that everything is as it should be. He says things happen for a reason, and that reason is, for our spiritual growth and awareness.

Maybe so, but I'm still going to ask the questions anyway ... 

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

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Warning About Stalkers

Authors and Speakers: 
Do Not List Your Appearance Schedules Online

This article is being written to all who do, or are planning to do, any type of public speaking engagements. It is based on a negative experience I had several years ago when I lived in New Hampshire. I learned from it, and I want you to learn from it.

My reason for writing it is to help other authors and public speakers so they won't have a similar experience.

I belong to many online social, book, and writing communities. In some of them, there is a special place allotted to authors for posting upcoming appearance schedules -- and they're encourage to do so. This includes dates, venues, and times, and all are visible to the public.

While I understand the purpose, and realize their intentions are honorable, my future schedule is something I'm hesitant to post now and I would like to caution other authors not to do it. Here is why...

Do Not Post Speaking Engagements Online
I've had my website, Barking Spiders Poetry, since 1998, even before my first book of the same title came out in 2000.

Once the book was published and released to the public, I created a separate page on my website dedicated solely to my upcoming book signings, poetry workshops, speaking engagements, interviews, and author school visits.

A problem arose quite suddenly and lasted for a couple of months.

Everywhere I went, to any of my speaking engagements, or personal appearances, I noticed a man lurking along the sidelines. It didn't matter whether it was at a bookstore signing, a school visit, or eventually, even in a different town and state.

Wherever I went, whatever the event, the same man was somewhere in the room within eyesight, standing and silently watching.

At first, I thought he was merely a devoted fan, or maybe a reporter, but when he followed me to another state, I realized something very different.  I had a stalker.

Do Not Post School Visit Dates and Places Online
Be extra careful, authors and public speakers. The venue, time and date of your appearances should already be advertised by the school, bookstore, (or any other place you will be appearing), in their town's paper and in the local media (TV and radio).

I can't caution you enough to be wary of also posting the same information online.

Stalkers stalk you first online. You can never be too careful ...

Best wishes for safe speaking ...


Barking Spiders Poetry Website - CJ Heck Books

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

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Who the Heck is CJ Heck?

Who the heck is CJ Heck?

With a bored sigh, you probably think, "Oh, she writes children's poetry ... just like hundreds of other children's poets."

My Inner Child
I've been told that my poetry IS different.  I don't write what I think children should read, or what I think they want to read.

I write poetry from a child's point of view, (probably because my own inner child is doing the writing), and it addresses many different issues that children have.

My inner child remembers what children think and wonder about in the world around them. What were we frightened of? What did we think was funny, sad, puzzling, or scary, and what made us most angry?

I love writing all kinds of poetry, but my favorite is, and always will be, poetry for children.

There is nothing as powerful as the truth and gentle honesty of a child. They have such an innocent view of their world and surroundings, sometimes with thought-provoking insight. That is what I love writing about, and from their point of view.

Please visit Barking Spiders Poetry

Pull up a chair, get comfy, put a child on your lap, and have a look.

I think you'll be surprised.  I'm really not like the other children's poets 'out there' ... and, who knows, just maybe you'll get reacquainted with your own inner child again.
~Hugs to all, 

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

Tuesday, January 24, 2012



What if we're born with 
a predetermined number
of heartbeats 
and, when they're gone, 
we're gone? 

Just in case it's true,
I'm not going to waste mine 
running down some road 
in silly spandex pants
and a jog bra.

I'm going to make my 
thumping little tickets last
as many years as I can, 

especially since
at my age, 
I've already used up 
a hell of a lot them
just getting here. 

I'll spread the rest out. 
I'll save them 
for what's important, 
like running away from 
something (or someone) bad. 

I also intend to use a lot of them 
for making love. 

If life really is a journey 
and not a destination, 
I might as well enjoy myself 
along the way ... 

CJ Heck

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

One Summer Day ...

Fresh Lemonade
With my coffee this morning, I was thinking about one day when I still lived in Pennsylvania.  It was summer and I was driving home from Walmart. 

A few blocks from home, I noticed a small homemade lemonade stand in the grass along the sidewalk with two kids sitting in folding chairs.

I don't know if you're old enough to remember, but it was built the same way everyone used to make bookcases, back in the 60's to hold a stereo system.  

You took two cinder blocks and piled one on top of the other at each end, and then you put a wide board across the top.  You could make a second layer on top of that, too, if you wanted it higher.

Anyway, the kids had hand-printed a sign and it was taped to the front of the board. It was perfect for the little stand, printed in crooked capital letters with crayon -- the 'N' and 'E's' in the word LEMONADE were printed backwards and it was adorable.  I couldn't resist. I pulled over and bought a glass.  

They took their business seriously.  The girl held the plastic cup, her brother poured the lemonade, and I played my part as a satisfied customer. I drank ALL of my lemonade, even though there wasn't nearly enough sugar in it ...

I couldn't stop thinking about the little lemonade stand and its entrepreneurs. There was a poem in there somewhere, and here is what I came up with.  Oh, and there's a little twist at the end ...

The Lemonade Stand

by CJ Heck

Get your ice cold glass of lemonade!
Hurry, 'fore it's gone.
We made it just this morning.
See the table that it's on?

We promise that you'll like it
and there's sugar in it, too --
not like it was the other day
when mom and dad said "Ewwwww."

Get your ice cold glass of lemonade!
Boy, grownups sure are funny --
they smile a lot at little kids
who are trying to make money.

Thank you, ma'am, and thank you, sir,
you've helped us out a bunch.
(Sissy, let's go make some more.
It's almost time for lunch).

Get your ice cold glass of lemonade!
Twenty-five cents a glass!
(We've got to make more money
and we've got to make it fast).

Daddy said it wouldn't work,
that people wouldn't stop,
they'd hurry right on past us
and then they'd laugh a lot.

One last glass of lemonade!
This was so much fun!
Let's get this table put away
and then we've got to run.

Sissy look, it's snowing!
But that will be all right.
Now we have money for presents
and Santa Claus comes tonight ...

Just thinking about that day, makes my cheeks ache from the lemon-sour pucker.

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chuck Wendig on Writing

I came across this article today and I want to share it with every writer out there.  It's a bit graphic, at times, but I guarantee that it'll bring a smile, an outright laugh, make you think, and it will make you look at the craft of writing in new ways.  It did for me.

I've only cited five here, but I guarantee, the rest are worth your time, as well!  To read the entire article, please visit Chuck Wendig's Blog.


About the Author:

Chuck Wendig is equal parts novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. He is the author of the novels DOUBLE DEAD, BLACKBIRDS, and MOCKINGBIRD. In addition, he's got a metric boatload of writing-related e-books available, including the popular 500 WAYS TO BE A BETTER WRITER. He currently lives in the wilds of Pennsyltucky with wife, dog, and newborn progeny.

25 Things Writers Should Start Doing (ASAFP):

1. Start Taking Yourself Seriously
This is a real thing, this writing thing, if you let it be. It’s not just about money or publication — it’s about telling the kind of stories only you can tell. Few others are going to take you seriously, so give them a 21-middle-finger-salute and do for yourself what they won’t: demonstrate some self-respect.

2. Start Taking the Time
Said it before, will say it again: we all get 24 hours in our day. Nobody has extra time. You must claim time for yourself and your writing. Time is a beast stampeding ever forward and we’re all on its back. Don’t get taken for a ride. Grab the reins. Whip that nag to go where you want her to go. Take control. Hell, pull out a big ol’ electric knife and carve off a quivering lardon of fatty Time Bacon all for yourself. (As a sidenote, the Germans had a name for that phenomenon: Zeitspeck. True story I just made up!)

3. Start Trying New Stuff
Branch out. Get brave. Look at all the ways you write now — “I write in the morning, sipping from my 64-ounce 7-11 Thirst Aborter of Mountain Dew, and I pen my second-person POV erotic spy novels and it earns me a comfortable living.” Good for you. Now punch that shit right in the ear. Okay, I’m not saying you need to change directions entirely — what kind of advice is that? “Hey, that thing that works for you? Quit doing it.” I’m just saying, mix it up. Make some occasional adjustments. Just as I exhort people to try new foods or travel destinations or ancient Sumerian sexual positions, I suggest writers try new things to see if they can add them to their repertoire. Write 1000 words a day? Try to double that. Don’t use an outline? Write with one, just once. Single POV character? Play with an ensemble. Mix it the fuck up. Don’t have just One True Way of doing things. Get crazy. Don’t merely think outside of the box. Set the box adrift on a river and shoot it with fire arrows. Give the box a motherfucking Viking funeral.

4. Start Telling Stories in New Ways
Another entry from the “Set The Box On Fire” Department — with the almost obscene advances in personal technology (the smartphone alone has become more versatile than most home computers), it’s time to start thinking about how we can tell stories in new ways. A story needn’t be contained to a book or a screen. A story can be broken apart. A story can travel. Your tale can live across Twitter and Foursquare and Tumblr and an Android app and Flickr and HTML5 and then it can take the leap away from technology and move to handwritten journals and art installations and bathroom walls and — well, you get the idea. Let this be the year that the individual author need no longer be constrained by a single medium. Transmedia is now in the hands of individuals. So give it a little squeeze, and find new ways to tell old stories.

5. Start Reading Poetry
Poetry? Yes, poetry. I know. I see that look you’re giving me. “What’s next, Wendig?” you ask. “We all hold hands and dance around the maypole in our frilly blouses and Wonder Woman underoos?” YES EXACTLY. I mean — uhh, what? No. Ahem. All I’m saying is, all writing deserves a touch — just a tickle — of poetry. And do not conflate “poetry” with “purple prose” — such bloated artifice has no room in your work.

Now, do yourself a favor and go to Chuck's blog and read the rest!

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