Once I put on my glasses by Yves Johnson

a (4)

 

I was trying to read the bible today without my reading glasses. I must rely upon my reading glasses much more now that I have entered the third quarter of life. One thing occurred to me as I struggled to read the words on the pages. I realized that I saw the words but they weren’t clear. As such, I guessed at what some things said. I realized an important life lesson that I’d like to share with you.

As Christians, we must clearly see the Lord in our lives.  We must clearly show people the true Christian life. If not, those who watch us will be looking at a fuzzy image of Christianity. How do you represent Christ in your life? Are you clearly following biblical teaching on financial stewardship, tithing, love of neighbor, marriage, purity, and a host of other things? We must love our neighbor. Love isn’t always agreeing with your loved one. Scripture tells us to comfort our brother when they are in the wrong. If we don’t confront them when they are doing wrong then we don’t love them.

Are you seeing clearly? Are you now following what non-believers say is true? To put it another way, is your life aligned to the Word of God? Remember, we must conform to the bible. Regrettably, some people, even Christians, are conforming the bible to fit their lifestyle and needs.

Prayerfully you will help show people the true image of Christ.

Blessings.

 

Yves Johnson is a Speaker and Author.  He has written two books and a varied collection of articles and blogs. He is the President of Christ Is My Savior Ministries and CEO of CornerStone Leadership Consulting.  He’s a sought out speaker and offers a wide range of leadership and development seminars for both Faith Based and non-Faith Based organizations. You can find his books at http://ow.ly/B4aGp

 

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Parole

 By Micki Peluso

 

a (3)

Rita counted the days. Her mental competency hearing was a week away. Convince these morons I am sane and I am outta here, she thought. Of course she was sane, no doubt of it. Imprisoned by a biased Judge and a jury of rednecks. Just let me get out of this hellhole and they will see how sane I am. These thoughts kept her calm.

          She pretended to take her mind-altering prescription drugs from the prison matron, then spit them in the toilet of her small cubicle. One more week. She could wait. Years had passed, waiting. Soon a trip home to see her husband, ex actually, since the bastard chose to divorce her while she was incarcerated. Like he hadn’t helped her beat up the kid. Rita had told him she never wanted a brat anyway. But she was here and he was out free. It ate at her like a canker sore, but not for long-not for long. And their little girl, grown now after five years. What would she be now? Ten years old, about. Probably don’t remember her dear ole Mom, Rita thought. She will when I get out. Oh she will. and her father more so.

Rita faced the panel of parole officers, the Warden, social worker, shrink, etc., on the date of her hearing. Her once rosy complexion was pale from years of prison life-her drab green prison garb accentuated it. Still the glitter from her steely gray-blue eyes,held a madness she fought to conceal. Beneath a mop of ash-blonde hair, her face held a reminder of cruel beauty, not quite lost.

The panel was a somber group. Suited men, suited women, wearing a facade of importance and fake concern. God how Rita hated these hypocrites. She hid it well, sitting demurely before them, with as much innocence as she could portray and still be believable. This had to work. She must get out-there were debts to pay, and Rita was never one not to meet her responsibilities. Dick and Melissa first on her list, then her parents. Could she stop then? Rita had no idea but just the idea of killing gave her an orgasm of such intensity that she had to cross her legs to keep from crying out.

The snob panel did not seem to notice. They sorted and shifted paperwork, in preparation for her question and answer session that would decide her fate. Rita was ready. Let the inquisition begin.

“Rita,” asked the psycho therapist. “Have you learned from your years with us?”

“Yes Ma’am, so much that it would take a month of Sundays just to tell ya about it.”

“I see. And do you think you can live outside and be a credit to the community? When you answer, please give me details.”

” Ma’am, I know I can. I have learnt so much from you and everyone here. I have become a new woman. I’ve been thinkin’
 on how much my baby girl needs her Mama. I’ve lost so many years I intend to make up for them if I can, in the best way I know how.” Rita lowered her head at the appropriate moment.

“Rita, it will not be easy to establish a relationship with your daughter,” the social worker, interjected. “you will need a lot of support.”

“I realize that Ma’am, a big job, I reckon, and it will take time, but I got plenty of that.”

The Warden spoke next. “You do understand, Rita, that on parole, you will be required to report to your parole officer once a week, should we agree to return you to society?”

“Yes sir, I know that. I will comply with anything you want me to do.”

“You realize that we have petitions from your family asking us not to let you go.”

“No Sir, I didn’t know that. I will promise to stay away from them if that is your wish, much as I love them.”

“Rita,” the Warden added, rising from his seat. “We expect you to do just that. If you go anywhere near them, except for monitored visits with your daughter, you will be immediately brought back, in violation of parole. Is this perfectly clear ?”

” Yes Sir,” Rita nodded, with a face sincere and sad enough to convince them. She was edgy now. Her freedom was at stake.

“Leave us now, Rita,” the Warden advised her. “We will discuss your parole request and inform you of our decision by the latter part of the week.”

The news came to Rita as she was folding prison laundry. Her psychologist brought her the answer.

“Rita, the panel has decided in your favor. I am happy to bring this news and hope you will make a worthwhile life for yourself.”

“Thanks, Ma’am, this means so much to me. I won’t disappoint you.”

The therapist smiled, shook her hand and told her to call her if she had any problems. It was done. Rita was free. Her breast swelled with emotion. At long last, her revenge would begin. And after killing those who had rejected her, Rita would be happy. If not, there were always more to kill.

 

Micki Peluso began writing after a personal tragedy, which lead to  publication in Victimology: An International Magazine and a 25 year career in Journalism. She’s been staff writer for one major newspaper and freelanced for two more. Twelve of her award winning short fiction and slice of life stories are published in anthologies, magazines and e-zines. Her debut book was published in 2012; a funny family memoir of love, loss and survival, called, . . .AND THE WHIPPOORWILL SANG which won the Nesta CBC Silver Award for writing that builds character. She is presently working on a collection of short fiction, slice of life stories and essays, in a book called, DON’T PLUCK THE DUCK. Her debut children’s book, ‘The Cat Who Wanted a Dog’ will be released in May, 2016.

 

http://www.mallie1025.blogspot.com/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/And-Whippoorwill-Sang-Micki-Peluso-ebook/dp/B007OWPBGK/ref=cm_cr_pr_pdt_img_top?ie=UTF8

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WHEN DOING THE RIGHT THING TURNS OUT WRONG by Micki Peluso

a (2)

The day, like the week preceding it, started out dreary and overcast, but patches of blue soon poked through the dense clouds, offering a promise of bright sunshine. Then the doorbell rang and the weather was no longer a concern, as the safety of my small grandson became threatened and the lives of those who loved him, thrown into panic.

My 20-year-old daughter was in the downstairs den and answered the doorbell. She seemed to be speaking at great length and I assumed it was another magazine salesman spouting his pitch. Curiosity overcame me and I glanced out the front window in time to see a police car pulling out of my driveway. As I turned around, Nicole and 4-year-old Jesse, who had spent the night with us were coming up the stairs.

“What did the policeman want?” I asked.

“He wanted to see Jesse,” Nicole answered. “Someone reported him as a missing child.”

“What?!”

“Don’t get upset. I explained that Jesse’s been with us since he was born. But you should have seen the picture of the missing boy. He looks exactly like Jesse.”

“You should have called me.”

“Don’t worry, Mom, it’s all taken care of.”

But it wasn’t. Half an hour later, two police cars pulled up and six policemen, including a sergeant, were at my door. By the time I got downstairs, they were crowded inside the living room of my other daughter’s downstairs apartment. Jesse, who had been visiting his aunt, was backed up flat against the back of her recliner, his face masked with fear. I reached for him and as I picked him up, he whispered, “Grandma, get these guys outta here and lock the door. They think I’m some missing boy.”

“It’s all right, Jess,” I said out loud. “We’ll just tell them that they have the wrong little boy.”

“They won’t believe us, Grandma,” he whispered back.

“Of course they will. Don’t be frightened. You know that policemen help people.”

I put him down and he returned to his previous stance, backed as far into the recliner as his small body would allow; his expression guarded and apprehensive. I would not realize until later that Jesse’s instincts for self-preservation were far stronger than my own.

My two daughters and I spent nearly an hour speaking with the policemen, who were all pleasant and non-threatening. Apparently a young couple in our neighborhood had seen a poster of a missing child at the post office and then saw Jesse riding his tricycle up and down my block and reported him to the police.

The resemblance to the missing boy was uncanny. In the picture he was even wearing a cowboy hat similar to the Australian bush hat that Jesse wore and coveted. We gathered up pictures of Jesse and pointed out to the policemen that while Jesse resembled the missing boy, who was two-years-old in the picture, when Jesse was two he had looked entirely different. They seemed to agree.

I gave them a run-down on Jesse’s life; how he had come to Staten Island at six-weeks-old with his mother and older brother after his parent’s divorce; how I had babysat the boys while their mother worked and how, until recently, when she remarried, the three of them had lived in the downstairs apartment. I was confident that they believed me.

Then the sergeant looked at Jesse, who was no more relaxed than before and said, “Would you like to take a ride with me?”

“No!” Jesse answered, a stony look on his face.

“Jess,” I said, “Wouldn’t it be fun to ride in a police car?”

“No, it wouldn’t,” Jesse stated emphatically, pressing himself even further into the back of the chair.

“Listen,” I said to the sergeant. “Why don’t you drive over to our daughter’s home and she can show you his birth certificate and answer any other questions?”

They agreed and wrote down the directions. Jesse, clinging tightly to my leg, watched them leave, then insisted that I close and lock all the doors. I called his mother and told her what had happened.

“My God!” she said. “How can I prove he’s my child? Birth certificates can be forged. Mom, don’t let Jesse out of your sight!”

Eventually the matter was cleared up and the police were convinced that a mistake had been made. But the nightmare was far from over. Ironically, my daughter also resembled the description of the missing boy’s mother, who had taken her son and disappeared.

I remembered having asked one of the policemen if it was possible that a private detective was looking for the missing boy and if we would have to watch Jesse carefully for some time. The man had looked at me somberly and said, “If he was mine, I would.”

By the day’s end the entire family was a nervous wreck, as the ramifications of what had happened and still might occur, became increasingly clear. Only then did we realize that the police, upon returning with extra men and a superior officer could have and probably would have taken Jesse from us if they believed that he was the missing child. Had my child been missing, I would have expected them to do no less. And only then did we realize that the boy’s family and/or hired detective might still take him first and ask questions later.

What scared us the most was that the father of the missing boy had not seen his son since he was two-years-old. Jesse, at four, looked just like what the father would expect his son to look like. Jesse, was frightened, acutely aware of what had nearly happened. He feared realistically for his safety.

“Nicole,” he said to his aunt, ” If I get taken somewhere and I can’t get back home, I’ll always remember you.” He had nightmares for weeks, clinging to his mother and me, and often cried for no apparent reason.

Jesse’s mother called the Missing Children Hotline, and explained the situation, begging them to explain to the missing boy’s father that a mistake had been made, and that he was welcome to come to New York and see for himself that Jesse was not his son. The person she spoke to told her that he was aware of that particular case and that he would handle it. My daughter asked that he please get back to her. He never did. We also tried to contact the boy’s father ourselves, with no success. We felt as if we were fighting an invisible threat with no means to protect ourselves. Were we believed, or were we being watched?

From that day on, we guarded Jesse carefully, watched him every moment and never left him alone; always careful not to let him sense our fear. But as time passed and Jesse forgot the incident, we were never able to relax completely, never again able to feel secure.

The paradox to this story is that the couple reporting Jesse as a missing child did precisely the right thing for the right reasons. The police responding to the report took exactly the right action. Anyone spotting a possible missing child has a moral obligation to report it. I would not have hesitated notifying the authorities if I thought I had spotted a missing child. And if, God forbid, my own child was missing, I would demand and expect immediate police action, willing to go to any lengths to recover my child. Yet in doing all the right things, a family was given the scare of their lives, and a small boy was made to feel frightened and insecure. That day, which had shown so much promise turned, albeit through the best intentions, into an ominous nightmare from which we would be a long time awakening.

 

Micki Peluso began writing after a personal tragedy, which lead to publication in Victimology: An International Magazine and a 25-year career in Journalism. She’s been staff writer for one major newspaper and freelanced for two more. Twelve of her award winning short fiction and slice of life stories are published in anthologies, magazines and e-zines. Her debut book was published in 2012; a funny family memoir of love, loss and survival, called, . . .AND THE WHIPPOORWILL SANG which won the Nesta CBC Silver Award for writing that builds character. She is presently working on a collection of short fiction, slice of life stories and essays, in a book called, DON’T PLUCK THE DUCK. Her debut children’s book, ‘The Cat Who Wanted a Dog’ will be released in May, 2016.

http://www.mallie1025.blogspot.com/

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A Peek at My New Novel by Cody Wagner

 

I’ve been slaving away on the sequel to my debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, for at least two days.

OK It’s probably been longer than that. But I still feel as if I have a long way to go.

In the meantime, I wanted to share an excerpt. And I think it’s kind of an interesting one.

I wrote an opening chapter a few months ago that, at the time, felt like a logical way to start. Unfortunately, because of the way things have unfolded, I don’t think that opening is going to make it into the  book. It just doesn’t feel correct.

Up until now, I didn’t have a problem killing the chapter. However, after doing some rereading, I realized I actually kind of like it. Even if it doesn’t make it in the final book, it gives me some feels.

Therefore, I thought it would be cool to share it with you. So, without further ado, here is a chapter that likely won’t be seen anywhere else. DUN DUN DUNNNNNN!!

 

The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren

Book 2: The Siren

 

Chapter 1 – Curtains

A force field erected itself between my fist and my ex best friend’s door. I yelled at myself to knock but just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Biting my upper lip, I took a couple relaxing breaths—that didn’t work—and stared at the faded wood.

Come on, wuss, I thought.

I pulled my hand back, went to knock, but stopped before making contact. Again.

It was too hard.

My parents called what I was about to do “eating crow”. I have no idea where that came from, but I was admitting to my ex-best friend Kyle that I was wrong. Apologies seemed to have nothing to do with birds, but I swore my mouth was so dry and gross, it actually felt like it was stuffed with feathers. Maybe the kind with lice.

I closed my eyes, thinking about Kyle thrusting up a sign reading One Fag Down. At the time—a year ago—it was the worst day of my life. My best friend was a homophobe. That sucked on its own. But it was a million times worse considering his best friend (me) was gay. I was only fourteen and closeted, so he had no idea. But it didn’t excuse him from hopping around with his moronic sign.

The fact a Siren controlled him did excuse him.

There’s the monkey wrench, the one I’d never expected had I not encountered so much weirdness in the year since. Yes, I discovered a Siren actually existed, a woman who could control people with her voice. Kyle heard her singing, became brainwashed, and his mind blanked. Under her control, he flashed the One Fag Down sign.

I glanced down and noticed I’d balled my hands into fists without realizing. Apparently, I was ready for a fight. I just didn’t know against whom. Honestly, I had no idea why the Siren hated gays so much, other than the fact her power didn’t seem to work on me.

“You’re stalling,” I said to myself. It was totally true; I’d thought this stuff a million times already.

In response, I turned around, walked to a clay flower pot sitting at the edge of the porch, and pretended to kick it. It probably wouldn’t have helped my apology if I’d really booted it off the porch. But I needed to expend my nervous energy. So I pretended to kick it a few more times.

See, the door-knocking dilemma was two-fold. That’s what made the whole predicament so stressful. First, there was the whole “eating crow” thing. Second, how could I possibly tell Kyle a mythological creature had controlled him? I didn’t think coming across as an insane person was the best way to salvage . . . whatever it was we had.

I tightened my fists and sighed. Definitely stalling. The idea of getting into all this terrified me. And I admit I was also scared I might accidentally come out to him. That’s what blew my life up in the first place: accidentally coming out to my parents. Yep, that’s the type of boneheaded thing I did. A lot. And I didn’t want a repeat. Here in redneck Pamata, I was still deep in the closet. Only my parents knew and they wouldn’t tell anyone. Why? Because judging people was an Olympic sport in Pamata.

I hung my head and, as if giving up, whispered, “Do I even have to deal with this?”

I took a few steps to a window situated next to the front door and looked at my reflection. Tall and filling out a bit. I used to be so lanky but I swore I looked a bit more muscular. The thought, Maybe it’s one of those fun house mirrors, flitted across my mind, but that was stupid.

Still, seeing myself steeled something in me. I couldn’t stand there and stare at a coward. I’d been through too much over the past year. The person who looked back at me was stronger than that. And I swear he crossed his arms and shook his head as if to say, “You’re not chickening out!”

Letting out a final, determined breath, I raced to the door and lifted my hand.

That’s when the door flew open. I shrieked. Smooth.

Kyle stood there, staring at me.

“Crap.” Yep, that’s the worst I could muster. Being around my parents for two months had nullified my cussing mouth. But not my klutziness. I stumbled backwards and tripped over the flower pot. It toppled off the porch and I heard it break on the sidewalk. Double smooth.

I turned up, face on fire. One second in and this was already a mess.

“How long have you . . . “ My voice trailed off.

Kyle ran a hand through his hair. It was so greasy, his fingers must have been coated. Kyle was all about efficiency. He once told me he could hit his snooze button one extra time if he didn’t wash his hair. That nine minutes mattered more to him than appearance.

Kyle shrugged, trying to appear completely relaxed. “You mean today or all the other times you’ve stood there like an idiot?”

I winced as the heat in my face rose to my ears. OK, I admit it: this wasn’t my first venture onto Kyle’s porch. In fact, I’d been there almost once a week for two months. I usually only lingered a few minutes before bailing. But I was leaving for my special school in a few days, and felt this was my last chance.

I jammed my hands into my pockets, embarrassed. I should have known I was completely visible. My periodic lack of sense explained why I was so unpopular here in Pamata, Texas. His greasy hair explained why he was. We used to be a team against the jocks until he raised his anti-gay sign.

“What do you want?” It was just like Kyle to cut to the chase.

I stared at my shoes. Go time. “I . . . Um . . . I mean . . .” Man it’s hard admitting you’re wrong. Especially when you’re as competitive as me. My feet looked for something to kick as I stalled.

“Well?” I glanced up and Kyle had crossed his arms. His jaw was clenched in anger. I remembered a quick conversation we’d had last Christmas. He thought I’d voluntarily run-off to boarding school, abandoning him here. At the time, I thought he was making up his homophobic amnesia. Now I knew better.

Finally, I swallowed as if literally forcing down my pride. “I came to apologize.”

I made eye contact with him. He kept his arms crossed but his jaw unclenched.

That’s when I expected him to unleash. I figured he’d want to know why I was apologizing and would demand all kind of explanations (all of which I dreaded).

Instead, he turned around and walked through his shabby living room without a word.

I put my hands on the doorframe and yelled, “Um . . . “

In response, he stuck up a hand and motioned for me to follow.

 

b

About the Author
Cody Wagner loves to sing, mime (not really), and create. He writes about topics ranging from superpowers to literate trees (really). His award-winning debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, recently “came out”. See what he did there? Cody dealt with bullying as a teen and wanted to provide a fun escape for all the underdogs out there. He’s also handing out cookie dough to everyone who grabs a copy. Check out his writing and see more of his wackiness at www.wagner-writer.com or find him on Twitter @cfjwagner, Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/wagner_writer, and Amazon at www.amazon.com/Cody-Wagner/e/B016NYGV40.

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The Big Gay Note by Cody Wagner

May first crush was on my eighth grade gym teacher. To protect the innocent, we’ll call him Coach Hottie. Coach Hottie was gruff and demanding and every gay eighth grade boy’s dream.

Despite the 35-year age gap, and the fact that I was only 13, which made the possibility of a relationship very very illegal, my teenage naiveté convinced me there was absolutely nothing wrong with the idea of our being a couple. In fact, I imagined us holding hands down the halls of Pampa Middle School, everyone eying us jealously. I even imagined wearing matching coach shorts to show my dedication as we strutted around. Sure, the entire school was homophobic, but my mind concocted amazing stories of love and acceptance. And they all hinged on a relationship with Coach Hottie.

And so I pursued him.

I found every reason to stay after gym class and offer to help with his paperwork (although I had no idea what he actually did). I volunteered to skip dodge ball to clean equipment racks for him. I even offered to wash his clothes in case his “washing machine ever broke, or, you know, whatever.”

The big problem – besides the aforementioned illegalness (OK I thought I made up a new word but ‘illegalness’ isn’t being corrected.) – was the fact Coach Hottie was very straight. And he acted like I barely existed. Therefore, my interest in him started to waver a bit over the course of a year.

Then came the Towel Incident ™.

Eighth grade gym was the only year I was ever forced to shower. After every class, we had to strip down and rinse off. Eighth graders are disgusting, so it was the school’s way of cleaning us up after we hit each other in the face with big red balls for an hour. The problem was, the idea of getting naked in front of my peers terrified me. After all, I was gay and, um, my hormones were raging.

Consequently, I was always the last student to get naked. I’d strip down, throw a towel around my waist, and go stand near the showers. But I wouldn’t bare all and shower yet. No, I had to stand there, convincing myself everything would remain calm and I wouldn’t get beaten up.

One day, as I stood there talking myself down, I heard, “Wagner, take off your towel and shower!”

It was Coach Hottie.

Immediately, my face flushed and my entire body tingled. Sure, he was just frustrated and trying to end the class. But my juvenile mind interpreted the Towel Incident very differently. My first and only thought was, He wants to see me naked!

And thus my crush was kicked into overdrive.

That night, I decided I had to come clean (pardon the pun). Trembling, I sat down and wrote a love note to Coach Hottie. I wrote that I was gay. And for the first time, I poured my feelings out. The note was long, emotional and perfect.

I sat back and stared at my masterpiece. Grinning, I grabbed an envelope and carefully wrote “To: Coach Hottie”. I debated drawing little hearts on it, but decided to let the note speak for itself.

After folding and sliding the paper inside, I sat back imagining Coach Hottie’s response. He’d be skeptical opening the note. He might even tell me he didn’t have time. After reading a few sentences, though, his expression would change. A tear would probably fall from his left eye. He’d drop the note and say, “How did you know?” I’d just smile and shrug as we leaned in for our first kiss.

Hugging the note, I placed it on my desk before bed. Then I tucked myself in, imagining the joy the following day would bring.

Thank God rational thought hit me in the middle of the night.

I don’t know what did it, but I shot up at 3:00AM thinking, What in the hell am I doing? It was the first sensible thing I’d thought in years. Part of me thinks a future version of myself sent eighth grade Cody a dream message. Either way, I hopped out of bed and tore up the note before I could stop myself.

For some reason, the insanity of what I’d done eased my crush on Coach Hottie. And something else began building up in my head. Despite the fact I never gave Coach Hottie the note, it was still the first time I’d ever written I was gay. That stuck!. Putting the words on paper actually made it real.

After that night, I really began to realize who and what I was.

It stuck with me so intensely that, when I wrote my novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, I knew I had to include that scene. In the book, my main character doesn’t write a love note. Instead, he writes that he’s gay out of pure frustration. Instead of tearing the note up, it ends up outing him.

The note solidified who I was, so I figured I’d let it kick start my character’s life. Only, because it’s fiction and I could let my imagination run wild, I did so in a way where the note would take him somewhere he’d never imagine or expect. I hope he thanks me for it when he’s all said and done.

Who knows, maybe he can write me a little note.
b
About the Author
Cody Wagner loves to sing, mime (not really), and create. He writes about topics ranging from superpowers to literate trees (really). His award-winning debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, recently “came out”. See what he did there? Cody dealt with bullying as a teen and wanted to provide a fun escape for all the underdogs out there. He’s also handing out cookie dough to everyone who grabs a copy. Check out his writing and see more of his wackiness at www.wagner-writer.com or find him on Twitter @cfjwagner, Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/wagner_writer, and Amazon at www.amazon.com/Cody-Wagner/e/B016NYGV40.

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Mentors … of sorts

The following is a not-so-random selection from my quote book. I hope you get as much enlightenment, enjoyment and inspiration from them as I have.

The birth of excellence begins with our awareness that our beliefs are a choice.
– Anthony Robbins

Our main business is not to see what lies directly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.
– Thomas Carlyle

Nietche’s formula for the superior man was “not only to bear up under necessity but to love it.”
– Dale Carnegie

Behold the turtle who gets nowhere until he sticks out his neck.
– Unknown

A Fable:
Long ago in a small village there lived a very wise man. There was a boy in the town who didn’t like the wise man and decided to trick him. He caught a small bird, and cupping it in his hands so that only its tail feather could be seen, took it to the wise man.
“Is this bird alive or is it dead?” he asked.
If the wise man said it was alive, the boy planned to give it a quick squeeze and open his hands to show the bird was dead. If the wise man said it was dead, he would open his hands and let it fly away. So no matter what the wise man said, he would have him.
“Is it alive or is it dead?” the boy asked.
The wise man looked, not at the boy’s hands but into his eyes and said, “It’s whatever you want it to be.”
– Charles Templeton

In their early and less opulent days, George Burns wanted to send some flowers to Gracie Allen, who was in the hospital. Having exactly enough money to buy eleven roses, he wrote, “Dear Gracie, here are eleven roses. The twelfth one is you.”
– Unknown
Courage is the capacity to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.
– Winston Churchill

The secret of success is constancy of purpose.
– Benjamin Disraeli

Attitude is more important than facts.
– Dr. Karl Menninger

Not what we have, but what we use;
Not what we see, but what we choose;
These are the things that mar or bless
The sum of human happiness
– Joseph Fort Newton
A man’s true greatness lies in the consciousness of an honest purpose in life, founded on a just estimate of himself and everything else, on frequent self-examinations, and a steady obedience to the rule which he knows to be right, without troubling himself as to what others may think or say, or whether they do or do not that which he thinks or says or does.
– Marcus Aurelius

If you tell me how you get your feeling of importance, I’ll tell you what you are. That determines your character. That is the most significant thing about you.
– Dale Carnegie

We can control our reaction even when we cannot control the problem.
– Dr. Robert Schuller

If you want a thing bad enough to go out and fight for it, to work day and night for it, to give up your time, your peace and your sleep for it… if all that you dream and scheme is about it, and life seems useless and worthless without it… if you gladly sweat for it and fret for it and plan for it and lose all your terror of the opposition for it… if you simply go after that thing you want with all your capacity, strength and sagacity, faith, hope and confidence and stern pertinacity… if neither cold, poverty, famine, nor gout, sickness nor pain, of body and brain, can keep you from the thing that you want… if dogged and grim you beseech and beset it, with the help of God you WILL get it!
– Les Brown
No one ever is defeated until defeat has been accepted as reality.
– Napoleon Hill

Acronym for FEAR: False Expectations Appearing Real
– Unknown
Negative attachments… If you really want to remove a cloud from your life, you do not make a big production out of it, you just relax and remove it from your thinking. That’s all there is to it.
– Richard Bach

… you can measure the size of a person by what makes him or her angry.
– Bits and Pieces, The Economic Press

What changes your life is not learning more, but learning how to take more action – to make decisions.
– Anthony Robbins

… You must look religiously to yourself for the cause of your problems, which means refusing to resort to transference… the act of looking to people other than ourselves, or circumstances perceived to be beyond our control, for the causes of our problems.
To succeed at this task requires tremendous commitment. It also requires discipline, intellectual honesty, and a willingness to subordinate our delicate egos to the pursuit of long-term success. It means that no matter what someone else did to you, you must ask yourself what you could have done to avoid the problem. If you transfer responsibility for a problem to someone or something else, you are in effect telling yourself that you cannot prevent it from happening again because the problem is beyond your control. On the other hand, you can control any problem if you are willing to analyze it from the standpoint of what you can do to avoid its recurrence.
– Robert J. RingerHappy the man, and happy he alone,
He, who can call to-day his own:
He who, secure within, can say:
“To-morrow, do thy worst, for I have liv’d today.”
– The Roman poet… Horace

When you are so focused that you no longer concern yourself with the obstacles, you simply overcome them and go on. When you no longer care whether anyone approves, then you have hit the wall and gone beyond. Your journey to your dream is done, fait accompli.
– Les Brown

Do all your worrying prior to making a decision, and after setting the wheels in motion dismiss absolutely all care or responsibility about the outcome.
– Attributed to the psychologist, William James

If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work.
– Attributed to IBM founder, Tom Watson
Men are disturbed not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen.
– Epictetus

The measure of mental health is the disposition to find good everywhere.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

A human being always acts and feels and performs in accordance with what he imagines to be true about himself and his environment.
– Maxwell Maltz
A perfect example of a minority rule is a baby in the house.
– Unknown

The attitude of being immune to strangers or strange situations, the total disregard for all the unknown or unexpected has a name. It is called poise. Poise is the deliberate shunting aside of all fears arising from new and uncontrollable circumstances.
– James Mangan

Take the most difficult thing you do and make it look effortless.
– Tony Bennet

Did Moses have a secret Eleventh Commandment that said bosses have to be paid more than the people that report to them?
– Tom Peters

Every moment of resistance to temptation is a victory.
– Unknown

If one wishes to be a lover, he must start by saying “Yes” to love. He can do this by looking carefully and coolly at the words he uses when he talks to his wife and children, to his boss and co-workers, to his neighbors and close friends, to his salesgirl and the gas station attendant.
For the words you use will tell you what you are, what you have seen, what you have learned and how you have learned it. For you are your words and they can be a long and important step on the road to the discovery of love.
– Leo Buscaglia

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
– William Shakespeare

A man without a smiling face must not open a shop.
– Chinese Proverb
Talk to people about themselves and they will listen for hours.
– Benjamin Desraeli

A great pleasure in life is in doing what others say you cannot do.
– Unknown

A merry heart doeth good like medicine, but a broken spirit drieth up the bones.
– King Solomon

It is significant that both Judaism and Christianity prescribe joy, rejoicing, thankfulness, cheerfulness as a means towards righteousness and the good life.
– Maxwell Maltz

We are interested in others when they are interested in us.
– Roman poet, Publilius Syrus

Suppose we are so discouraged that we feel there is no hope of ever being able to turn our lemons into lemonade – then here are two reasons why we ought to try, anyway – two reasons why we have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Reason one: We may succeed.
Reason Two: Even if we don’t succeed, the mere attempt to turn our minus into a plus will cause us to look forward instead of backward; it will replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts; it will release creative energy and spur us to get so busy that we won’t have either the time or the inclination to mourn over what is past and forever gone.
– Dale Carnegie

My real measure of a hero is I find myself a better man for having known him.
– Lonesome Dove: Television series
Measure your health by your sympathy with morning and spring. If there is no response in you to the awakening of nature, if the prospect of an early morning walk does not banish sleep, if the warble of the first bluebird does not thrill you, know that the morning and spring of your life are past. Thus you may feel your pulse.
– Henry David Thoreau

If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.
– Anita Roddick

It takes forever to maintain change; but it takes just a flash to achieve change of even the most profound sort.
– Tom Peters
Seek, above all, for a game worth playing. Having found the game, play it with intensity. Play as if your life and sanity depended on it. Because they do!
– Robert DeRopp

It is another of nature’s laws that only a habit can subdue another habit.
– Og Mandino

Successful people do the things that failures are afraid to tackle.
– Og Mandino

How important is language in shaping our experience of life? It is absolutely fundamental. Quite simply, the words we attach to our experience become our experience.
– Anthony Robbins

Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.
– Unknown

When a man understands that the aim of life is not material profit, but life itself, he ceases to fix his attention exclusively on the external world.
– Alexis Carrel

Most people are as unhappy as they decide to be.
– Abraham Lincoln

If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.
– Thomas A. Edison

Take charge of your thoughts. You can do what you will with them.
– Attributed to Plato

Those who live in the past, neglect to see the future.
– John F. Kennedy

Fear knocked at the door.
Faith answered.
No one was there.
– Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

I’ve never been a believer in closing… because my objective is not to close the sale but to open a relationship.
– Attributed to Hans Stenneck
When I work, I relax; doing nothing or entertaining visitors makes me tired.
– Pablo Picasso

It’s easy to be smart, just think of something stupid and then say the opposite.
– Unknown

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The Magic Called Focus by Clayton Clifford Bye

The wind and the waves slammed into us with icy indifference. Air temperature plummeted to near freezing in a matter of seconds, and numbness began to crawl over the exposed flesh of my hands and face. I saw a brief flash of white as terror clawed at the corner of Danny’s eyes, then he turned wordlessly back to his oar. He was right to be afraid.

Things had started out well enough. We stopped at the Big Trout Lake weather office, where we both worked as meteorological technicians, looked over the current reports, got an updated forecast and checked both the barometer and the wind recorder. Everything seemed to be fine. We’d be fishing for walleye on the Bug River within an hour.

And everything was fine—until our motor quit. Even then, we had no reason to be alarmed. The skies were trouble free, and the lake was calm enough for rowing. All we had to do was backtrack in the shelter of a couple of islands and cross the quarter of a mile of open water which lay between them and the mainland. This done, we would be in sight of the village. Rescue would simply become a matter of waiting to be noticed. Such was our plan.

We were about a hundred yards from where we wanted to land the boat when the storm caught us. And even though a fast-moving wall of water (extending from the surface of the lake to the sky and preceded by a seething mass of ugly white waves) is hard to miss, we really didn’t have much notice. It wasn’t just one cell either, but a whole line of thunder clouds. They can move with remarkable speed.

I’ll confess I was concerned when the storm first appeared, but I wasn’t frightened. The fear didn’t really surface until a few minutes later, when we found ourselves being tossed around in ten foot swells that were crested with white-caps which looked like they belonged on the ocean. In the space of less than five minutes, and without moving a single meter closer to shore, Danny and I were blown a quarter of a mile south.

It happened that fast. One minute we were thinking about landing the boat and starting a fire to warm ourselves, the next minute we were being swept south towards thirteen miles of open water. This was something we definitely didn’t want to happen. Big Trout Lake is a killer when rough weather sets in. We both knew that once we hit the main lake there would be no avoiding capsize or the near-freezing water that would seal our fate. By the time a search party thought to look for as at the south end of the lake, instead of the west end, we would be goners. Yes, I think Danny had good reason to be afraid.

I suppose it was because of this train of thought that I just happened to be looking at Danny when it happened. I think I had some sort of notion that by focusing on him I could keep my own fear in check. And I was very much afraid. You see, the waves had gotten so large we could see through the curl of the white caps as they raged down toward us. The sight made my stomach knot up into an iron ball. When our boat was in the trough of a wave, my friend had to stick his oar upward into the side of the thing and pull with a clumsy down and backward movement. Similarly, each time we found ourselves perched at the crest of a wave, I couldn’t draw water with my oar. As for the sudden slip-and-rush down the side of each succeeding monster wave? That’s something I still don’t like to think about.

Anyway, we were at the bottom of one of these boat-crackers, and I was monitoring Danny’s every move. I watched in awe as his oar pierced the wave at no less than an upward angle of 45 degrees. He bunched up into a ball, pushed hard with his legs, rose up off his seat a little and arched backward. The oar snapped.

I can still see it clearly on the screen of my mind: Danny’s feet shot up past the top of his head as if they had been fired from the barrel of a pistol. He did a 360 degree flip in the air and then stopped abruptly when the back of his head connected with the front seat of the boat. I thought his neck was broken. But I didn’t have time to make sure. I checked for a pulse and to see if he was breathing. Yes, he was alive. He was also out cold.

At this point, we were about 200 feet from shore and only 50 feet from the last point of land that could save us from certain death. I have a vivid memory of the sinking feeling I got in my chest when I saw how quickly the remaining shoreline was disappearing. I also remember how angry I got at that response. In fact, I was so angry with my lack of faith in myself that I forced myself upright, stood there with the storm raging all around me and literally willed myself to stare for a long moment at a rock on the shore. I didn’t pay attention to such things back then, but what happened next is etched permanently into my mind. I asked myself a question. I asked “How can I do this?”

As long as I live, I’ll never forget the answer that popped immediately into my mind. It was a crystal-clear picture of me rowing with the passion and speed of a fiend, followed by a phrase that rifled up from the depths of my brain … “Paddle like a madman!”

It’s amazing what a focused mind will do. With no one to lean on but myself, and the only options being death or not death, I found myself determined to do whatever it took to drive our boat onto the rock I’d chosen as a target. I used my oar as a paddle, reefing on it with superhuman strength and the crazed fury of a madman. I dug so deep and with such tremendous force that I was continually lifted off my feet and slammed into the side of the boat. It mattered not. Nothing in the entire world mattered except hitting that rock. And so, I did.

P.S.
Danny was only unconscious for a minute or two and, other than a headache, he suffered no ill effects. We spent the afternoon, cold and wet, working our way back to our intended landing sight – on foot. Shortly before dark, and long before we reached our destination, we were rescued by a native fisherman.

 

Clayton Bye is an eclectic writer, an editor, a ghostwriter extraordinaire and a publisher of strangely different stories in multiple genres. He lives in Kenora, Ontario on beautiful Lake of the Woods. You can find many of his books at http://shop.claytonbye.com

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INDEPENDENCE BLUE by Salvatore Buttaci

ZZ.Blue Planet

A hero had fallen. At least that’s how I regarded Spicio-Major Leonid Martinez. On Terra Rica 26, he had risked his own life saving my father’s from a spice slide. Did I hold Martinez in the highest esteem? You bet I did, but it all came crashing down with four little words.

“It ain’t our fight.”

Here we were, seven years already on Giallo Finch, and the tension between the Padronistis and the working miners honed sharply. The Padronistis, who ruled with the proverbial iron hand, had invaded the planet for its rich deposits of Independence Blue and staked a claim to what had been the natives’ for millennia. They took the land and enslaved the  wingless yellow bird-like natives who called themselves the “Xybo.” But revolution was in the air. I smelled it and thought of our own history five hundred years ago when brave men stood up and fought the good war for independence.

“It ain’t our fight, Spicio-Captain Stanton. We’re here to mine the Blue. That’s our job, remember? Don’t go soft on me, hear?”

My father, dead these past years, must have rolled in his grave to hear his old comrade bad-lip freedom. Spicio-General Tyger Stanton had died defending the home front against the Eastern Hordes. Had he known the war tolled the knell of democracy, ushering in its rhymed nemesis, plutocracy, he would’ve died a thousand deaths to prevent it. The old America of, by, and for the people was tossed into the past. Now the rich ruled. A council of seven trillionaires who controlled the galactic space trade the way a mother protects her newborn.

Time travel changed the irredeemable fate of Old America. The American astrophysicist  Gustav Brandt had discovered a formula to harness time portals, twist wormholes, create instantaneous shortcuts that shaved down millions of light years to a voyage lasting  minutes. The Earth we left was the same Earth to which we returned. Parallel worlds with its myriad strands of time channels was a myth.

Space travel was now irrelevant. Stars and planets not even telescopically visible could be reached by tapping one’s wrist to the proper spatial coordinates and the chrononauts could be landing with or without their ship on planets similar to our own Earth.

Then one of the chrononauts discovered unknown spices on these unknown worlds. Cargoed back to America, these spices attacked and killed deadly cells like cancer, the plagues, the Pyrenees Virus, and the Flux. These pernicious diseases remain gone.

Martinez and I were leaders of a spicer crew of twenty that mined Independence Blue on Giallo Finch. The same SpiceCorp mined Incardine Red on Turo Venida and Ghost White on Como Mars –– all three of which had become the new significance of Old Glory’s colors. Three color spices had replaced the valor of the old red, the purity of the white, and the justice of the blue. It had transformed America into the lucrative land of the greedy and the home of the depraved. I was glad to be light years away.

###

The fight that was not ours erupted one green-sky predawn when the Padronistis rolled out their tincan tanks into the highlands of the Xybo, firing away at anything that moved. They had already sent Padronisti assassins to SpiceCorp House, slashing the throat of Spicio-Major Martinez, then blasting away the entire spice crew in their beds.

I escaped.

###

With three Xybo eggs under my protection, I tapped my wrist in search of some faraway freedom-loving planet, far from spice mines, to start all over again.

#

 

Sal Buttaci is the author of two flash-fiction collections Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, both published by All Things That Matter Press and available at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Salvatore%20Buttaci

His book A Family of Sicilians… which critics called “the best book written about Sicilians” is available at www.lulu.com/spotlight/ButtaciPublishing2008
He lives in West Virginia with Sharon, the love of his life.

www.salbuttaci.blogsport.com

www.twitter.com/sambpoet

www.facebook.com/salvatore.buttaci

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Upon Waking by Monica Brinkman

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The first thing I recall was the sensation of floating, my body so light it seemed nonexistent. I took a large breath, held it for a few seconds and exhaled, noticing the coolness against my parted lips. My eyes fluttered from the glare of light and I peered between thin slits to take in my surroundings. Tears streamed from each corner as my baby blues grew accustomed to the brightness. I instinctively brushed the moisture away, squirmed in place, stretched my arms out and relaxed against the pillow of softness. So peaceful a morning, I sighed with contentment and wished I could hold this moment, this second, this instance for eternity. I glowed with the joy of being alive.

A voice interrupted my meditation, followed by a deep baritone chuckle. Memories of yesterday filled my brain. It was one of those rare occurrences when you recognized a smell, a thought or in this case, a voice and it flooded your entire soul with remembrance. You could taste it, feel it, relive each sensation until its brief appointment left you melancholy, wanting more.

“Michelle”. Wait, there it was again, calling my name, the voice drawing nearer. Why did it sound so familiar? “Michelle” rang out once more.  So identifiable was the utterance, yet I could not match a character to the tone.  I rose from my waist and scanned the perimeter. Wait. There in the distance was a movement. Though blurred I could see it progress, coming closer, calling out my name, “Michelle.  It echoed through the air and brought me tranquility of which I’ve never known.  My body automatically fell back into a prone position and I stretched each limb, curled each toe. This was magnificence beyond belief and I adored the feeling. I did not wish it to cease and sobbed with happiness.

The sensation of a firm grip upon my shoulders startled me, yet I was not afraid. I turned to one side and fingertips played a sweet song of endearment on my arm and brushed the hair from my face. I snuggled,

spooning against maleness without hesitation; it felt so perfect, so right. This was utter bliss as I’d never experienced and I was lost in pleasure.

Strong arms held me tight. “Michelle, I’ve waited for you”.

Pain, fear, horror rushed into my mind and body. I trembled against his grasp. No, make it go away, please, no, not this, not me. The visions came as flashbacks, one after the other, each more horrifying, all so terrifying.  I cried out from the memory, still fresh in my mind. There lay my body on the cold pavement, once gray, now full of crimson blood.

I shuddered in his arms, tears flowing swiftly down my face, hitting his hands.  Where am I?

He pulled me to face him. We kissed as we had done so many years ago, before the head-on collision. I held him tight and knew that my first love, Chet, was now my eternity.

 

Monica M Brinkman believes in ‘giving it forward’; reflected by her writing and radio show. A firm believer open communication is the most powerful tool to make positive change in the world; she expresses this in her books, The Turn of the Karmic Wheel, The Wheels Final Turn and in her weekly broadcast of It Matters Radio.

An avid writer, named a true storyteller, she has been published in several anthologies and wrote a weekly column for over two years at Authorsinfo. Her works can be found at various sites throughout the internet. Visit her blog @ http://itmattersradio.wix.com/on-the-brink

Monica resides in the Midwest with her husband, two dogs and five cats.

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Fragments of Dimension by Monica Brinkman

 

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 “Frankie! Come here boy.” Jennifer inhaled three whistles before continuing. “It’s me sweetie. It’s mama.”

The short-haired Fox Terrier’s ears perked, nose pointed forward sniffing for familiar scents. Finding none, he cocked his head, circled the corner and lay down, now content on licking the dust from his paw.

If only I’d been more careful, thought Jennifer. She recalled the first time it had happened. She was sitting on the sofa watching the dust twirl, dance and sparkle within the beam of sunlight pouring through the open window. It occurred to her that the sparkles weren’t actually dust particles at all but tiny dots of glimmering rays, each separated by a minuscule space of darkness. When she looked deep into the empty spaces, she found herself drawing closer to the light.  Yet her body was motionless and seated on the sofa, content on staring into the rays, not moving a muscle.  The emptiness drew her further and further into its space. The nearer she came, the wider the darkness opened as it pushed the shimmer and glittering particles of sunshine to the side. She felt the darkness widen taking over the entire area of the sunbeam and in an instance, the empty space sucked her into another dimension.  She soared above the sofa at will and as soon as she had felt fear, bam, she was back in her living room on the sofa.

Often, she had focused on the empty space, the darkness between the light. She recalled that in school they had taught her nothing is solid; there is always space between the molecules holding items or she supposed, even people, together. Somehow, she had mastered the ability to enter into the between and experience a dimension where the body was lighter than air and could float across space and time. So addictive a game it was and such fun that all fear of the unknown ceased and the incidents became more a habit than an exception.

Now she had gone and done it.

Jennifer pressed her Miren shaped nose against the hard surface of the window-like substance. She had not yet decided what it most resembled. The color was not as clear as glass for it portrayed a pearl-like radiance that changed color according to the angle one peered, altering from a soft glaze of white to an intense shade of gray.  Little flecks of light burst from its interior, rather as those of fireworks, but much tinier in circumference.  Somehow, none of these oddities interfered with the clarity of vision. She could make out every single object or being through this odd looking glass.

The surface began to roll and ripple. Jennifer stepped back.  She watched with curiosity and alarm, as the ripple grew large, towered over her head and scooped her up. It formed a large bubble that encased her body. She cried out in terror. Her wails turned into cascading foam and fell liquidating under her feet.

The bubble lifted Jennifer into the air and through a tunnel of blackness.

Frankie jumped on the king sized bed and licked tears from Earl Hanson’s face. Animals have that innate ability to sense an owner’s despair. Earl knew it was foolish to think his daughter would appear after all, nine months had passed. He might be losing his mind, but at dusk, just when the final light of day shined through the windows, picking up bits of dust, which swirled through the air, he could swear he heard Jennifer’s voice crying out “Help me. Father help me.”

 

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