Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Ultimate DUH ...

His note says it all ...
Have you ever had one of those "DUH ..." moments, when you find out something that should have been obvious, but it escaped you at the time?

You know what I mean.  The "Oh MAN!" kind of "DUH ..." where you smack yourself on the forehead for not seeing it in the first place?

Robert and I (sort of) agreed we wouldn't tell anyone about our latest "DUH ...", but I've had a change of heart.  I can't stop kicking myself and I thought, maybe writing about it will be cathartic. Then again, maybe not ...

As most of you already know, we made a major move nearly a year ago now.  We left the cold and snowy winters of Pennsylvania and relocated to sunny Florida, where every day is a barefoot day and arthritis pain is only a distant memory.

That being said, the house we bought came with everything in it -- I mean everything -- even our beloved electric golf cart.  The previous owner moved into a nursing home and, from what we could tell, the only things he took with him were his clothes, personal papers and toiletries.

The first week was a whirlwind of decisions: what to keep, what to donate, what to throw away, then the water, electric, and pest control services, where did we want the cable and computer connections installed -- I remember thinking, the moving van arrives at the end of the week.  How are we going to get all of it done?

We also squeezed in our new Florida driver licenses, and registered and insured our car and golf cart.  Like I said, for us, it was one crazy whirlwind week ...

Adventure Machine
In the midst of all of the confusion surrounding the move, the only thing we were ever told about our battery-operated electric golf cart is that we should make sure the batteries -- all six of them -- always had sufficient distilled water, so we wouldn't burn up the batteries.

We were told to open the caps on the batteries about once a month, look down inside with a flashlight, and always make sure the water level is just above the metal plates you can see down there.

Okay, no problem.  Pfft, we can do that ...

Still talking about the golf cart, which is one of the things we love best about living here, we did everything we were supposed to do.  Like clockwork, we checked the batteries regularly and always topped off when the water level got low.  We used a turkey baster.  It seemed to work best to get the water into the tiny holes.

Now, fast-forward to last Tuesday.  Robert and I had several errands to do and they were in other parts of town -- three different parts of town, which is a lot of driving.  No problem.  Our little golf cart was a powerhouse!  We love nothing better than taking off for a couple of hours in our golf cart -- we love the adventures we find along the way.

We had done two of the errands and were on our way to the third, when Robert suddenly noticed that the battery gauge had plunged into the red zone -- the "you don't have any juice" area.  We had just gone through a tunnel under a major roadway and could hardly get up the incline to the other side!  We had gone this far before, with no trouble at all -- something was wrong.

We pulled off the path and parked on the grass.  Immediately, the battery gauge went right back into the high-end of the green area, which meant we had plenty of juice left in the batteries.  Very strange.

Robert decided we should call Mike at the service garage.  Mike told us it sounded like the batteries were going bad.  He asked how new they were.  We told him they were new a year ago, just before we bought the house, and he said that was good, because they were still under warranty.

Then as an afterthought, he asked whether we had kept the water level up above the metal plates in the battery cells.  Robert told him we topped them off regularly and, since it was summer, we checked them every two weeks, instead of once a month.   Mike asked him to check that for him, while they were on the phone.

We lifted the seat, which is where the batteries are, and Robert took off a cap and peeked inside. "It's full, Mike."

While he did that, I took a cap off one of the batteries on my side of the cart and looked inside.  It was totally empty!  I took off the cap beside it, and that one was full.  Then I removed one more.  That one was empty, too.

"Oh crap, Robert!  These cells are all independent of each other!"

He gave me a wide-eyed stare.  Then Robert told Mike to hang on a second.  We scrambled, taking one cap off after another and peeking inside.

For an entire year, we had only filled one cell on each battery, thinking that if you filled one hole, the whole battery was full of water.  There are four white caps on each of the six batteries!  That meant we have been driving with only six cells powering our golf cart, instead of twenty-four!

What was really strange is that we had filled the same six cells each time -- what are the odds of that, I wonder?

When we thought about it, it was totally obvious to us both.  Why would there be four white caps on each battery, if you were only supposed to fill one of them?

Mike told us we had a fifty-fifty chance that the batteries were fried, but we also had a fifty-fifty chance they would last another six months to a year.

We got our baby towed home, filled all of the cells, plugged it in, and asked the universe for a miracle.

I'm happy to report, we got our miracle.  But this was one adventure we could have happily done without ...

DUH ..

How to Make a Memory
Teaching Old Dogs: The First "DUH"

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

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cozy Chat with Author C.J. Heck

Author, CJ Heck
Today I did an interview with BookwormSimi which she posted on her "Blissful Blog" (Books, Books, and Some More Books):  

Cozy Chat with the Author, C.J. Heck:

Welcome, CJ.  Let's get to know more about you both as a writer and a person.

Simi: What is your genre? Why did you choose to write it?

CJ:  I write in several different genres, actually. I’ll answer this separately for each genre.

Poetry for Children and Children’s Stories:

I’ve always written poetry, both for children and adults. The children’s poetry is different in that it’s always written from a child’s point of view.

(I like to say that it’s my own inner child who does the writing). The topics I write about are all designed to help children understand the world they live in. They have so many questions and the world doesn’t always make sense to them.

My love for writing for children probably first came from an overactive imagination in childhood. I was always pretending and creating magical adventures. I think I put more miles on mama's broom than she ever did, because it was my pony and I rode it everywhere.

My love of poetry, rhyme, and rhythm came from my mother. When it was raining, she used to entertain us by teaching us tongue twisters while she ironed. My love for both prose and poetry only grew stronger as I went through school and English was always my favorite class.

When I became a mother, I often made up bedtime stories or poems for my three daughters which they wanted retold time and again, which inspired me to come up with even more. When mother heard them, she told me I should write them all down.

From then on, I scribbled poems and stories in notebooks which were piled high on a corner of my desk. I didn't begin writing seriously until the 1990's, when one of my daughters picked up one of the notebooks and began to read some of them. She said, "Mom, you really should DO something with these! They're good. They're really good."

With that thought in mind, I set up a website for children and their parents, posting the poems and stories I had written, plus those I was still writing. Then I began to get requests from parents and teachers, asking where they could buy them in a book.

So, I took a deep breath, exhaled, and decided I would give it six months. I quit a full time job and began the daunting task of sending manuscripts to publishers. After 5 months, (and a pile of rejections) I received a publishing contract for my first book of children’s poetry.

I also have five children’s books ready to go that are in a holding pattern for now. I need an illustrator and that will be expensive!

Poetry (for Adults): Anatomy of a Poet

My adult poetry is most often about my own life, my experiences, my observations of others and how I see the world and my surroundings.

As a baby boomer, I came to the realization that we are all products of our environment. Everyone we meet, each new experience, adventure, book, thought or lesson touches us and teaches something we were meant to know. Life is continually changing us, molding who we were into the unique being we are now.

As Bri Maya Tiwari once said, "There is a brokenness out of which comes the unbroken; a shatteredness out of which blooms the unshatterable; a sorrow beyond all grief which leads to joy, and a fragility out of whose depths emerges strength. There is a hollow space too vast for words through which we pass with each loss, out of whose darkness we are sanctioned into being." 

That quote describes my life perfectly.

One of six children, I grew up in a small Ohio town and married my high school sweetheart at nineteen. A Vietnam War widow at twenty, I went on to marry two more times and then divorce twice. I had three daughters and I now have eleven grandchildren.

I guess you could say, I made a lot of choices, some were good, some not so good, but as one of the poems in the book ends, " least I made choices. How sad for those who merely hitchhike along, never daring to choose at all."

Anatomy of a Poet was written over a period of forty years. The poetry is rich with memoir, humor and, at times, it is sensual.

Poetry can be daunting and hard to understand, but it doesn't have to be. I feel I have an obligation to write in a way that everyone can understand what I’m trying to say. I believe poems should flow softly through a poet's words, their meanings easily touching the mind and heart of its reader -- if a poem comes from the heart, it will reach other hearts.
Short Stories (for Adults): Bits and Pieces (flash and short fiction and non-fiction)

For a poet, behind every poem, there is an untold story. The original thoughts and ideas for the poem had to come from somewhere. By its very design, a poem can tell only the shortest version of a writer's thoughts, emotions, or experiences.

The twenty-two flash fiction and short stories in Bits and Pieces share the real inspiration, the story, behind many of the poems in my poetry book, Anatomy of a Poet.

Many have nostalgic themes, others share my own blend of humor and sensitivity. They cover subjects like internet dating; a 'woman of the evening' alone in a bar on Christmas Eve; the horror of finding a headless body near a sewer drain in the city, and a grandfather and grandson teaching each other about life and love while in a park feeding the pigeons. Also in the book is one of my personal favorites, which has a surprise ending you won't expect or forget.

Simi:  Are you interested to write in some other genres in the future?

CJ:  At this time, I don’t have any other genres I feel compelled to write in. Down the road, who knows …

Simi:  Which is the first book you read?

CJ:  Hmmm, you’re asking me to remember something from a long time ago! I don’t really remember my very first book.

I do know what book was the biggest influence on me. That was Peter Pan. It's one of my all-time favorite books from childhood and I will cherish it forever.

I was so completely enamored by the premise of flying, merely by believing I could, that I tried to fly from the top of a bookcase. The little scar just above my left eyebrow was a small price to pay for learning that some things are only make believe, even though we wish they were real.

Still and all, I credit J.M. Barrie for encouraging the little girl inside me to stay alive and well and it's why I write for children. Like Peter Pan in Neverland, I hope I never grow up.


Simi:  Are you influenced by any authors?

CJ:  In the early 70’s, I was influenced by the poet, Rod McKuen. I was given one of his books and I loved the ease with which he wrote. That time period is when I started writing my own poetry. I was having a difficult time coping with my husband’s death and I found writing to be cathartic and healing. I still do, even now.

Simi:  Do you write more than one book at a time?

CJ:  Not really. Sometimes while writing, I do get ideas for other books, but I just write myself a note, as a reminder for later.

Simi:  Are you a full-time author or you doing some other job?

CJ:  I’m pretty much writing full time now. I’m not working outside the home.

Simi:  Do you prefer pen and paper or Microsoft Word?

CJ:  When I’m home, definitely the computer. When I’m out and about, or on a trip, I keep a notebook and pencil by my side. When I get ideas or thoughts, I jot them down at traffic lights or stop signs.

When I’m in restaurants, or anywhere else, I write on anything I can find – menus, brochures, even on the back of business cards, if I have to. Yeah, you could say I’m a die-hard writer!

Simi:  Which one of your books is the best according to you?

CJ:  Ooooo, that's not fair … that’s like asking a mother which child is her favorite! Every book I’ve written has so much of me in it and each is like a child – I couldn’t choose.

Simi:  Do your family members read your books?

CJ:  I suppose they do, I don’t really know. It’s not something we talk about -- unless I have a new book out and I’ve sent a copy to them. 

To my siblings, I’m just Cath’, their oldest and somewhat eccentric sister. To my daughters, I’m just good ol' dependable, loving, mom, who’s always there for them. 

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t believe any of them think of me as being an author. I’m just me and I happen to write.

Simi:  Tell us about your writing journey.

CJ:  As I’ve already described earlier, my writing journey just naturally evolved. It was never planned. It just, well, happened all on its own. 

Simi:  Tell us about your latest book and your work in progress.

CJ:  My next projects are the five children’s books I mentioned. I really need an illustrator for them before I can get them published. Trouble is, illustrators are expensive, so I’m saving up for it. 

I hope to sell a lot more books! That would certainly help! (hands waving in the air and grinning broadly)

Simi:  Do you reply to your readers?

CJ:  Yes, yes, yes! I love it when readers contact me and I always write back. I also enjoy talking with writers who want to be published. We were all new at it once. I always wished I had someone I could talk to about the whole process of getting published.
Simi:  Share some writing tips with us.

CJ:  Gee, I don’t know that I have any writing tips, other than those you’ve probably heard a million times. 

I do know that editing is one of the most important things a writer can do. You have to read what you’ve written with the idea in mind to pare down all but the most important words to the story or poem. Say things as succinctly as you can possibly say them and still keep the plot intact. When you’re done editing, then edit again, and again.
Proper punctuation is also very important. We all remember the following example, which has two totally different meanings, based on where the comma is placed:

Let’s eat grampa!
Let’s eat, grampa!
Simi:  Do you have any embarrassing tale to share with us? Mine is too embarrassing to share here. :)

CJ:  I had an embarrassing situation once, while doing an author school visit. 

During a presentation to an auditorium full of teachers, parents, and children, I was in the middle of saying one of the poems and I literally forgot how it went. I forgot my own poem! 

 I started to laugh and apologized and then the children surprised me by picking up where I had left off. They recited the poem word for word. 

When they were finished, I clapped for them. With each successive poem, they continued to recite it along with me, which was wonderful! I was totally humbled by the experience. It’s still one of my favorite (and most embarrassing) school visits.
Simi:  Study books used to work for me like sleeping pills. So, I had to either listen to some good music or eat my favorite snacks (read- junk foods :)) to keep my eyes open. Do you have any weird habits such as this?

CJ:  No, not that I can think of.

10 Fun Facts:

Favorite Color:  Forest Green
Favorite Book:  The Stand, by Stephen King
Favorite Author:  Nicholas Sparks
Favorite Movie:  Pay it Forward
Favorite Actor:  Tom Selleck (Magnum P.I.)
Favorite Actress:  Meg Ryan
Favorite Song:  Always and Forever, Luthur Van Dross
Favorite Singer:  Jimmy Buffett
Favorite Snacks:  Fruit, like Cherries and Strawberries
Favorite TV Show:  NCIS

Rapid Fire Round:

Love or Friendship:  It’s got to be both, together
Vampire or Werewolf:  Neither
Amazon or Smashwords:  Amazon
Chick-Lit or Historical Regency:  Neither
Robert Pattinson or Ian Somerhalder:  Who?

5 Things Your Readers Don’t Know About You:

1. I’m shy, except when I’m talking about my books to groups, or in school visits.
2. My bra size (Hahahahahaha)
3. I hate to iron
4. I helped to deliver one of my grandsons
5. I once assisted a coroner while he did an autopsy. He was looking for a permanent assistant and asked if I would be interested. I said I didn’t know, but I was willing to try.
I decided to look at it in a clinical manner and I did fine – within five minutes, I was belly up to the table! 

I found out afterwards that the pay was only going to be $6.50 an hour.
I turned the job down ... but at least I know I could do it.

CJ: YAY! This interview was fun! Thank you, Simi.

Simi:   Glad that you liked it. Nice to talk to you and I wish you all the best for your future works!

Author’s Bio:

A native of Ohio, CJ is a published poet, writer, blogger [3 blogs] and author of five books. 

She has three daughters, eleven grandchildren, and lives with her partner, Author Robert Cosmar, in Florida. CJ is also a Vietnam War widow.  

Her books are all available on the Amazon widget in the sidebar.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bill Cosby Speaks Out

Bill Cosby

"They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English. I can't even talk the way these people talk:

Why you ain't,
Where you is,
What he drive,
Where he stay,
Where he work,
Who you be...

And I blamed the kid, until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk. Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth. In fact, you will never get any kind of job making a decent living.

People marched and were hit in the face with rocks so we could get an Education, and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around.

The lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids. $500 sneakers for what? And they won't spend $200 for Hooked on Phonics. I am talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit.

Where were you when he was 2?  Where were you when he was 12?  Where were you when he was 18 and how come you didn't know that he had a pistol?  And where is the father?  Or who is his father?

People putting their clothes on backward: Isn't that a sign of something gone wrong?  People with their hats on backward, pants down around their crack, isn't that a sign of something? Isn't it a sign of something when a girl has her dress all the way up and has all types of needles [piercing] going through her body?

What part of Africa did this come from? We are not Africans. Those people are not Africans; they don't know a thing about Africa ...I say this all of the time. It would be like white people saying they are European-American. That is totally stupid.

I was born here, and so were my parents and grand parents and, very likely, my great grandparents. I don't have any connection to Africa, no more than white Americans have to Germany, Scotland, England, Ireland, or the Netherlands. The same applies to 99 percent of all the black Americans as regards to Africa. So stop, already!

With names like Shaniqua, Taliqua and Mohammed and all of that crap .. and all of them are in jail. Brown or black versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person's problem. We have got to take the neighborhood back.

People used to be ashamed. Today a woman has eight children with eight different 'husbands' -- or men, or whatever you call them now.

We have millionaire football players who cannot read. We have million-dollar basketball players who can't write two paragraphs. We, as black folks, have to do a better job.

Someone working at Wal-Mart with seven kids, you are hurting us. We have to start holding each other to a higher standard. We cannot blame the white people any longer.'

~Dr. William Henry 'Bill' Cosby, Jr., Ed.D."

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Old Apple Tree

Apple Tree - My Reading Tree

I don't know why, but last night as I was lying in bed waiting to fall asleep, I thought about an old apple tree we had in our side yard when I was a child.  It was an ancient, gnarly old thing, and so big I couldn't wrap my arms around it.  

I remember it had the most wonderful bark and one side of its trunk looked just like the wrinkled face of an old man with his eyes closed.  I always imagined that he had been trapped inside the tree forever by a wicked witch, and he was just waiting, hoping for a genie to come along and break the spell to set him free.  

Just above the old man, a long, thick branch grew straight out in a perfect right angle from the trunk, and right over it, a round hole had formed in the tree itself. 

That branch is where I loved to be.  I would climb up there and sit and read for hours, my back against the trunk, legs stretched out in front, with an extra book tucked in the hole for later.

But that old apple tree wasn't just for reading and climbing.  It was great for other things, too.  We kids used it as 'base' when we played tag and it was perfect to hide behind for hide and seek. 

I remember once having to memorize the poem, "Trees", by Joyce Kilmer when I was in the fourth grade and thinking, She must have had an old apple tree, too, when she wrote the poem.  Ours also had a nest of robins in its hair.

Daddy always said he wanted to take the tree down.  "Lord knows, it isn't good for anything but dropping leaves in the fall and it hardly ever grows an apple."  He and mama thought it was such an eyesore, and maybe it was, but Mother Nature saved him the trouble.

One hot summer night, we had a huge thunderstorm and it woke all of us from sleep.  One particular flash of lightning was much brighter than the rest.  Daddy said it sounded like the lightning hit something nearby and he went downstairs to look around.  

When he came back upstairs, he told us the lightning had split the old apple tree right down the middle.  

I loved that tree.  It was like losing a good friend.  But I always wondered if the lightning broke the spell and set the old man free ... 

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

Sunday, July 14, 2013

There Comes a Peace in Knowing

Doug "Doc" Kempf - KIA Vietnam '69
Through my other blog, Memoirs From Nam, I have now met several people who knew and served with my husband, Doug, ("Doc"), a combat medic in Vietnam.

I will be forever grateful to these men for the courage it took to reach out, because I have come to understand just how difficult it is for them to talk about brothers they lost in country.

From a widow’s perspective, their reaching out creates a precious Bridge -- a Bridge of Healing. To hear from someone who knew and served with their loved one, someone who may have been the last to see him alive, does help answer some of the agonizing questions they have held inside for decades.

Several years ago, I received a letter from Lt. James McCraney, who was Doug’s friend in Vietnam. On the day Doug was KIA, the Lt. had also been part of the same mission.

With his permission, I posted that letter here on the blog, where it touched the hearts of those who read it. (Memoir of Douglas S. Kempf, 8-2-10)

Later, I spoke with Lt. McCraney by phone. It was emotional, but it was good for both of us to talk about Doug, and I respect Lt. McCraney for the courage it took to contact me. There were some things he couldn't share, but it was an important beginning. He said some day, maybe he would be able to tell me more.

Time passed and we stayed in contact through occasional emails. Then I received another letter that touched me deeply. It was as difficult for me to read as I know it was for him to write.

I extend my most profound and sincere thanks to you, Lt. James McCraney.
I am ready to tell you as much as I can remember about my short time with Doug. As I have mentioned to you before, I was a brand new 2nd Lt., not two months out of Officer Training. I was flown out to a remote firebase on the edge of a small, rice-growing, and very poor village. This firebase was so small that I can't even remember the name of it. 
As I made my way from the landing zone, (which was in the middle of a road), I saw a couple of guys walking toward me. One was the guy that I was to be replacing, and the other was Doc Kempf. Both had big smiles -- one was about to go home, the other just seemed genuinely glad to meet me. 
I went in and met the officers in charge of the artillery unit at this base. Doug hung around and after a while showed me my "hooch". It was mostly sandbags on top of a metal culvert and an air mattress. His was next door. I don't think that Doc ever met a stranger. Everyone knew and loved Doc. He was our friend and our Mama. He treated us for everything, listened to us, and he always seemed to know what to do. We hung out a lot whenever we both had some "free" time. 
I was asking him about being in country and where all he had been He stated that the infantry had been south in the area called Pineapple -- this is the Mekong Delta. All were glad to get out of there, since it is wet and muddy most of the time. It was the rainy season when I hit Nam and it would rain until November or December. 
Doug and I would sit in our hooches and fight the rain, play cards, but mostly we would talk. Since I was single, I didn't have family to talk about like he did. He always talked about you and about how he missed you, since you had only been married for such a short time. He showed me pictures, too, however, the only one that I can remember clearly now was a photo of his niece. He was so proud of all of you. 
Doug and I didn't know when the next mission in the boonies would be. Bear in mind, this would be my first mission. He tried to prepare me as best he could, telling me what to take and all. Also trying to let me know what to expect even though you can't explain it. Remember, he was my Mama at this time. Even though I was an officer, I never looked at Doug as an enlisted man. We were just friends, that's all. 
One day he asked me to go into the village with him to "doctor" some of the kids. They were dirty and had skin rashes on them. Doug would treat them and give them what "goodies" that we had. I was always fearful that someone would kill us down there, but he didn't seem to worry. He had a great big heart especially for the kids. I told him that he would make a great doctor someday. 
The time came for my first mission. We were going out for about three days recon. Doug didn't seem to think that this would be much. He was right. They were uneventful, long days of scorching heat -- when it wasn't raining. Since I was an artillery officer, I walked in the formation in the middle with the Captain, his radio, and Doug, We were always together, or close. 
Upon coming in from this mission, Doug worked on us as best he could. He called me a big baby since he cut a boil out of my back. I told him that he could at least give me a stick to bite on. He just laughed. 
Doc treated scratches, sore feet, or whatever else ailed us. We would laugh and talk and dream of home and loved ones during this downtime. Doug always liked to hear me talk, since I was from the deep South. I told him that he talked funny to me and he would even try to talk like me -- I couldn't get the Yankee out of him. 
The next mission was in September. There was still a lot of rain and humidity. This mission was to be for two weeks. That is no fun. Again, Doug told me how to pack. For the life of me, I don't know how he always seemed to be in such a good mood. We had been out for one day and nothing happened. 
The second day, around 11:00 am, we were ambushed. The forward units were hit the hardest. Doug and I were in the middle of the unit and "fairly" safe at that point. They radioed back to the Captain that we had hurt and dead. This had gone on for about 30 minutes. 
Doug was listening to the Captain's transmissions. He started to go and someone pulled him back. He would look at me and me at him. He knew what he had to do. Momentarily, someone hollered "Medic". He didn't balk this time. Grabbing all of his gear, he raced up to the front. 
We thought they were gone. That was not the case. They had left a couple of guys behind just to wreak havoc on us. As Doug got close, one of them opened up on him and Doug never knew what hit him. I hate to be so graphic, but that is how it was. He did not suffer. 
After everything was really over, it was time to gather everything up. We called in medivac choppers and had to cut down trees in order for them to hover and receive the hurt and dead. 
As I got to the front and saw the ponchos on the ground, I asked who they were. Someone turned to me and pointed and said, "That's Doc Kempf". I can't describe to you -- and I mean that -- how I felt. All I could think of was, no, no, no! I uncovered him to make sure. He looked peaceful, if that is possible. 
As the chopper hovered and the grass was blowing from the rotors, I helped strap Doug into a "chair-like" device to pull him up into the chopper. The last visual I have of him is seeing him going up and going round and round with his arms outstretched. I can't get that out of my head -- and I don't really want to. 
That was the end of a too short, but fulfilling, friendship. I have shed many tears over Doug throughout these years. His death has touched me like very few have. I know that all of you feel so much more for him than I could ever feel, but I was fortunate to have been exposed to him. 
I never knew anything more after we came back in from this mission. We had a medic replacement, but no one could take Doug's place. He was discussed many times after that. 

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

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Burning Letter

Table in the Foyer

The Burning Letter

Wading through morning's harvest 
of the mail reaped the usual 
bills, flyers and junk ads. 
Then I spotted 
the familiar lazy scrawl 
on the table before me. 
After all these years ... 
a pearl among the cow pies. 
I marveled at how the letter felt, 
tucked into the pocket 
of my blue jeans, 
first halved, then quartered, 
where misbehaving hands and mind 
won't breach ceremonial rules, 
not to touch 
or want to open it. 
I was unable to ignore the letter 
or throw it away. 
I'm not sure how long 
I walked around with it there. 
I only know 
it began to burn and blister 
and it scorched my self-control. 
It was not until I saw the jeans 
in the washer, letter and all, 
twisting and turning 
in the soapy water 
that I was even aware 
of what I'd done
just to find some peace. 

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

Friday, July 12, 2013

Blast into the Past

One Saturday morning, Robert had to leave for work early at 6:00.  Not yet ready to head to the computer, I poured myself a second cup of coffee and I don't know why, but I turned on the TV.  Understand, this is something I rarely (if ever) do during the day, preferring instead to listen to music while I write, edit, or blog.

Anyway, between sips, I flipped through the meager network programming at that time of the morning.  I was searching for something, anything, to fill a few minutes, but all I could find were stupid ads for makeup, jewelry, vacuum cleaners, or gym equipment.

"The Rifleman"

Then, suddenly, I found myself in some kind of crazy time warp -- I had somehow moved through time and and I was a child again.  There in front of me was Chuck Connors as The Rifleman.   

The Cast from "Gunsmoke"

When The Rifleman was over, I went to Dodge City, Kansas, with Matt Dillon, Doc, Festus and Kitty in Gunsmoke.

The Cartrights from "Bonanza"

After that, I spent some quality time at The Ponderosa in Bonanza with Hoss, Little Joe, and Adam -- oh, and don't forget Pa.

I lost several hours that Saturday morning -- but they were good, quality hours.  It was just like old times and yet I was seeing these people and places through different eyes, through a whole different perspective.

As a child, all of these people were larger than life.  They were real.  For as long as the show was on, I was right there with them, listening and learning.

Watching them as an adult, I can now see the importance of what I was learning.  These shows all reinforced the values and lessons my parents taught -- rights and wrongs I passed to my three daughters, and I still value them to this day.

How sad to think there aren't too many quality role models on TV for today's children that reinforce parents' values and lessons.

The video games I've seen advertised are all so violent and bloody.  I wonder what they are teaching our children and grandchildren ...

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

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Mothers and Daughters

A Forgotten Treasure
When I was looking through my bookcase one morning, weeding out the books I want to keep from those I will donate, or give away, I found a forgotten treasure.

It has special written all over it and it's something I will keep forever.
This tiny book was a gift from my youngest daughter, Heather, when she was eighteen.

Just before graduation, she announced that she wanted to move to Texas to live with her older sister, Carrie, for the summer.

Carrie was going to be working part time as a waitress and part time on an indian reservation for summer break from The University of Notre Dame. She assured Heather that she could also work at the restaurant with her.

For weeks, we discussed (and argued) about the move. Texas was a long, long way from our home in New Hampshire and I wasn't convinced she was ready to move away.

Then I received this book from Heather and it came with a letter. When I found the book this morning, the letter was still tucked inside. Like memories do, at times, the letter made me cry. Now I want to share it with you:

Sometimes, I think you and I are one and the same. I see so much of you in me. I think that's what makes our relationship so complicated. 
It's not that I think you're trying to run my life. I know it's only that you want what's best for me -- so we stick our noses out. I've said my fair share in how I think you should run your life, but in the end, you decide your own destiny. 
So, understand that I'm not leaving you. I'm only leaving New Hampshire ... and I will survive out in Texas, because you've taught me I can do anything I set my mind to. I aspire to be the best at whatever I do and that was also something you taught me -- confidence. If I fall on my ass out there, it was never meant to be. But I have to find out for myself (like usual, I will learn something). 
I just need you by my side on this one, no matter what the outcome may be, okay? I need to know you're behind me, or else I may doubt myself and that's not the right thing for a move like this one. I am putting myself first for once. If I stay here any longer, it would be for you, and Will, and Dad. All three of you don't want me to go. 
Now, should anything happen to me, you know what I would want (just in case ... it's a long trip!) I would love visitors for the summer time. You'll get a great tan down south, that's for sure! 
I'm going to miss having you only a hug away. You've always been there for me for anything -- but I promise you, our friendship will never fade. It's too strong to ever do that. 
I'm only 18, and that means I still have about a million more mistakes to make before my life is over! Just think how many more times you can say, "I told you so." 
Please, please give me your encouragement. That's all I really need right now. 
Love, Beanie"

Needless to say, Heather did make the move to Texas, and now that summer is far behind us. It was an important milestone for her and she learned a lot, both of us did. What I learned is that I wasn't ready for her to move away yet ...

"Beanie" now has a fourth child, their third son. She has created her own company, is a wonderful and caring mother, a loving wife, a devoted daughter, and I'm proud of the happy independent woman she has become.

I've learned more from my three daughters than they ever learned from me ...

Amazon: The Love Between Mothers and Daughters

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

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sometimes You Wonder ...

Yesterday, I got an email from my best friend, Margie.

They have the most adorable dog and his name is Noodle.  He's one of those new hybrid dogs, a goldendoodle, which is a cross between a golden retriever and a poodle.

This photo isn't Noodle, but it's darn close to how he looks. Noodle's ears are longer and I think he's much cuter, too.

Needless to say, Noodle is a very large dog, but he has the sweetest, most gentle disposition of any dog I've ever known.  You can't help but love him.

Anyway, Margie's email was priceless and I just had to share it. Oh, and the names have NOT been changed to protect the innocent ... mostly, because I've known her for fifty-something years, and she's not ... (giggling)
"Good Morning, Cath', 
First, you have to realize that when Bill goes to sleep, he only gets up for a couple of things: 
1.  To go to the bathroom.2.  If the alarm goes off. 3.  Awww, and of course, if Noodle needs him, he is right there. 
Understand, I could be dancing nude at the end of the bed and he would sleep through it. (Probably a good thing, 'cause it's not a pretty sight). 
The night before last, I woke up at 2:00 and had to go to the bathroom. In the dark, I climbed over Noodle, who was sleeping on the floor, and I headed out of the room. 
When I came back in the bedroom and was once again stepping over Noodle, he decided to stand up. 
Needless to say, I went flying, arms flailing, and I crashed into the the dresser at the end of our bed. (Actually it's an armoire, but no matter how I try and spell it, I can't get it right). 
So anyway, my loving husband sleepily says, "Marg, is that you?" 
I wish I would have thought quick enough to say, "No, it's the fourteen frigging elephants that get up in the middle of the night!" 
Bill, still in bed, says, "Is Noodle okay?" 
I managed to say, "Yep -- he is fine.  He went to the kitchen and is having his midnight snack." 
Mind you, I'm still on the floor in the dark and Bill is still in bed. 
Finally he says, "Are you alright?" 
"Not sure,"  I replied. 
"Do you need me to get up?" 
Swallowing all my pride, I said, "Okay, I think so." 
Nothing was broken, only a few cuts and bruises ... he is sleeping well again. 
At times I think, hummmm, maybe I should yell, "FIRE!!" and then run like hell with Noodle. 
Oh that's right, Bill got one of those frigging screens for the garage and I would have to crash through that ... 
I hope this gives you a laugh, but remember, this is a true story! 
Love you,

[A very special thanks to Margie and Bill Shelly and, of course, Noodle.  I love you all!]

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

Monday, July 1, 2013

Big Little Book of Whispers

Big Little Book of Whispers

by Robert S. Cosmar


As we grow older, we start to question our old belief system. Maybe secretly, we even begin to wonder, "Is this all there is?"

Society, our parents, even our schools and churches, have always told us how and what to think and believe.

We sense there is more -- maybe we even 'know' there is more, but we aren't sure how to find what the 'more' actually is.

I would like to recommend a book that will help you to find your own answers. Are you ready to ‘know’ who you truly are?   ~C.J. Heck

About the Book:

The heart speaks in the language of feelings; words are the tools used to convey those feelings to others.

This book is for the aware and the newly aware, and for anyone who is ready to open their heart and look into the self.

The Big Little Book of Whispers is a 520-page collection of short insights (whispers) which speak to the heart and reveal the true nature of your inner life.

Each insight (whisper) is a view into that inner life and designed to assist the mind by creating a bridge between intellect and intuition.

For the mentally-oriented, this book may seem odd, childish, or even silly, but for those who wonder and yearn for more awareness of the true self, it will be a gateway to the eternity that exists within.

Read a Preview:
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This book will help everybody wherever you are in life.
“Really, really enjoyed this heartfelt book, It’s the best I have ever read in this area of wisdom. Full of awareness shared so beautifully, and skilfully.” –Haqiqa

Seeds of Wisdom
“Simple, clear messages from the soul, with lots of room for your own wisdoms to form around the seeds offered on each page. This is the kind of book you could use for daily pondering of life and how it applies to your own situation in the moment.” –Sue Rumack (Author of “The Pulse of Awakening, How to Connect with Soul and Life Purpose”)

A Book to Enlighten
“This is a book I will cherish for a long time to come. It is not a novel to race through, but to savor the words, and comprehend and obtain the full meaning and truth, from the passage. There are over 2,000 whispers in "Big Book of Whispers", and I am unable to list all my favorite passages...they all have meaning and purpose and are unique in themselves.” –Coccotoro

“When one is ready to look into his/her self, that's when the universe conspires to let us know, by all means, about what we need to know.  And during such a mission, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to read this book.

There is no particular way to read this book. You can turn through the pages from the beginning, or open any page, and you are assured that it will be something worth ruminating upon in the mind.”
--Divya Nambiar

“I just love this book!  It's a must read. The short insights by author are timeless, true and can be applied in day to day life to make it better.  The one who may not like to read it in a spiritual sense can read it in philosophical, or practical, sense and help oneself. There are no words to describe how joyous I am feeling after reading it.  Thumbs up!” --Disha

"There are some who will say my review of Robert's book isn't as valuable as a review by someone else. After all, I am Robert's life partner. I also edited the book, so surely I must be biased. They are entitled to their opinion, however, they would be wrong.

There are well over 2,000 whispers in "Big Little Book of Whispers". When I took on the task of editing this 520-page book, my mind tried to convince me it could be a daunting, tedious experience. It was not.

As I began to read, more often than not I found myself lost within each page, the editing forgotten, my mind and heart working together as I felt each word, each whisper, come alive with meaning.

It took me four readings to finish the editing. Each time I began, I found new truths that touched me, like a seed sprouting and growing, page by page.

If you are aware, or awakening, this is a book you will cherish. I would give it ten stars ..." 
--CJ Heck, published poet, writer, blogger and author of five books.

Other Books by Robert S. Cosmar:

Trilogy of Awareness: Heart to Heart Is Where We Start
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The Magic of Love and Intimacy
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Awareness: Being Fully Alive
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Robert S. Cosmar

Where You Can Find Robert:

Knowing Whispers Blog
Facebook Fan Page 

[Besides being the author of four books in the spiritual awareness genre, Robert S. Cosmar is an astrologer, blogger, and (sometimes) poet.  He also manages several groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and Goodreads, and a blog, Knowing Whispers ... and he is my life partner]

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

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Kids and Body Noises

Oh that's FUNNY!
Ever notice that certain noisy body functions are a source of hilarity to a child? They're all perfectly normal noises that everyone makes once in awhile, and if you're brave enough to admit it, you probably think they're funny, too!

To children, these noises are pure joy. They try and copy the sounds as often as possible. It doesn't seem to matter what age a child is either. I've seen teenagers roll on the floor laughing.

Heck, by the time my children (and now my grandchildren) were two, they already thought most of them were funny.

I remember my brother, Tim, used to amaze me with his burps. He's the only person I've ever known who could burp and it sounded just like the word, 'burp'. Maybe it was something he practiced, I don't know. Can you practice a burp? Why would anyone, other than a child, even want to practice a burp?

Two Times FUNNY!
Tummy rumbles and yawns are two of the lesser funnies, but they still make kids laugh. A tummy rumble sounds like the word 'rumble', IF you say it with a deep base voice and draw the word out a little.

Yawns, on the other hand, only sound like the word a tiny bit. More than anything else, they look like what a yawn is -- a gaping hole.

Another funny noise is a sneeze. It's also a funny sounding word, but I've never heard anyone who sneezed like the word sneeze sounds. Mostly what you hear is 'ah-choo' or 'ker-choo', or variations of it.
My daughters tell me when I sneeze, it sounds like I'm saying, "Who asked you!" Not as a question, mind you, but as an all-out shout. Again, never, ever have I heard the word 'sneeze' come flying out of someone's mouth as they're doing it. I think whoever made up that word missed the boat.

Group Giggles are Fun
The word 'hiccup' isn't too bad, actually, because when you have the hiccups, they do sound pretty much like the word, 'hiccup'. Whoever named that body noise came pretty close.

My other brother, Chip, used to try and hold them in. That's not something I would recommend, because it always had an adverse reaction. It became fiercely pressurized, somehow crossed an invisible boundary and burst out as a loud (and painful) 'hic-burp' (although that name doesn't really do it justice).
By now, you're probably wondering where all this is leading. Well, it brings me to the more socially sensitive of the body noises -- and also the source of the most belly laughs.

They have many names. Some are delicate, such as 'poofy-puffs' or 'episodes'. Boys are fond of calling them 'farts'. In our house, we just called them ...

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,
but 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.

[From the book, "Barking Spiders and Other Such Stuff", by CJ Heck]

"Writers soon learn that easy to read is hard to write." ~CJ Heck

Saturday, June 22, 2013

How To Make a Memory ...

Golf Cart with sides down
As I've mentioned before, Robert and I are new to Florida and we're very new to the weather here during the hurricane season.

We're also die-hard adventurers. We love exploring our town, The Villages, catching an alligator sleeping on the bank of one of the lakes, taking back roads, or short cuts just to see where they go, or going for an iced coffee in town at Dunkin' Donuts in our little navy blue two-seater golf cart.

That being said, it's noteworthy to mention that we both also love rain and thunderstorms. We can usually be found on our front porch, during a storm, watching Mother Nature at work.

Yesterday, however, we had more than an ordinary adventure ...

The Storm
During the afternoon, our weather radio announced that we were under a severe thunderstorm watch until 5:45 p.m.

The clouds already looked ominous (promising). They were huge and black and they billowed thickly overhead in all directions as Robert pulled into the garage after work at 4:00.

We were both excited and watching the sky, as we exchanged our usual greetings and small talk about how our respective day had been.

Then Robert asked whether we had any errands to run, (meaning in the golf cart). He looked so disappointed when I told him I'd already picked up the mail and had just finished putting the groceries away.

Suddenly there was a huge flash of lightning. "One one-thousand, two one-thous ..." we began ... and then it thundered. We both looked at each other wearing smiles. 

He asked, "Do you want to get an iced coffee at Dunkin'?"

I asked, "Now? During the storm?"

He smiled and nodded.

The rain began just as we finished putting the sides down on our little golf cart, snapped and velcroed them in place, and then zipped ourselves cozily inside. 

We backed out of the garage, pushed the down button on the garage door opener, and took off on our newest adventure:  to test our golf cart for the first time, during a storm.

Parked in front of Dunkin' Donuts
It was all so exciting and we were like wide-eyed children again, giggling, and marveling at our biggest adventure yet. We felt safe, secure, and ready for whatever Mother Nature had in store for us.

We headed out at a fast clip down Rio Grande Boulevard toward town in the rain.

When we got to Dunkin' Donuts, the rain had tapered off a little. We found a parking spot right in front and Robert ran inside for our iced coffees.

By the time he got back in the golf cart, zipped down the side again, and we put our iced coffees in the holders on the dash, the sky had turned as black as night.

Suddenly, lightning flashed, but there was no time for counting.  The thunder came at the same time.  The storm was right on top of us. 

We backed out of our parking space and headed out into the wildest weather these two seniors had ever seen.

We soon learned that there are all sorts of little openings in a golf cart, I suppose, to give you a nice breeze if you have the sides zipped down. In a storm like the one above us, those little openings work against you. 

The rain was an impenetrable wall and so heavy that we were soaked all the way through in a matter of minutes.

The golf cart lane on Rio Grande had become a raging river as the water rushed to the storm drains. As we drove through the water, the spray shot high into the air on both sides of the golf cart, (as well as through all of the tiny openings to soak us), as we slowly navigated our way home again.

It was incredible, scary, and exhilarating all at the same time -- and it was something we will never forget. A golf cart may not keep you dry, but we sure made one heck of a memory ...

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