Thursday, July 31, 2014

The "Man-Rules"

Pay Attention, Ladies ... (ha ha ha, hee hee)
[Contributed by my friend, Vietnam veteran, Allan Bopp, who posted it on Facebook]

We men always hear 'The Rules' from the female point of view. 

Now finally, here are The Rules from the male point of view. 

These are our rules. They are all numbered #1 on purpose and for a good reason. 

Do your best to remember them, please.

#1. Men are NOT mind readers.

#1. Learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us complaining when you leave it down.

#1. Crying is blackmail.

#1. Ask for what you want. Allow us to be clear on this one:
Subtle hints do not work
Strong hints do not work
Obvious hints do not work
Just say it!
#1. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question a male has.

#1. Come to us with a problem, but only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

#1. Anything we said six months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become null and void after seven days.

#1. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us whether you are fat.

#1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad, or angry, we meant the other one

#1. You can either ask us to do something, or tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know the best way to do it, then just do it yourself.

#1. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

#1. Christopher Columbus did NOT need directions and neither do we.

#1. ALL men see in only sixteen colors, just like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

#1. If we ask what is wrong and you say 'nothing,' we will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are not telling the truth, but it's just not worth the hassle.

#1. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.

#1. When we have to go somewhere together, absolutely anything you want to wear is fine. Really.

#1. Don't ask us what we're thinking about, unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as baseball, football, or motor sports.

#1. You have enough clothes.

#1. You have too many shoes.

#1. I AM in shape. Round IS definitely a shape.

#1. Thank you for reading this. Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight. But did you know men really don't mind that? It's like camping to us.

***This is cute!  Thank you for sharing, Allan!

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Why Do Writers ... Write?

A Writer ... Writing
No one is asking, let alone demanding, that you write. The world is not waiting with bated breath for your article. 

Whether or not you get a single word on paper, the sun will rise, the earth will spin, the universe will expand. Writing is forever and always a choice - your choice. ~Beth Mende Conny

That is an interesting quote by Ms. Conny, and it's so true.  Nothing in the world will change if I write, or don't write. Writing is a choice, but it's a most interesting choice.

I decided to ask a group of writers why they write.  What I found was that their reasons for writing were as varied as the number of writers I asked:
Some write because it's their job. That's what they're paid to do. 
Some write because it's a hobby and something they enjoy doing. 
Some write because it's a challenge, maybe through a writing community, or a teacher in school. 
Some write because they're in love and they want to express their innermost feelings. 
Some write because it's a driving compulsion, a mental lava flow, if you will.  [I'm assuming this is the category the prolific Steven King falls into]. 
And some write because they're uncomfortable with the words banging and clanging aimlessly inside. They have to write and get the words out. 
The one response that was universal was, the serious 'writers' write for the sheer love of writing.

It's a given that all writers want to be good.  But the dedicated writers, the real writers, want to be so unique, as to be able to write one thought, one idea, one poem, one story -- at least one thing -- in such a new and wonderful way that they'll be remembered for it, long after they're gone.

Like Anais Nin once said, (and I love it):
"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say."
As for me, I write because I love writing. It doesn't matter whether I'm writing poetry for adults, children, short stories, essays, one of my blogs, or a love letter to Robert. I write because it's an addiction and a hobby.  I write to leave something of me behind; something that I hope is good; something so new, so unique and so different that my children's children's children will read it some day, smile, and then say,
"That was my grandmother -- she wrote that.  She sure was a character.  How I wish I could have known her ..."
Please tell me, why do YOU write?

Hugs from me to you,

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

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Men and Phenomenal Woman: by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou  1928 - 2014


by Maya Angelou

When I was young, I used to
Watch behind the curtains
As men walked up and down the street. Wino men, old men.
Young men sharp as mustard.
See them. Men are always
Going somewhere.
They knew I was there. Fifteen
Years old and starving for them.
Under my window, they would pauses,
Their shoulders high like the
Breasts of a young girl,
Jacket tails slapping over
Those behinds,

One day they hold you in the
Palms of their hands, gentle, as if you
Were the last raw egg in the world. Then
They tighten up. Just a little. The
First squeeze is nice. A quick hug.
Soft into your defenselessness. A little
More. The hurt begins. Wrench out a
Smile that slides around the fear. When the
Air disappears,
Your mind pops, exploding fiercely, briefly,
Like the head of a kitchen match. Shattered.
It is your juice
That runs down their legs. Staining their shoes.
When the earth rights itself again,
And taste tries to return to the tongue,
Your body has slammed shut. Forever.
No keys exist.

Then the window draws full upon
Your mind. There, just beyond
The sway of curtains, men walk.
Knowing something.
Going someplace.
But this time, I will simply
Stand and watch.



by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

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

Friday, July 25, 2014

Flash Fiction Horror: Terror on Hilltop Drive

by CJ Heck

Home alone, the sound of breaking glass wrenched Maggie from sleep. 

Waiting, listening, afraid to breathe, her heartbeats mingled with a wooden creak as someone climbed the stairs in the hallway.

Her door was open, she thought.  Oh my God!  The door was open!

Icy tendrils of fear prickled the nape of her neck, yanking the wisps of hair and standing them on end. 

Perspiration beaded her forehead and neck, the little runnels slipping down between her breasts, soaking the front of her nightgown. 

Suddenly a shot rang out in the darkness.  The bold flash was all at once blinding. Her ears were stunned to silence and a scream tore from her throat. 

She waited in the hushed gloom, her eyes again adjusting to the night. 

The smell of burnt gunpowder and blood filled the air and it was nauseating.

Afraid of the dark, but more afraid of turning on a light, she picked up the phone and dialed. 

“Nine-One-One. What is your emergency?”

“1010 Hilltop Drive. Help me!  I’ve just shot an intruder. Hurry!  Please hurry!”

Smoke clung to her like a shroud, its gray wisps still rising from the trembling .38 as Maggie crept through the doorway and into the hall to wait ...

[From the Book, "Bits and Pieces", by CJ Heck] 

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

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Short Story: Billy and the Calf, by John A. Roof

Star the Calf

It was an unusually warm spring in Texas in the year of 1955. The pecan trees were blooming early and so were the spiderwarts and other wild flowers.

Our Father, Russell Roof, was busy in his shop building furniture for one of his customers. My brother, Bill, was with his friend, Troy, riding his new bicycle he had gotten for his birthday.

We lived in a small village called Staples, not far from San Marcos. The boys headed down the road towards the San Marcos River on FM1977. Here is where the story begins about my brother’s big adventure.

As Bill and Troy rode past the Swift Ranch, they looked at all the new calves in the pasture with their mothers. Bill spotted one small calf looking at him. He watched as it followed them closely with her eyes, and then out of the blue, the calf tore off from her mother at a full run right towards them.

As they continued down the road on their bikes, the calf followed them til she had to stop at the fence line. Bill and Troy rode on up to Mr. Swift’s barn to ask Rancher Swift about the calf.

He told them that she had been born during the night under a shooting star and she had a perfect white star on her face, so he named her Star. Rancher Swift told the boys that Star was different from the other calves. He had never seen a newborn calf stand so fast and she was so eager to run.

Every day after school, Bill and Troy rode their bikes by the pasture and Star would run to the fence and follow them. No matter how fast they rode their bikes, Star stayed right alongside them till the end of the pasture. Then Bill would come home and tell us about the strange calf named Star, and how she seemed to wait for them every day and come running.

One day, Bill and Troy approached the fence and gave Star a rub on her nose. She looked at them with her big brown eyes, turned herself in circles, then ran down the fence line and then back up again. She repeated this until Bill and Troy got on their bikes and rode on down the road towards home.

“Troy, don’t you think that was strange, how Star would run down the fence line, return, and then run down the fence line again?” Bill asked.

“Yeah, I know. I've never seen a calf do anything like that before.” answered Troy.

“I wonder if Star is trying to tell us something.” Bill said.

“I don’t know, Bill. Maybe."

The following day, they returned to the pasture. As they walked to the fence, Star again welcomed them. Then she repeated everything just like she had done the day before. That night at home, my brother was especially silent. At the dinner table, mom asked him if he was feeling okay.

“Yes I'm fine. I'm just thinking about Star and wondering why she's acting so funny.” he said.

Bill told us all about how Star would run to them, turn in circles, and then run down the fence line and how she repeated it over and over. He said she wouldn't stop till he and Troy got on their bikes and rode on down the road beside the fence.

“Dad, do you think Star is okay? Do you think something is wrong with her?” Asked Bill.

“I don’t know, son, but I do know this. We're all put here for a reason, man or animal, and I'm sure the Lord has a reason for Star to do what she does. You just need to find out what that is. That's your job.” His Dad answered.

The next day was Saturday and Bill and Troy spent the whole day sitting across from Star’s pasture and watching her. She would look at them, come over to the fence, turn in circles, and run and then come back. Time passed and after a while, Troy said, “Let's go I'm bored and hungry.”

As they walked over to their bikes, Bill noticed something. Star's ears perked up and she became very excited. As Bill approached her and leaned his bike against the fence, Star seemed very interested in it. She came right over, poked her head between the fence boards to nose and lick the bike.

“That’s it!” Bill yelled. “She wants to ride our bikes!”

“What?" Troy yelled back.

“I'm telling ya, she wants to ride our bikes! She wants to go faster than any cow has ever gone.” Bill explained.

“Okay, let’s say that's what she wants to do -- ride our bikes -- how do you get a calf on a bicycle?” asked Troy.

“I don’t know yet, but I do know that's what Star wants. We have to think of a way.” Said Bill.

For a few days after, Bill and Troy tried to think of a way to put Star on their bikes, when finally it came to them. Let’s make a trailer! We can pull it behind our bikes, just like you would behind a truck. Bill went to his father and asked if there was any old lumber he could have.

“What do you need wood for?” asked his Father.

“Troy and I are going to build a tree house in the woods by the river for the summer.” Bill fibbed.

“There's some old lumber in the back shed you can use.” said his father.

The next day, Troy and Bill began to build the trailer. They found a couple of old wheels in a shed on the Lowman’s popcorn farm and they asked if they could buy them. Mr. Lowman told the boys the wheels were from an old wagon his son had and they could just have them.

The plan was to be finished on Friday and take Star for a ride early Saturday morning. Friday night, Bill couldn't sit still. He kept asking if it was time to go to bed yet. He told his father to make sure he was up early so he and Troy could go work on the tree house.

Saturday morning, they went to the pasture and opened the gate. They found Star and put a halter on her and led her out of the pasture. Star’s mother was not too pleased and she raised quite a ruckus. The boys took Star to their bikes where the trailer was already attached and checked the ropes one more time. When star saw the bikes and the trailer, she immediately walked to the back and climbed into the trailer.

“Are you ready, Troy? Are you ready, Star?” asked Bill.

With that, they were off. Knowing Star was far heavier than what they were used to, they put their bikes on a little hill near the pasture. In the background, Star’s mother was still raising a ruckus and here was Star, mooing for joy as Bill and Troy were peddling.

The two bikes hauling the trailer began to move down the road. Rancher Swift heard all the noise and came running and what he saw was something that took his breath away. Before him were two boys on their bikes peddling as fast and as hard as they could down the road with a calf riding in a trailer behind them.

To this day, Rancher Swift tells everyone that Star, the calf, was yelling "Yipppppppeee!" all the way down the road.

When the ride was over, they saw a small crowd had gathered, including the boys' fathers. The boys saw that Star was returned to her mother, who calmed down immediately. Both Bill and Troy knew there was going to be heck to pay. They saw Rancher Swift and their fathers talking. They had taken a calf out of the pasture without permission.

Rancher Swift came over to the boys. He looked at them with a frown on his face -- but there was a smile in his eyes. Rancher Swift and their fathers had already decided that Bill and Troy were going to have to be punished. They would have to work for Rancher Swift all summer helping keep his barn clean -- and they would have to take Star for a ride every day.

That summer, people from miles around came every afternoon to watch the bike-riding calf. Rancher Swift never sold Star. She stayed in Staples TX and watched my brother and Troy ride up and down the road for many years.

About the Author

John and Betsy Roof
John Roof graduated from Texas Tech in December, 1973, with a BFA in studio painting.

Bill the Calf and the Ride Down the Road

The Walk: Short Stories of a Teenage Boy in the 60's

Visit John's Website

John and his wife, Betsy, live in their home amid  the wildflowers and fruit trees in Staples, Texas, where they are accomplished artists and photographers.  They also love to build and restore antique furniture together.

He's one of the nicest and most regular guys you'll ever want to meet.

John is fond of saying, he has found his garden ...

**Thanks, John!  Hugs to you both ~CJ

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Flash Fiction Horror: "Half Past Five"

Peck's Corner

by CJ Heck

There’s a sewer drain in town on Peck's Corner.  At half past five every evening, the street lamp flickers on, near where gentlemen routinely take a leak after leaving the Raven's Wing Pub, after closing. 

It's been done for years.  No one even seems to notice, except for the smell of piss that assaults the nostrils when you step out onto the sidewalk. 

The smell immediately informs the brain, but only the vermin care -- and there were plenty of them out there, near the sewer drain in town on Peck's Corner.  I know.  I've been there.  That's where I saw the body.  

It was at half past five on Monday.  The chimes from the clock in the tower told me it was so, and when I called, that’s what I told the authorities. 

The body was posed, sitting.  The head
 was in his lap, resting between the legs which were all askew and bent at impossible angles.  

The arms hung down, elbows facing out. The hands were placed on top of the head, fingers entwined in the flaming red hair of the head -- the head that was in his lap. 

The body was sitting
 in a pool of its own blood, the mouth frozen in a scream that no one will ever hear.  But the eyes, the eyes ... I will never forget the eyes. The vermin had eaten both eyes. 

Will anyone ever know the horror they saw on Peck's Corner, just before half past five ...  

[From the Book, "Bits and Pieces", by CJ Heck]

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

R.I.P. Common Sense

Common Sense


Today we mourn the passing of a beloved friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years.

No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.

He will long be remembered for having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
Why the early bird gets the worm;
Life isn't always fair;
And, maybe it was my fault.
Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policy, "Don't Spend More Than You Earn", and other reliable strategies, such as, "Adults, Not Children, Are In Charge".

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned, but overbearing, regulations were recently set in place:

  • Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate 
  • Teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch 
  • A teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student

These, and others like them, only hastened to worsen his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they, themselves, had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

Common Sense declined when schools were required to get parental consent to administer suntan lotion, or an aspirin, to a student.

Common Sense deteriorated further as the churches became businesses and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

But Common Sense took a real beating when we couldn't defend ourselves from a burglar in our own home and the burglar was allowed to sue us for assault.

Regrettably, Common Sense finally gave up his will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his two sons, Logic and Reason.

He is survived by his five stepbrothers:

I Know My Rights
I Want It Now
Someone Else Is To Blame
I'm A Victim Here
Pay Me For Doing Nothing.

Not many attended his funeral.  It is believed to be because so few realized he had expired.

Some people, like me, are demanding a Public Inquiry into his death. Did he simply die of despair, as the coroner announced yesterday, or, (as I personally suspect), was he murdered by General Apathy? The early arrest of any suspects by police is not anticipated.

It is times like this I wish I believed in reincarnation.

John Q. Public

[Author Unknown]

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

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Child-Speak: Made Up Words of Childhood

Bethany, Heather, Carrie
I miss the days when my three daughters were little.  Now they're grown and raising my eleven grandchildren.

One thing I used to love is how they made up words for things they didn't know the real name for. I always called it, "child-speak".

I remember once overhearing a conversation between Carrie, the oldest, and Heather, the youngest. They were watching TV together on the couch.

Carrie asked Heather if she would tickle her back for awhile. Heather said she would, IF she could borrow a clo from Carrie.

Carrie seemed all right with that. She knew just what Heather was asking, because she said, "Okay".

Whatever a "clo" was, they had made an equally beneficial barter and both girls were satisfied. The more I thought about it, the more curious I became, until finally, I had to ask, "Girls? What's a clo?"

Carrie matter of factly stated, "A clo is a clo, mom. You can have a lot of clothes, but just ONE of them is a clo."

(Hmmm ... how stupid of me).

Here's another example of child-speak. Sesame Street had an animated typewriter guy on the word segment of the show.

He had this cute little song-sound that he made when he wheeled to the left or right across the TV screen, "Noo-Nee Noo-Noo", or something similar to that.

But I digress … in the following scenario, I hadn't seen him yet.

We were all in the car headed to the library and a tiny foreign car pulled up beside us at a red light. One of the girls pointed to it and yelled out, "Hey look!  Look!  A Noo-Noo car!" 

The other two understood perfectly and they were excited. As I said, I had never seen the little typewriter guy on Sesame Street, so again I had to ask ...

What follows is yet one more child-speak word, an invention of three little girls who had to play inside on a rainy Saturday afternoon.  

I found them in the bathroom mixing a bowl of ... something kinda-sorta green.  When I asked what it was, they all proudly replied, "Hey Mommy, we invented Permagosh!" 

Inventing Permagosh


From "Barking Spiders 2" (the sequel)

Mommy's on the couch.
Daddy's in his chair.
I'm in a corner on a stool ...
yeah, they put me here

'cause I did somethin' naughty
that I'm not supposed to do.
I invented Permagosh
mixing things with their shampoo.

First a real long worm of toothpaste,
then a cloud of shaving cream,
then two glugs of mouthwash
('cause I love the color green).

I stirred it in a mixing bowl.
Boy it smelled real good!
It was even looking better
than I ever thought it would!

Could it be a cure for cancer?
Take the itch from skeeter bites?
Or maybe, heal a sunburn
when it hurts to sleep at night? 

Two shakes of baby powder
made it WAY too hard to stir,
so I added Mommy's perfume.
Permagosh smelled just like her!

Eww ... then the bowl tipped over.
Permagosh was on the floor
and when I turned around,
my mom was by the door.

Now mommy's on the couch.
Daddy's in his chair.
I'm in a corner on a stool ...
yeah, they put me here.

Enjoy your Sunday, my friends.
~Hugs, CJ

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

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Children's Story: "Mommy, What's Abuse?"


by CJ Heck

When Hannah Hobbes got home from school, she looked for Mommy. Mommy was putting clean dishes away in the kitchen cupboard, so Hannah plopped herself into one of the four chairs at the round oak table. "Hi Mommy. I'm home."

Claira Hobbes stopped what she was doing. She looked over at her pretty six-year-old daughter. Hannah was usually a bright and bubbly little girl -- almost always wearing a cheerful smile which brought the cutest two dimples right along with it.

Today, Claira could see right away that there was something wrong. "Hello Hannah-Banana. Everything okay today at school?"

With all that had happened today, Hannah couldn't help herself. She started to cry. Her jumbled words all came out at once. "I was talking to Janie at school today. Mommy, Janie was so sad and it made me feel sad, too. She's staying with her grandma and grampa because her mommy is in the hospital.

Oh, Mommy! Janie said policemen came and took her daddy to jail! When the policemen took her to her grandma's house, she heard them whispering the word 'abuse'.”

Hannah stopped talking and took a deep breath. She was feeling just awful and the tears kept making little rivers down her cheeks. To make things worse, her nose was crying, too, and she swiped at it with her sleeve.

Claira sat down in the chair next to Hannah at the table and handed her a tissue. Then slowly, she patted her lap. Hannah saw and climbed up on mommy's lap. She really needed one of those special mommy-hugs right now.

Feeling safe inside the hug, Hannah asked, "Mommy, what's abuse?"

Claira gave her a gentle squeeze and laid her cheek on her daughter's soft brown hair. "Well, honey, abuse is a very bad thing. That's when someone who is bigger, or stronger, or older, hurts someone else. It can be words that hurt, or actions that hurt. Sometimes it's someone they love, and that makes it hurt even more."

Hannah might have felt safe, but she also felt confused. She didn't understand, and the tears kept coming. "Janie's very upset. She told me her mommy and daddy might get a divorce. I've been over there lots of times. Her daddy and mommy act happy. Don't they love each other any more?"

Claira thought for a moment. This was a grown-up situation and she wished it hadn't touched Hannah‘s life, but it had. She had to find a way to explain this. "Hannah, people can love each other and still not be good for each other. Do you understand?"

Hannah sniffled and shook her head in a great big ‘NO‘. "This is too hard. I don't understand! Janie said they get angry and shout a lot. She said sometimes her daddy hurts her mommy, but then he's always sorry. Then things are okay again. Janie says they're happy and she doesn't want them to get a divorce."

"I know, sweet girl. I’m sure Janie doesn’t want them to get a divorce. Please listen to me, honey. Hurting someone you love is always wrong. Janie has lived with it all of her life. To Janie, that is what seems normal, but only because she doesn't have anything else to compare it with."

Claira saw Hannah was hurting inside. She just had to find some way to help her understand. Then she spotted Hannah's dog, Jeffie, all curled up in a ball and fast asleep on the rag rug by the kitchen sink. Claira's breath caught in her throat. She suddenly knew how to make it easier for Hannah to understand.

"Hannah, let‘s talk about Jeffie. We've had Jeffie for a long time, even longer than we've had you. You really love that old dog, don‘t you?"

Hannah sniffled, but she couldn't help but smile, too. Jeffie was a great dog! He was her best friend in the whole world. She told him all of her secrets -- and she knew his secrets, too. He didn't like broccoli or spinach either, and he really wasn't too happy when she gave him her spaghetti, but ...

Mommy interrupted her thoughts by asking, "Hannah, how would you feel if you came home from school one day and Jeffie didn’t run up to you and lick your face, wagging his tail and his whole body right along with it? What if Jeffie showed his teeth and growled at you?"

Hannah stopped crying just long enough to giggle a little at the silliness. "Mommy, Jeffie loves me. He would never do that." Hannah tried to sniff her nose tears back inside and Claira handed her another clean tissue from the green box on the table.

Claira went on to ask, "But what if he did bare his teeth and growl at you? What do you think you would you do?"

Hannah‘s big blue eyes looked up at the ceiling. Why is Mommy asking such silly things about Jeffie? "Mommy, If he did THAT, I would tell him to stop!"

Claira paused, thinking about Hannah‘s answer. Now she knew what to ask next. "And what if that didn't work, Hannah? What if Jeffie growled some more, maybe even louder? What if he even tried to bite you?"

Hannah couldn't believe what she was hearing. "Then I would yell at him. I would yell at him and say JEFFIE, NO! STOP!"

This was working, Claira thought to herself. Then she asked, "Okay. But what if it only made him madder and he DID bite you?"

Hannah answered, "Then I would want to hurt him for biting me, but I know you're not supposed to do that. We would probably have daddy put him in a cage so he couldn't bite any more. Or maybe, we could take him to a place where people teach dogs that biting is bad."

Claira smiled to herself. Yes! This was working. "Excellent answer, Hannah. How long do you think that would take?"

Hannah thought for a minute, her mouth squinching to one side and then the other in deep concentration. "Well, until he stopped biting, I guess."

Then Claira took it a step further. "What if he decided not to stop biting? What if Jeffie hurt you very badly? What if he hurt you so bad that you had to go to the hospital?"

"I don't know, Mommy. I don't know!” Hannah's voice rose louder. “I don't want to think about that! He would stop biting. I love Jeffie and he loves me, too. I know he would stop. I know he would."

The thought that Jeffie would ever hurt her brought fresh tears to Hannah’s eyes and she mopped at them with her already damp tissue, trying to catch them as they slid down her cheeks.

Claira gave Hannah another hug, then handed her a fresh tissue. "Yes, Hannah. Jeffie could learn to stop biting, but he would have to be willing to learn how very wrong it is to hurt someone you love."

Suddenly Hannah’s eyes opened wide. She understood what Mommy was trying to say. It was all making sense to her now. Mommy was showing her that what happened with Janie's daddy was just like the story about Jeffie. "Mommy? When Janie's daddy hurt her mommy, the jail is like Jeffie's cage, right?"

"That's right, Hannah," Claira answered, giving Hannah a gentle squeeze.

"And Mommy, Janie’s daddy really could go somewhere and learn how not to do that any more, right?"

"Right again, Hannah."

Hannah quietly nodded her head in understanding. Then Hannah sighed. "Well, I hope he decides to learn. Then he won't have to be in jail and he could go home again. Then they wouldn't have to get a divorce. I don't want Janie to live like that. Janie's my friend and I want her to be happy."

Claira smiled, feeling proud of her six year-old. She wiped the last of Hannah's tears off with her apron. "I love you, little Hannah-Banana," she said with another mommy-hug. "You're a very smart little girl."

"I love you, too, Mommy," and with a smile in return, Hannah wiped her nose with her sleeve and hopped down to go wake Jeffie from his nap.

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

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Poetry: by Vietnam Vet, Rick Turton

Rick Turton

This first one is something that I wrote a long time ago. I was watching my Father-in-law (who lived with us for fourteen years) interact with my sons one day and realized that I never knew him when he was young, before life took its toll.

I started writing this and then I realized, someday, this could be me... wait! It is me!


When I grow old, remember…
I once possessed dignity and manners; I knew how to use them
I once conversed intelligently & insightfully
I once led with direction, drive, intensity, and scope
I once shared opinions valued by others
I once desired and was desired in return
I once dined with important people
I once remembered much more than I do now

When I grow old, remember…
I once raised children; the toughest career of all
I once loved and was loved in return
I once cried…well, maybe more than once
I once laughed, easily and often

© Richard Turton 2014
All Rights Reserved

Eagle Crying ...

The Eagle Cried
by Rick Turton

The acrid smell of cordite
Still hovered in the air.
No breeze to wash away
The scent of Satan’s hair.

The Medivac’s are fading now,
Their cabins filled with dead.
So many grisly pictures
Are surging through my head

Another hill’s been taken
The earth all charred and black
We all know what’s coming;
Tomorrow…”Give it back!”

The Eagle cries from barren trees
His tears, he cannot hide.
Where once a proud, young soldier stood
My Warrior Brother, died.

The scorched ground that surrounds me;
Am I in Dante’s Hell?
This skirmish now is over.
We saw them as they fell.

My Warrior Brother, Donny,
Died that gruesome day.
He took the bullets meant for me
With his final words did say,

“Tell Mom and Sis I loved them!
Please! Don’t let me down!”
I promised I would tell them
A promise I’d soon drown.

The Eagle cried that tragic day,
Back in Sixty-Eight.
A promise made…un-kept,
To my Warrior mate.

One thing that I’m sure of,
A thing that gives no rest.
The hounds of Hell still battle
Deep within my chest.

A bottle’d been my address
For forty years or more.
I’d take ‘most any drug,
I couldn’t find the door.

Somewhere there’s a record,
Of drugs and booze and tears.
When I crawled out of the bottle
I’d been buried in for years.

Half a decade sober.
Not a real long time.
That’s how long I’m clean tho’,
My life’s becoming mine.

The winds of war are blowing by;
In history books they last.
I’m in the winter of my years,
My best days...they have passed.

The one thing that I’ve never done
One thing I cannot face:
To visit the Memorial,
The headstone for that place.

My daughter said, “You have to go,
To honor those who died!”
I said I know I should…
But that I’d go…I lied

Then one day the phone rang;
A call I knew I’d dread.
It was Donny’s sister,
“Please help me!” Karen pled.

“I’ve spent these years just searching
I even hired a sleuth.
I finally found out where you live…
I need to know the truth.”

“The Army’s always been real vague,
And their answers never matched.
I need to know what happened;
They always seemed detached”

“Our Mother has passed on now,
But I still need to know;
I’d really love to meet with you,
Please…just show me how!”

The hounds of Hell are roused again;
Their howling has re-started.
I force their shrieks out of my mind,
My path, it has been charted

Quiet now, you dogs of war!
It's time for a new quest!
It's time for me to wrestle you,
And lay your souls to rest!

Then I thought the one thing,
A thought I'd never say,
Should I meet her at The Wall,
And put my hounds at bay?

I finally said I’d meet with her,
With a voice that was not mine.
The Wall is where I’ll meet you.
I’ll see you there at nine.”

I saw flowers in her hand,
As she walked my way.
“Yellow roses were his favorite.”
Later she would say.

“Hello, my name is Karen.”
She said when we did meet
“Donny wrote me many things,
I knew that you’d be sweet!”

“I know this must be hard for you,
But I really need to know.
Please tell me how my brother died,
That day, so long ago.”

The moment had arrived.
I could hide this fact no more.
I said things I’d kept hidden,
Behind my mind’s locked door

She took my hand in hers,
And waited patiently.
My head bowed down as I thought
Of words I had to say.

I knew my words would stab her heart
But she would not look away.
She watched me as I told her
Of that ghastly day.

“Your Brother died in my arms
In that nameless place.
He took the bullets meant for me
And died as we embraced!”

Her head dropped down, when I was done
Her chin upon her chest.
A single tear rolled down her cheek,
“Now Donny’s laid to rest.”

I walked with her as she made her way
To the Wall of Stone.
She laid the flowers at the base
Her silent prayer was sown.

At last I’ve honored those who fell,
Whose names are etched in rows.
We touched the name of Donny,
Who died so long ago.

And we cried…

The Eagle’s cry is heard again;
It lives within the Wall!
Each time a name is touched
The Eagle gives his call.

© Richard Turton 2014
All Rights Reserved

Vietnam 1970-1971

[Post Script:  Jodie Stevens, a Christian Radio Personality in Sacramento CA read “The Eagle Cried” on the air in honor of Memorial Day on May 23, 2014. Her show is syndicated nationally and is available online at Understandably, Rick felt truly honored and humbled.]

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

Friday, July 11, 2014

Witticisms & Old Wives' Tales

I hate colds ...
Robert says the only time I'm not good company is when I'm sick.  Well,  I woke up with a cold. My throat is raw and scratchy, it hurts to talk, and I feel crabby ...

Whenever I have a cold, I always wonder about that old wives' tale and I can never remember whether it's "feed a cold, starve a fever", or "starve a cold, feed a fever".

As a child, I remember when Grandma Parrish was visiting.  If she heard one of us had a cold, she would grab her jar of Vicks and head for our room.

Vicks was slathered on our chest and back, a dab under the nose on that little divot between nose and mouth, and then on a hanky for when we blew our nose. As much as I hated the smell of Vicks (still do), I did sleep better, because I could breathe.

Colds are awful at any age
Grandma Parrish could tell me about the cold saying. She had a million of those old wive's tales.

She could look out the kitchen window, watch the leaves on the trees turning backwards in the wind, and predict, "It's going to rain" ... and within a few hours, it did.

If someone dropped a fork, or knife, Grandma would say, "Somebody's coming," and sure enough, someone usually did.

For good luck, she would "knock on wood", especially if she said something was going to happen and she didn't want to jinx it.

Clouds were always a favorite. She could look up at the sky and say, "Mackerel scales and mares' tales, sailors carry low sails". That meant rain within twenty-four hours. Another was, "Red skies at night, a sailor's delight. Red skies in the morning, sailors take warning".  Again, either rain, or a storm, within twenty-four hours.

When I was about ten, Grandma and I were sitting on the porch swing at dusk. She pointed into the sky at the first star and said, "Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight". Then we would both send our wishes out into the night.

Whether the wishes will come true is anyone's guess, but it's an old wive's tale that I have passed along to my own grandchildren.

On second thought, I remember a few years ago, my oldest grandson, Liam, and I were on his front lawn one evening. We had just found out his mommy (my daughter) was having another baby. They already had three boys.

Liam and I had made our wishes to the first star and we were sitting quietly in the grass, enjoying the silence, when Liam said, "Gram, do you know what I wished?"

I told him, "No, Liam.  Would you like to tell me?"

Liam went on to share, "I wished mommy would have a girl."

Months later, mommy did indeed give him a little sister, Lauren ...

I remember Grandma had a plaque on the wall by the front door and I would read it over and over to myself. In my child's imagination, I would try and apply it to my world.

It wasn't until years later that it actually made sense to me.

Use it up
Wear it out
Make it do
or do without.

It could be applied to just about anything, but they are words to live by in a throw-away society like ours has become.

In the end, are old wive's tales actually "tales" at all? Seems to me that most of them actually work.

Now, if I could just remember how the cold saying goes ...

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

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Love Can Last Forever
My grandparents were married for over half a century, and they had their own special game they played, beginning on the day they first fell in love.

The object of their game was for each to write the word "shmily" in a surprise place for the other to find.

They took turns leaving "shmily" all around the house and, as soon as one of them discovered it, it was then the other's turn to hide it once more.

They dragged "shmily" with their fingers through the sugar and flour containers to await whoever was preparing the next meal.  They wrote it in the dew on the windows overlooking the patio, where grandma always fed us warm, homemade pudding.

"Shmily" was written in the steam left on the mirror, after a hot shower, where it would reappear time and again after each bath. At one point, grandma even unrolled an entire roll of toilet paper to leave "shmily" on the very last sheet for grandpa to find.

There was no end to the places "shmily" would pop up. Little notes with "shmily" scribbled on them were found on the dashboard in the car, on car seats, or taped to the steering wheel. The notes were stuffed inside shoes, in bureau drawers, and left under pillows on the bed.

"Shmily" was written in the dust on the mantel and traced in the ashes of the fireplace. This mysterious word was as much a part of my grandparents' house as was the furniture.

It took me a long time before I was able to fully appreciate my grandparents' game. Skepticism long kept me from believing in true love, one that is pure and enduring; however, I never doubted my grandparents' relationship. They had somehow gotten love down pat. 

But it was more than a flirtatious little game to them -- it was their whole way of life. Their relationship was based on devotion and passionate affection, which not everyone is lucky enough to ever experience.

Grandma and grandpa held hands every chance they got. They stole kisses as they bumped into each other in their tiny kitchen. If one of them passed by the other's chair, they would pat them gently on the shoulder.  They finished each other's sentences, and shared the daily crossword puzzle. 

My grandma once whispered to me how cute my grandpa was, how handsome he had grown to be. She claimed that she really knew "how to pick 'em." Before every meal, they bowed their heads and gave thanks, marveling at their blessings: a wonderful family, good fortune, and of course, each other.

But there was a dark cloud in my grandparents' life.  My grandmother had breast cancer. The disease had first appeared ten years earlier. As always, grandpa was with her every step of the way. He comforted her in their yellow room, painted that way so she could always be surrounded by sunshine, even when she was too sick to go outside. 

Now the cancer was again attacking her body. With the help of a cane, and grandpa's steady hand, they went to church every morning.

Grandma grew steadily weaker, until finally, she could not leave the house anymore. For awhile, grandpa would go to church alone, praying to God to watch over his wife. Then one day, what we all dreaded finally happened. Grandma passed away.

"Shmily" was scrawled in pink on the yellow ribbons of my grandma's funeral bouquet. As the crowd thinned and the last mourners turned to leave, my aunts, uncles, cousins and other family members came forward and gathered around my grandma one last time.

Grandpa stepped up to grandma's casket and, taking a shaky breath, he began to sing to her. Through his tears and grief the song came, a deep and throaty lullaby. 

Shaking with my own sorrow, I will never forget that moment. For I knew that, although I couldn't begin to fathom the depth of their love, I had been privileged to witness its unmatched beauty:

S-h-m-i-l-y:  "See How Much I Love You."

[Author Unknown]

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

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Humor: Hair Wax ...

Hmmm ... I wonder
I have no idea who wrote this, but it's priceless ...

Hair Wax ...

My night began as any other normal week night...

I came home, fixed dinner, played with the kids ... I then had the brilliant thought that would ring painfully in my mind for the next few hours: 

I thought, "Maybe I should pull the waxing kit out of the medicine cabinet."

So I headed to the site of my demise -- the bathroom.

It was one of those 'cold wax' kits. No melting a clump of hot wax.  The directions said to rub the strips together in your hand until they got warm and then peel them apart, press them to your leg (or wherever else) and you just pull the hair right off. No muss, no fuss.

How hard could it be? I mean, I was no genius, but I was mechanically inclined enough to figure it out. (YA THINK!?!)

So I pulled one of the thin strips out of the box -- there were actually two strips facing each other and they were stuck together. Instead of just rubbing them together, my genius kicked in ... I decided I knew what would work faster, so I got out the hair dryer and heated it to 1000 degrees. Cold wax, yeah...right.

I laid the strip across my thigh, held the skin around it tight, and pulled. Hey, it works! OK, so it wasn't the best feeling in the world, but it wasn't THAT bad. I could do this! Hair removal no longer eluded ME!

I thought, "I am She-Rah, fighter of all wayward body hair and maker of smooth skin extraordinaire!"

So, with my next wax strip, I confidently moved north. After checking on the kids, I sneaked back to the bathroom for the ultimate hair fighting championship. I dropped my panties and placed one foot on the toilet.

Using the same procedure, I applied the wax strip across the right side of my bikini line, covered the right half of my hoo-ha, and stretched it down to the inside of my butt cheek (it was a long strip).  I inhaled deeply and braced myself...RRRRIIIIPPPP!

Oh My Gawd ...
I thought, "I'm blind!  I'm totally blind from the pain!....OH MY GAWD!"

My vision slowly returned and I noticed that I had only managed to pull off half the strip. CRAP! I took another deep breath and RIP! Now everything was spinning and my vision was spotted.

I thought I would pass out.....I had to stay conscious...I HAD to stay conscious. Did I hear crashing drums?  Breathe, breathe...OK, it was (almost) back to normal.

I wanted to see my trophy -- a wax covered strip, the one that had caused me so much pain, with my hairy pelt sticking to it. I wanted to revel in the glory that was my triumph over body hair.

I held up the strip, but there was no hair on it. Matter of fact, there was nothing on the strip at all.

Where was the hair? WHERE THE HELL WAS THE WAX?

Slowly, I eased my head downward for a peek, with my foot still perched on the toilet. I saw the hair. The hair that was supposed to be on the strip was not! I hesitantly touched. What I was touching WAS wax!

I ran my fingers over the most sensitive part of my body, which was now covered in cold wax and matted hair. Then I made the next BIG mistake... remember, my foot was still propped on the toilet, right? Well, I knew I needed to do SOMEthing. So I put my foot down.

No! No! NOOO!  Oh My GAWD!  I was sealed shut!  My butt was sealed shut. Oh Sweet Lord, my friggin' butt was sealed shut!

I penguin-walked around the bathroom trying to figure out what to do and I thought to myself, 'Please, God, don't let me get the urge to poop... my head may pop off!' 
What could I do to melt the wax?

Hot water!  Yesss!  Hot water melts wax! I thought, "I will run the hottest water I can stand into the bathtub, get in, and immerse the wax-covered parts. The wax should melt and then I can gently wipe it off ... right?"


I got in the tub.  The water was slightly hotter than what they used to torture prisoners of war, or sterilize surgical equipment -- but frantic, I sat down.

Now, the only thing worse than having your nether regions glued together, is having them glued together AND glued to the bottom of a bathtub in scalding hot water, which, by the way, does NOT melt cold wax.

Oh Noooo, now what?
So, (picture this) I was stuck to the bottom of the tub as though I had cemented myself to the porcelain!

God bless the man who convinced me a few months ago to have a phone installed in the bathroom!

I called my friend, thinking surely she had waxed before and had some secret of how to get me undone. It was a very good conversation starter.

" Sally, my butt and hoo-ha are glued together to the bottom of the tub. Tell me what to do to undo it."

There was a slight pause on the other end of the phone. She didn't know any secret tricks for wax removal, but she did try to hide her laughter from me. She wanted to know EXACTLY where the wax was located. 

"Are we talking cheeks, or hoo-ha?"

I gave her the rundown. She was laughing out loud -- I could hear her. She suggested between guffaws that I call the number on the side of the box. YEAH, Right!  So I would be the joke of someone else's night, too?

While we went through various solutions, I resorted to trying to scrape the wax off with a razor. Listen to me, nothing feels better than to have your girlie goodies covered in hot wax, glued shut, stuck to the bottom of the bathtub in super hot water and then dry-shaving the sticky wax off!

By that time my brain was not working, dignity had taken a major hike, and I was pretty sure I was going to need Post-Traumatic Stress counseling because of it.

My friend was still talking when I finally saw my saving grace....there in the box was a tiny tube of lotion they gave you to remove excess wax. What did I have to lose at that point?

I rubbed some on and OH MY GOD!  The scream probably woke the kids and scared the dickens out of my friend. It was sooo painful, but I really didn't care. IT WORKED!  It worked!  I got a hearty congratulations from my friend and she hung up.

I successfully removed the remainder of the wax and then noticed to my grief and despair... THE HAIR WAS STILL THERE -- ALL OF IT.  So, I recklessly shaved it off.

Hell, I was numb by that time. Nothing hurt. I could have amputated my own leg at that point.

Next week I'm going to try hair color......

[Author Unknown]

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

Monday, July 7, 2014

Kid Humor at Author School Visits

School Visit in Ohio
I've done my share of school visits since my first book was published in June of 2000.

I was thinking this morning about the funny things children have said, or asked me, during some of those school presentations.

They're just too cute not to share some of them with you ...

"Can I call you Miss CJ?  I don't think my mom would let me say your last name.  It's a bad word, right?"

"My teacher told us we had to guess what C.J. stands for, before you came today -- only she didn't tell us if you were a boy, or a girl, so I guessed it was Carl Jim.  Sorry."

(wildly waving hand in the air, when I asked if anyone had a question at the end of a presentation) "I do, I do!  Where did you buy your boots?"

"Can I come to your house?"

"You write about stuff kids think about.  How old ARE you?   I mean really?"

No, dont!
"I love your poem, Barking Spiders.  My dad will laugh when I tell him about that.  He always tells me to pull his finger and then he farts and laughs, but he says it was an invisible elephant that did it."

"Did your dad really tell you the stuff between your toes is toe jam?  I would never put that on my peanut butter sandwich either ..."

"Do you have a poem about a mom sitting in the toilet 'cause the dad left the seat up?  My mom always does that and then she yells."

"I love your books.  Do you like being rich?"  (ahhhh, the naivete of a child ...I wish)

"I want to write books, too, but my sister says my writing stinks."

"I forgot to bring my paper.  Can you sign my shirt?"
First Lost Tooth

(take a deep breath before trying to say this one ...) "You know your poem about a tooth?  Well, I lost my tooth one day and mom had to write a note to the tooth fairy because I swallowed my tooth and I couldn't put it under my pillow and I didn't think the tooth fairy would come and leave me any money and I cried, but you know what?  She did!  So, I'm not going lose any more teeth 'cause I might swallow those too."

And my favorite ...

"Yeah, I have a question!  (pointing)  See that guy over there, the one in the blue shirt, by my mom?  (proudly)  He's my dad.  That was him laughing when you read the poem about your brother's stinky feet.  That's 'cause mom says his feet smell like he stepped in dog poop."  (oh dear, poor dad ...)

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