Grandma’s Empty Story Chair

Grandma's Empty Story ChairMy favorite chair sits empty today, crowded in by boxes of stuff I collected over the years. Some of it will see its demise in the dumpster out back, while the more contemporary pieces will be given a home thanks to a local mission or charity.

When I left this world, I was freed from the days I spent in darkness. Having perfect sight again makes this new life extraordinary. My skin is silky smooth and my new body has no stretch marks from the excess weight I once carried on earth. I wish my great grandkids could see me this way.

I can barely remember the fear in the little one’s eyes as she reached out to touch my aged, wrinkled skin. The discoloration from medication gave my arm an eerie and deathly bluish shade. The texture alone was enough to startle any three year old, but I was glad she screwed her courage to the sticking place.

My heart raced with joy when her soft fingers touched my fragile skin. Caution was quickly voiced from my kids for my skin could be too easily torn—but I needed my great granddaughter’s touch regardless of the risk. Her loving, yet hesitant touch, gently slipped away and I fell back into my distant prison of old age. Always feeling alive, while trapped in a decaying body that no longer responded as I willed.

Now, glancing at my empty chair brings a subtle note of joy. I was glad for the opportunities I had, although few, to share stories from a time long ago. My son listened attentively to each tale and responded with questions that taxed my memory, as he searched for enough detail to remember my younger years going forward.

My daughter was also eager to learn more about my life including the love interest I had before meeting her father. She was the most empathetic person that listened to my stories and understood the value of each object I amassed over the years. The symbols were reminiscent of several life-impacting stories that I lived out and my daughter could retell most of them just by looking at the piece collected.

But today the boxes are being tossed because the grandkids and great grandkids see no value in any of it. My stories are fading as each representation rusts away or turns to dust. My empty story chair will soon be pitched, as its worn-torn look no longer matches the decorative styles of the day. And with it, I’m afraid family members will no longer cherish my remarkable stories.

Oh, my daughter will continue to share several stories, and my son will even share a few, too. But even he will one day contemplate the waning interest by his children and their kids. His time will become finite and he will have to choose between sharing one of my wonderful stories or making sure his grandkids listen to one of his. I would never wish that frustration on him.

Instead, if I could encourage him right now, I’d say…

Grandma’s story chair is empty and the artifacts surrounding it no longer speak of the thrilling life I led, so say goodbye to me once again, not fearing that I’ll permanently fade from your memories, and speak into the lives of your kids, grandkids and their kids. For you are of great value to me and I want your stories to resound with compassion and wisdom that will bless our family for generations to come.

NOTE: The sketch illustration was created by CJ in an attempt to make his story feel real. While not an illustration artist, CJ used his Bamboo drawing tablet to sketch elements from his mother’s living room.

© 2017 by CJ Powers
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A Story of Humility

HumilityThere once was a humble man. He rightly assessed himself with truth and wisdom. He accepted himself, faults and all, and shared with others freely. His confidence was in his author. He was content in who his maker had made him to be.

When his life excelled, his survival was due to his creator. When his life went belly up in the darkness of despair, his maker held him from demise. He could survive all that he faced. He could do all things through his maker who strengthened him.

There once was a manipulative religious leader. She knew the humble man was set apart for glorious things. She judged him unfit, for his self-awareness suggested a lack of humility. Her network labored to take him down a few notches. They stripped him of money, home and relationships. They blocked him from any and all forms of success. They even found his Achilles heel and dropped him into a repetitive menagerie of daily pain. And finally, they teased him with lovers just out of his reach.

He survived. He cried. He humbly acknowledged his new place in life. He knew that he’d no longer shine as he was made to do, but instead testify to the actions of those that were made to support his creations. He endured for a dozen years, fighting to keep bitterness from tearing up his soul. He finally let go and accepted his new lot in life and waited for judgment day.

The manipulator was proud of her ability to play god in the man’s life. She saw him breaking and would soon announce his new humble status. But something was wrong and she’d have to delay her announcement.

The man stood firm in the face of agony and disgrace. He rightly divided the word of truth and still accepted himself in spite of circumstances. He again acknowledged that his creator made him for a glorious cause, as had been done for the man with a coat of many colors. And, his confidence remained not in himself, but continued to reside within his savior who strengthened him.

The manipulator was angry that the man’s humility did not look like her own. She was convinced it was “fake,” yet it survived the worst of emotional, physical and spiritual attacks. Could she be the barer of fake humility? She trembled at the thought. Her attempt to play god would soon be revealed—her status sinking beneath that of junk bonds.

The humble man simply lived his new life without the glorious gift his savior intended for him to share. No one missed the loving gift, for they never knew it was on its way. The future soon became bleak with no relief in sight because the humble man’s humility didn’t look like hers.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Steele Blue: The Forgotten Crime

steele_blue_bookcover_72This week was busy with the release of my first novel in paperback. My first interview for the book was in the United Kingdom, which was a fun kick-off event. I’ve already talked with a couple bookstores interested in having me in for book signings. These activities are starting to make me feel like an author.

Steele Blue: The Forgotten Crime is about Diaz, a notorious dealer that’s expanding his cherry meth distribution in Chicago, who desires undercover Detective Steele as his life partner. Fighting to keep her cover intact with plans to bring down the drug kingpin, Cassie spends extra time with Diaz, blurring the lines between justice and her growing love for him.

Realizing her precarious situation, Cassie sees to her son’s safety and works hard to regain her memory from the night of the opera house fire—the night Diaz lost his first love. Feeling slighted, Diaz hunts down everyone involved in the death of his “Carmen.”

Racing against the clock, Cassie tries to find balance between her motherly duties, her infiltration as the kingpin’s girl, and her role as the officer tasked to close the case. Cassie is forced to face her fears in discovering the missing piece of her memory that will bring Diaz down. But will it alter her future?

There are elements in the book that came from rubbing shoulders with cops my entire life. My dad was a Sargent on the police force and many of his friends were cops. Every time we got together the group would share true-life stories from their work. They shared stories that were scary, hilarious and unreal sounding—even though all of it actually happened.

I crafted the main character, Cassie Steele, from interviews with two female detectives. Due to a coupe plot twists in the book, I also salted in observations from a local woman. This combination plotted out over actual Chicago locations that I walked made for a fast paced story sprinkled with humor.

I’ve already heard from two women who read the book faster than I thought was possible. They loved the mother and son relationship, and Cassie having to work through her life balance issues to become the hero by the end of the book. One man said that he couldn’t wait until the movie comes out to see the Lake Shore Drive chase scene.

This book means a lot to me and I hope all of you will purchase a copy. Let me know what you think about the story and be sure to pass word about the book onto everyone you know. I could sure use the help getting the word out of the book’s availability. Happy reading!

© 2016 by CJ Powers

The Rubber Band Man

Peter stretched his chewing gum and bit off a piece. He secured it to the corner of the sagging music poster and pushed it back onto his dark blue bedroom wall. The teen looked up to make sure the album covers were secure on the ceiling. A soft knock at the door signaled the hazel-eyed geek that it was time to impress. He swung the door open to see Lisa, a music-crazed cheerleader type that was way out of his league.

“Is that it,” Lisa asked as she pointed at the guitar hanging behind Peter’s back.

“Yeah, it is.” Peter swung the guitar around keeping the strap over his shoulder. He noticed a smudge and quickly polished the body of the electric guitar with his sleeve.

“Well, are you gonna play it for me?” asked Lisa.

“Sure, yeah.” Peter walked over to his mini amp, plugged the cord into the input jack and grabbed his pick. He nodded toward his ceiling display. “They’ve inspired this song.”

Lisa glanced up, but wasn’t impressed.

Peter started with a simple riff and then looked into Lisa’s eyes as he sang. “It is you … the reason why I live … it is me … that stays our happi…”

“Your too low,” Lisa interrupted. “You’ve got to take it up a full step.”

Peter stopped playing. He didn’t know what to do. He could only play the song in one key.

“If you can’t translate the chords, use a capo,” Lisa said.

“I don’t have one.”

“I thought you were a musician.” Lisa turned and left the room.

Peter’s heart sank. He glanced around the room and spotted his desk. He yanked the draw open and pulled out a pile of rubber bands. Stretching the bundle over the guitar neck, the bands snapped into position above the second fret. He swung his pick across the strings sounding the music two half steps higher.

Elated, Peter ran after Lisa, but the chord pulled taut. His shoulder felt the burn of the strap stopping his movement. He unplugged the guitar and took it off. Peter pulled the stack of rubber bands from the neck and stuffed them in his pocket.

The colorful leaves crunched beneath Peter’s running shoes as he entered the park. He saw Lisa walk into the underpass where the bicycle paths merged. Closing in, Peter heard violin music echoing from the tunnel. He picked up his pace, hoping Lisa stayed to listen to the soulful music.

Lindsey_StirlingPeter stopped to catch his breath at the entrance. After composing himself, he entered the tunnel. His eyes adjusted to the darkness and he was surprised to see a homeless woman playing the fiddle with the skills of a master. The woman started to dance while playing. A couple of children from the small crowd dropped money into her worn cigar box lying on the gravel floor in front of her.

Scanning the crowd, Peter spotted Lisa leaving out the other end of the tunnel. He sprinted after her, but collided with the twirling musician. The fiddle crashed into the cement wall, sending pieces flying to the ground in all directions. Silence fell on the crowd as they watched Peter pick himself up and offer his hand to the musician.

“I’m sorry,” Peter said. “I was chasing after … my dreams.”

The woman watched the crowd dissipate. She bent over and picked up the cigar box that held a couple dollars and a few coins. “Looks like no lunch today.”

“I’ll buy you lunch,” Peter said with enthusiasm. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a bundle of rubber bands. His face cringed with sorrow. “I’m sorry, I only have…”

“Listen kid, it was an honest mistake,” said the musician. “Was that cute brunette the dream you were chasing?”

Peter nodded with humility.

“You certainly have no trouble going after the gold.”

“I keep on messing up,” Peter whispered.

“Join the club,” said the musician. “I trusted a manager that was worthless.”

“Everything has value,” said Peter. “But not always the value we seek.”

Peter looked down at his rubber bands, and then glanced at the scattered pieces of the violin. Grabbing the neck and the cigar box, Peter used the rubber bands to form an instrument. After cutting a hole in the box and attaching the strings, Peter handed the homemade fiddle to the musician.

“Nice work!” the musician said. She raised the fiddle to her shoulder and drew her bow across the strings. The rich tones resounded through the tunnel. People gathered as she quickly tuned the instrument.

The crowd smiled and swayed with the newly manufactured sound. The musician had no fear and played more passionately than before. Peter took several remaining pieces of the broken violin and strapped it together with a couple rubber bands. He set it in the place where the musician’s cigar box once collected tips. People immediately dropped various denominations of paper money into the collection box.

Peter noticed Lisa returned to listen. She saw the unique instrument and pointed at Peter with a face contemplating a question. Peter sheepishly pointed to himself and nodded that the instrument was his handiwork. Lisa smiled and moved his direction. Applause erupted after the final draw of the bow, slowing Lisa’s approach.

A man stepped toward the musician with his hand holding a business card. “I’m Steven Kilpatrick from Maverick Records. Word of mouth put me on your scent and you didn’t disappoint. In fact, your creative approach to music is worth millions. I’ll give you a six figure advance to sign you to our label.”

“You’ll have to take it up with my manager,” the musician said, as she glanced at Peter.

“Well son, what’d ya say?” asked the businessman.

Peter looked to the musician who winked her approval. Lisa took his arm and wrapped it around her. With a sense of pride, Peter faced the businessman. “It’s a deal.”

Everyone in the tunnel cheered. Lisa kissed Peter’s cheek. “You might not be a great musician,” said Lisa. “But, you sure can see the value in the simple things, Mr. Rubber Band Man.”

© 2016 by CJ Powers

 

The Wonders of Fresh Fallen Snow

The Wonders of Fresh Fallen SnowI woke up this morning feeling like an eight-year-old boy. It was a simple feeling generated by the fresh snowflakes falling past my window. I stepped outside onto the crunchy packable snow with a childish grin on my face.

There was a peculiar stillness in the air that caused me to look around and notice the dark contrasting trees. Splat! Smashed my snowball against the dark wet tree. Splat! Another snowball hit, and another. Soon an image emerged of a rabbit with six-foot ears and its paws outstretched, as if it was trying to cross the finish line before the tortoise.

After laughing at my artwork, I flipped over backwards into the snow. My weight drew me closer to the ground, as I heard the snow crunch beneath my large frame like a musical score from my boyhood. I lifted my arms above my head and spread my legs apart, and then I returned to the position of a toy soldier. Back and forth I did it again, forming the perfect snow angel.

I felt large fluffy snowflakes fall on my face and stuck out my tongue for a taste. The sound of little footsteps approached through the crunching snow and stopped by my shoulder. I turned to see a little four-year-old girl standing in a pink snowsuit with fur surrounding her face. She looked down at me with a quizzical look suggesting it was time to play.

I rolled over and got onto my knees to look into her eyes. Reaching down, I swooped up a scoop of white flakes and packed it into a snowball. I handed it to the little girl and watched a big smile form on her face. She tossed it a few feet and it rolled into a slightly larger ball that gave me an idea for a bit of fun.

Little colorful mittens pressed up against the snowball to help me roll it into a larger ball. We watched the snow roll off of the grass and form another ball larger than the first, leaving a carpet of brown grass in its wake. The little mittens pressed next to my gloves, as we rolled the biggest ball of all.

I strained to lift the midsized ball onto the big one and watched the little girl try to lift the snowman’s head. With a little bit of help she was successful and we quickly placed it on the snowman’s body.

The sound of a sliding glass door was heard and we both watched in amazement, as the girl’s mother walked out in her blue fuzzy bathrobe with a carrot in one hand and a box of raisins in the other.

With approving eyes looking at me, I took the carrot and fashioned it into the snowman’s nose. Then I watched the happy woman place clumps of raisins in each of her daughter’s mittens. After a quick squeeze, her mother took the small packed clumps of raisins and placed them in the snowman’s belly forming a line of buttons for his vest.

The little girl reached high to place the remaining individual raisins into the snowman’s newly formed smile, while I grabbed a couple fallen branches and stuck them into his torso for arms.

Standing back and looking at our snowman, the little girl’s mother took the belt from her robe and wrapped it around the snowman’s neck like a scarf. I added a final touch by placing my hat on his head and we all admired our handiwork.

As we stood in silence in the freshly fallen snow, the little girl reached out her hand and gave mine a loving squeeze. After a warm smile from her mother, I watched the two disappear back into their townhome, which reminded me that it was time for breakfast.

Taking time to be a child on a snowy morning did wonders for my heart, so I took a moment to make some hot chocolate, sat by the fireplace and typed out my morning blog to share the wonders of fresh fallen snow.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers

A DREAM DATE

A Dream DateCaileigh was at it again in her usual style of intruding in the name of caring. She wanted to spare her college roommate from the coming pain that her older date would bring upon her.

“Karen,” Caileigh pleaded, as she brushed her brunette hair from her face. “You can make whatever decision you want…after you listen to me.”

Karen continued primping in front of the mirror and focused on the fit of her new stylish dress.

“Please don’t be blind,” Caileigh whispered in exhaustion.

“I’ve listened.” Karen turned to face her roommate. “Your point’s not valid.”

“But, he’s twice your age.”

Karen chuckled out of exasperation, then fluffed her red hair. “Would you prefer me being a cougar and going after a two year old?”

Caileigh shot Karen a laser-piercing look that could kill. “I’m serious.”

“Caileigh,” Karen said in a consoling voice. “Trust me when I say that you don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m fine. Really.”

Caileigh leaned against the bathroom sink and watched Karen calmly apply her mascara. The situation was frustrating, but Caileigh wasn’t about to walk away from her best friend. She was determined to save Karen at any cost.

“Okay, you’re fine, but what about him?” Caileigh stood tall. “Did you consider he might want to take advantage of you?”

Karen laughed. She couldn’t help it. The entire conversation was one sided and absurd.

“I appreciate you’re well-meaning,” Karen shared humbly. “But you’ll laugh once I tell you…”

“You don’t get it!” raged Caileigh. “Tell me that you’re not this ignorant.”

Shocked by the escalation of Caileigh’s intrusive passion, Karen bolted into the bedroom. She wasn’t going to let Caileigh off the hook for her stupidity. Karen’s eyes enflamed with the desire to watch Caileigh crash and burn in total humiliation. She was no longer going to spare her friend the heartache of her own foolishness.

A firm grip pinched Karen’s arm. Caileigh dragged her from the dresser, where she attempted to balance as she put on high heels, straight to the bed. Pushing her down onto the mattress, Caileigh glared into Karen’s eyes.

“There is something very wrong about you going on this date,” Caileigh insisted.

“Wrong?” questioned an outraged Karen. “It’s about love. It’s the one thing I trust in life.”

“A distorted love, maybe. Does your mother know about this man? What would she say about you dating him?”

“She’d probably give me some good tips. She used to date him.”

Caileigh threw up her arms and encircled the place in the carpet where she had taken her forceful stand. “What!? Are you hearing yourself? Dating a man that was rejected by your mother is crazy.”

Karen’s eyes welled up. She was scared to see this side of Caileigh. She needed something…someone to hold her steady.

The doorbell rang and jolted Karen to her feet.

She wiped her eyes before tears flowed and leaned into a quick step toward the door. The closer she got to the door, the bigger the smile grew on her face. She knew it was her knight in shining armor, as her strength to handle Caileigh grew back to its normal level of gentleness – power under control.

Caileigh’s eyes flushed with fear once she realized he was at the door. She bounded to the door, making her presence known.

Karen didn’t acknowledge Caileigh’s intrusion and opened the door with a big smile.

Her well-built date had a smile broader than Karen’s, which lightened his demeanor to that of a classy man. He some how looked younger and more powerful than most graying men in their fifties, but Karen thought some of that was due to his timing and her need for a chivalrous man.

After gently brushing his handsome suit with her gentle hands, Karen gave him a big hug and welcomed him inside.

“Hey Princess,” he softly greeted her.

“I’ve been looking forward to our date tonight,” smiled Karen.

“I hope so,” beamed her date. “First the chocolate buffet at the Peninsula Hotel followed by two tickets to see Pomplamoose.”

“Hotel!” Caileigh chimed in. “You’re not taking my roommate to a hotel.”

“So, this is Caileigh,” the gentleman chuckled as he extended his hand. “It’s a pleasure meeting you. I’m…”

“… A shark!” the roommate barked.

Caileigh grabbed Karen’s already bruised arm and pulled her behind her back for protection. She puffed up her chest and leaned toward the middle-aged date.

“If she can’t protect herself, I will.”

Shifting to a calming voice, the gentleman asked, “Have I offended you in some way?”

“Karen is half your age. Why don’t you date someone closer in age?”

Karen’s face showed contempt and she grabbed her sweater from the rocking chair and placed it over her shoulders.

“You should be careful with what conclusions you jump to,” the man stated plainly.

“I’m just stating the obvious,” Caileigh rebutted.

“No. You’re casting judgment with little information.”

“You’re twice her age.”

“Well, 30 years.”

“Her mother rejected you.”

The man glanced at Karen with pain in his eyes. Karen reached out and placed her hand on his shoulder.

“I’m sorry,” Karen quietly empathized.

“It’s okay honey, “ whispered the man as he wrapped his arms around Karen and gently kissed her forehead. “Let’s go.”

“Not with her, you’re not,” Caileigh announced.

Karen turned swiftly from her date and glared into Caileigh’s eyes. Holding back deep-seated anger she spoke her words carefully, firmly and in love. “Caileigh, I appreciate your desire to look after me, but you might want to consider listening carefully before making judgment calls.”

A smile came to Karen’s face and she turned back to her date.

“Tonight is special for me. We’ve been going on daddy-daughter date nights since I was in grade school.”

Karen’s dad’s eyes welled up. The love of his life was confessing her love to him. Oh, to be a father of a brilliant, young woman who appreciated her father in spite of the harsh divorce he had endured.

Caileigh stood silent in shock.

“Good night Caileigh,” Karen gently grinned, as she headed out the door.

Karen’s father carefully reached his hand out toward Caileigh. She sheepishly shook hands.

“It’s always a pleasure to meet passionate people,” he said.

Karen took her father’s arm as he pulled the door closed behind them.

Caileigh’s eyes bulged as she plopped down on the couch. She grabbed a throw pillow, covered her big mouth and screamed.

Copyright © 2014 by CJ Powers

Green Soup and the Observant Sharer

Green SoupI pulled into the stone driveway of the old farmhouse and walked up to the back door. The wonderful aroma of dinner on the stove came through the screen and stirred my appetite. I was invited to Stu and Nina’s for dinner and I always counted on being blessed every time I was with them – I was never disappointed.

Nina saw me before I could knock and welcomed me in with her naturally warm personality. Her ability to make others feel welcome was second to none and I instantly felt at home. She politely engaged me in conversation while she shifted back to stirring the green soup on the stove.

The soup was all natural and made from green tomatoes and kelp. It wasn’t dark like pea soup and looked vividly tasteful and healthy. Not familiar with many green foods, I was a bit hesitant with my first bite, but found the flavor exceptional. There is nothing like homemade soup that is made with loving hands.

Stu pulled the barbeque chicken from the grill and greeted me with a smile equal to none. A joy poured out from within him the moment his eyes caught mine, making me feel loved and appreciated. His charismatic lifestyle always made me feel like I was his equal, although he probably had more developed character qualities than I could ever hope to muster.

The quaint meal was delicious and the conversation stimulating, as we ate at the kitchen table next to a wall covered in family photos. I had known Nina for about 25 years or more and Stu for a dozen. The time went quickly as we reminisced and brought each other up to date on our lives and families.

After dinner we cut through the formal dinning room and retired into the living room. Stu sat down and snuggled into his comfy place, I flopped down on the floor and pet their cat, and Nina sat on the floor and leaned back against another piece of furniture. There was no pretense, just open hearts and an accepting friendship in the room.

The conversations ebbed and flowed to everything except for how to solve world hunger. Our words were natural and raw and we all listened with accepting hearts and words of encouragement. I was blessed.

Our conversation took a deeper more heartfelt dive just after I suggested it was time to head home. But, not wanting to miss out on such a transparent and authentic moment, I lingered another hour. Our bond to each other grew richer during that time and we encouraged each other on how to be the best us we could be.

During the conversation Nina suggested that she wasn’t sure how God could use her to help and encourage others. Her shared concern was in contrast to Stu and my charismatic dispositions that tend to put us in a place that brings about more attention and from her humble viewpoint, possibly more importance. My knee jerk reaction was to immediately list out Nina’s remarkable qualities.

“Nina, you influence and touch people everyday with your amazing hospitality, generous disposition, warmhearted kindness…”

“… Your compassion for others is life changing; your ability to speak encouragement into other’s lives breathes life into them…” interrupted Stu.

There it was.

I quickly yielded to Stu’s comments as he continued to share from his heart the things he knew made Nina unique, special and valuable. I watched as her eyes locked onto Stu and sparkled. Her husband was filling her soul with words that she could trust. He was speaking the truth in love.

I’m a romantic at heart and love to watch a couple fall in love again and again. Stu’s words of affirmation filled Nina’s heart to a point of overflow. I was convinced that whoever would cross her path over the next three weeks would be caught in their tracks as a recipient of Nina’s grace, mercy and love. I could see it in her eyes. Nothing would stop her from blessing everyone she would encounter in the weeks to come.

I learned that night that the power of affirmation doesn’t happen without being observant of others’ positive traits and reflecting back those traits by sharing our observations.

Stu had clearly paid attention to his wife and thought about her excellent qualities for some time in order to rapidly share those qualities. Stu also was willing to verbalize those words of affirmation without worrying about how clear or eloquent he may or may not have been.

In that moment, I wanted to become an observant sharer like Stu and open my house to others with the sharing of hearts over a bowl of green soup.

Copyright 2014 by CJ Powers