Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Story # 24: "Bear Arms Give Tighter Hugs"

Okay, so this one's weird. But I think it's also sweet in its own way. I love writing dialogues, but I  generally try to use more descriptions than conversations in my stories whenever possible. This story is a dialogue-driven exception to the rule. I hope you will enjoy reading it at least half as much as I enjoyed writing it.  –  JH


Please don't misunderstand me. It isn't my custom to go around hugging wildlife. After all, I am a lady. But there comes a time in every woman's life when she has to admit that what she has is not all she needs. That moment came for me yesterday.

I'd been pretty miserable for a while, but didn't know exactly why. My life was no bed of roses, but it wasn't a pile of soggy hay either. 

I was on the phone, pouring my heart out to my dear friend Phyllis, who's had her share of troubles, when she stopped me in mid-sentence and asked, "Have you tried hugging a bear?"

"I beg your pardon?" I asked, sure that I'd heard her wrong.

"A bear. Have you tried hugging one? You know, easy-peasy-squeezy-squeezy?"



"A bear? I'm telling you how my life is crap, and you're asking me if I've hugged a bear?"


"Do you mean a teddy bear? Because I –"

"No, of course I don't mean a teddy bear, Celia, I mean a real-live, claw-wielding, fish-eating grizzly bear."



"Did you take your lithium this morning?"

"Yes, Celia. Why?"

"Because you're talking crazy, Phyllis. Who goes around hugging grizzly bears?"

"Well, I do. Once a week. Doctor's orders."



"Are you seeing a witch doctor these days?"

"No. Why?"

"Why is what I'm asking you. Why would you want to hug a grizzly bear? More importantly, where would you go to do such an asinine thing?"

"Because there's nothing more comforting than the gentle yet firm embrace of a 500-pound fuzzy, cuddly grizzly bear. And, to answer your second question: the zoo."

"The zoo?"

"I know a guy."

"How long has this been going on, Celia?"

"Two months."

"And the bear doesn't hurt you?"

"He's as tame as a kitten."


"I wouldn't lie to you, Phyllis."

"And you do this because the bear –"

"Makes me feel like a million bucks. I've never been happier."

"Well, you certainly sound happy."

"I am, Celia. It's a wonderful feeling to know you're loved."

"Come on, Phyllis, don't tell me you think the bear loves you."

"Well, of course not, I don't mean 'love' like romantic love. I mean, like a mother's love. Like the sweet, nurturing love of a mama for her baby. Or cub, in this case."

"And you think this would help me too?"

"Well, it certainly can't hurt, Celia. You sound terrible. You want me to call my friend?"

"At the zoo?"

"Yeah, that's the one."

"Could I hug the bear today?"



"Gary is his name."

"Your friend at the zoo?"

"No, the bear."

"Oh. Well, do you think I could hug Gary today?"

"Yes, I'm sure he can work you in."

"Gary, or the guy?"

"Gary. He does this a lot, you know."

"Hugs people?"

"A lot. But don't worry – he won't just treat you like a number. He really cares about everyone he hugs."



"Bears aren't sentient creatures."

"Whatever. Wait till you meet Gary."

"I can't wait."

"I'll call my guy."

"At the zoo?"


"And you'll call me back?"

"In a flash."

"Thanks, Phyllis. You're a real friend."

"No problem, Celia. This'll do the trick. I promise you."

And it did. I met Gary for the first time about two hours after hanging up with Phyllis. He was every bit as gentle and sweet as she described. It's true what Phyllis said. There's nothing more comforting than the firm hug of a heavily muscled grizzly bear. In Gary's arms, I felt safe, and yes, loved.

I'm going back on Thursday. I know it sounds crazy, but I can't get enough of that wonderful feeling. I actually have hope for my future now. Even if the rest of my life doesn't get any better, if things don't turn out the way I planned, I know I can cope. Because I have Gary.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Songs With "Home" In The Title

A while back (last year, sometime, in fact), I posted the 10 worst and 10 best album covers of albums entitled "Home." (I don't feel like going back and finding the link, but if you feel the need, it's Google-able.) Today, I decided to post a bunch of songs with "home" in the title that are actually good songs. There's a rather wide variety of styles and genres represented here, so you'll probably find at least one or two that you like (and maybe even know already). Enjoy!

1)  Maroon 5  ~  "Won't Go Home Without You"

2)  Xenia  ~  "Sing You Home"

3)  Dara MacLean  ~  "Home"

4)  Marit Larsen  ~  "Coming Home"

5)  Stephen Jerzak & Jamestown Story  ~  "Come Back Home"

6)  Gabrielle Aplin  ~  "Home"

7)  The Dear Hunter  ~  "Home"

8)  La Toya Jackson  ~  "Home"

9)  Sheryl Crow  ~  "Home"

10)  Goo Goo Dolls  ~  "Home"

11)  Dierks Bentley  ~  "Home"

12)  Daughtry  ~  "Home"

13)  Michael Bublé  ~  "Home"

14)  Adele  ~  "Hometown Glory"

15)  Phillip Phillips  ~  "Home"

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Interesting Quotes By Famous M.J.'s

 MICHAEL JORDAN, basketball player

"I've failed over and over and over again
in my life. And that is why I succeed."

"If you're trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. 
I've had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don't 
have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. 
Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it."

"If you accept the expectations of others, especially 
negative ones, then you will never change the outcome."

"My attitude is that if you push me towards 
something that you think is a weakness, then
will turn that perceived weakness into a strength."

"I can accept failure; everyone fails at
something. But I can't accept not trying."

"To be successful you have to be selfish, or else you never
achieve. And once you get to your highest level, you have to
be unselfish. Stay reachable. Stay in touch. Don't isolate."

"Some people want it to happen, some wish 
it to happen, others make it happen."

"I've always believed that if you put
 in the work, the results will come."

"I'm not out there sweating for three hours every
day just to find out what it feels like to sweat."

"You have to expect things of 
yourself before you can do them."

"Sometimes you need to get hit in the
 head to realize that you're in a fight."

"In reality, I never want to grow up."

"I believe greatness is an evolutionary process
that changes and evolves from era to era."


"If you enter this world knowing you are loved 
and you leave this world knowing the same, then
everything that happens  in between can be dealt with."

"Let us dream of tomorrow where we can truly love from the soul,
 and know love as the ultimate truth at the heart of all creation."

"Why can't you share your bed? The most loving thing 
to do is to share your bed with someone. It's very charming.
 It's very sweet. It's what the whole world should do."

"Children show me in their playful smiles the divine
 in everyone. This simple goodness shines straight 
from their hearts and only asks to be loved."

"The meaning of life is contained in every single
expression of life. It is present in the infinity of 
forms and phenomena that exist in all of creation."

"I'm a black American. I am proud of my race. I am
 I am proud of who I am. I have a lot of pride and dignity."

"I'm just like anyone. I cut and I bleed. And I embarrass easily."

MAHALIA JACKSON, gospel singer

"Faith and prayer are the vitamins of the soul; 
man cannot live in health without them."

"You're blessed if you have the strength to work."

"Everybody needs somebody."

"God can make you anything you want to be, 
but you have to put everything in His hands."

"How can you sing of amazing grace and all
God's wonders without using your hands?"

"Money just draws flies."

"Sometimes you ask God for something 
and you don't know what you're asking."

"The old Devil gets mad when you're trying to do
good. Pray that God will move the stumbling blocks."

"Without a song, each day would be a century."

MICK JAGGER, rock star

It's all right letting yourself go, 
as long as you can get yourself back."

"Anything worth doing is worth overdoing."

"A good thing never ends."

"Thank you for leaving us alone but giving
us enough attention to boost our egos."

"Lose your dreams and you might lose your mind."

"My secrets must be poetic to be believable."

"The elusive nature of can be such a fleeting thing. 
You see it there, and it's just fluttering, and it's gone."

"Patriotism is an instant reaction 
that fades away when the war starts."

MA JIAN, writer

"To become self-aware, people must be allowed to hear a
plurality of opinions and then make up their own minds.
 They must be allowed to say, write, and publish whatever they 
want. Freedom of expression is the most basic, but fundamental 
right. Without it, human beings are reduced to automatons."

"Only when you are aware of the uniqueness 
of everyone's individual body will you begin 
to have a sense of your own self-worth."

"I believe that the power of literature
 is stronger than the power of tyranny."

"When history is erased, people's moral values are also erased."

MAGIC JOHNSON, basketball player

"When you face a crisis, you know who your true friends are."

"If you're a competitive person, that 
stays with you. You don't stop.
You always look over your shoulder."

"Young people want you to be real 
with them... When you are honest and 
open with young people, they let you in."

Friday, February 22, 2013

Story # 23: "Many Hands Make Lights Work"

Okay, so this is the last story from my late-night creative spurt. I will admit that it's entirely possible that the quality of my output decreased exponentially as my tiredness increased, and that this is the weakest entry among them. But I do think there's at least some value in this story. Perhaps not. Either way, here it is.  ~  JH


There's an old joke, which has never been very funny, that poses the question:  How many __________ does it take to screw in a light bulb? The fill-in-the-blank in question is usually a ditzy blonde, a member of a minority group, or some other personage deemed to be unfit to perform basic electrical work. The joke's punchline varies, is ever only slightly amusing, and becomes less amusing with each telling.

Presumably, the point of the joke – if indeed there is one – is that the stupider you are, the greater the number of people like you it takes to inefficiently accomplish a simple task, thereby serving to make you appear even stupider. Collectively stupider, in fact.

I never liked that joke very much, and I still don't. But I did gain a newfound appreciation for the meaning behind it last night, as I observed a group of twelve or more highly intoxicated or severely hungover frat boys cursing at the moon because they couldn't figure out how to switch the sun on.

I strolled over the group of guys and instructed them that, in order to make the sun rise, they had to yell the secret password – which happened to be a particularly controversial and quite offensive word – at the top of their lungs repeatedly. And then I walked away.

The hapless frat boys were soon arrested for disturbing the peace, while I enjoyed a quiet evening at home. That probably wasn't a very nice thing for me to do.

Story # 22: "You Scratch My Back, And I'll Stab Yours"

Let me start off by saying that I grew to hate the main character in this one more and more as I got deeper into writing the story. But I couldn't just easily explain his attitude away in order to ensure a happy ending. Because there really are people out there like this guy. Thankfully, I'm not one of them.  ~  JH


I've never understood the concept of reciprocity. Or, to be more precise, I've never particularly identified with it. Why, if you do something nice for me, must I in turn do something nice for you?

I mean, I can certainly understand why you'd want to do me a favor. Let's face it – I'm phenomenal! But you? You're average at best. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm sure I'm not.

If I were to return your act of kindness, however random or deserving it may be, it would likely be out of sheer pity and nothing more. But to be quite honest, I'd just as soon not reciprocate at all.

You see, I pride myself on my transparency. My life is an open book, without a trace of hypocrisy. So if you do unto me and I do right back unto you simply because it's socially expected of me, I'm being a hypocrite. And I don't like being hypocritical – as a matter of fact, I refuse to be.

So here's the deal: If you choose to do me a favor, whether I deserve it or not (although, let's be real – of course I deserve it!), I'm going to do one of two things in response. Either I'm going to thank you for your generosity and then go about my business, or I'm going to turn right around and do something nice for you in kind.

The latter is, admittedly, less likely, but it's not altogether out of the question, depending on how returning a gesture may affect me positively in the future. In other words, what's in it for me?

If I deem you worthy of my reciprocity, then so be it. Consider yourself blessed. If not, don't complain. That's just the way it goes. You scratch my back, I'll stab you in yours.

Hey, I gotta be me. Transparent, genuine, and not the least bit hypocritical. What can I say? It's just one more thing that proves how phenomenal I truly am!

Story # 21: "Downtown Abby"

Yes, I did spell both of the words in the title "wrong." Obviously, the title of this story is a play on words referring to the popular TV show (which I love, and have watched every episode of, by the way). This story, however, has nothing to do with the show in the least. Enjoy!  ~  JH


Abby was a country girl, born and raised. And proud of it, she might add. In fact, in her twenty-three years of life, she'd never even so much as set foot in the city. And why should she? The city was sixty miles away from her hometown, and everything – and everyone – she needed was right here.

As Abby was quite fond of saying, she hadn't lost anything in the city, so why on earth would she go and look for anything there? Until, that is, she met Eddie.

The tall, dark, and incredibly handsome salesman – how cliché could you get, really? – had driven into town on a Thursday morning. He'd come to her door early that afternoon. Abby wasn't sure what the thingamajigger he was peddling was supposed to do, but she bought four of them on the spot.

Understandably, Abby was captivated by the stranger's good looks, and she was determined to get to know him better. When Eddie told her that he lived in the city, Abby was practically devastated. Alas, there was no future for her in Eddie. Or was there?

Eddie packed up his wares on Saturday morning to head back home. Abby was waiting for him by his car when he stepped out of the hotel, feeling every bit as desperate as she appeared.

Despite the inner voice that was screaming at her to be reasonable, to have some self-respect for crying out loud, and to show at least a modicum of restraint, Abby found herself speaking the words out loud.

"Take me with you."

Eddie smiled mysteriously, dropped his bags in the back seat, and motioned Abby over to the passenger side of the car. She got in eagerly, but hesitated before shutting the door.

This was stupid, she knew – not to mention morally reprehensible, and maybe even a touch psychotic. But she was doing it. Wasn't she?

Abby slammed the door of Eddie's car, making what was apparently her decision and sealing her fate, for good or ill. As Eddie cranked the car, Abby stared out at the road ahead which led out of town and toward the city. She knew now that her life would never be the same again. And that was okay.

Story # 20: "Appearances Can Be Relieving"

For several hours, I couldn't sleep last night. So I started writing. Before I was done (and by then, thoroughly exhausted), I had written four brand-new short stories. I guess brainstorming for titles these past few days was all I needed to be be inspired. That, and insomnia. Here's the first of last night's feverish creative output.  ~  JH


Sheila couldn't remember how she'd ended up here, hanging off the edge of a steep cliff, literally clinging to her life with aching hands; but not remembering didn't change the reality of the situation.

It's often said that in the face of impending death the entirety of one's life passes before one's eyes in an instant. If that were the case, Sheila had washed, dried, folded, and put away a lot of laundry in her life, and apparently nothing more than that. Indeed, she inexplicably found herself reliving not fond memories of friends and family, but of mundane housework.

The whirling dervish of dull images began spinning faster and faster before her glazed-over eyes, and momentarily Sheila let one of her hands drop from the edge, sending her body lurching away from the cliff face.

Surely, this was the end of Sheila. She made her peace with God in the length of a breath and waited for the inevitable fall.

Having shut her eyes a moment before, Sheila never saw the face that peered over the edge of the cliff at that moment. A hand made contact with her flailing arm, and in an instant she felt herself being pulled up and over the edge of the cliff to apparent safety.

Lying on her back, Sheila opened her eyes only to find herself staring into the face of the most gorgeous senior citizen man she'd ever laid eyes upon. He smiled broadly at her, and Sheila returned the greeting. It was love at first sight.

They married sixteen days later. Nine days after that, he passed away. He left her millions. She promptly hired a maid and never folded another piece of clothing again.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Stories # 18 & # 19: "How I Met Your Mother" & "Doctor Whew"

Just for kicks, I'm starting a new "series" of completely unrelated short stories all bearing titles that spoof (or repurpose, in the case of this first story) the titles of popular TV shows. Here are the first two I've written. Enjoy!  ~  JH


To begin with, I didn't mean to kill your mother. I was responsible for her death, but believe me, it was all a terrible accident, and I am so dreadfully sorry that it happened.

I hate to see death come to anyone, but it's especially hard to see a creature as beautiful as your dear mother meet her end. I know it won't make you feel any better now, but please know that she didn't suffer. From what I could tell, she most likely died on impact.

I'll admit that I was driving a little too fast, and my phone had just gone off, and yes, I was distracted. I never saw her coming, and she never saw me – until it was too late. I'm so sorry!

I know how hard it is to lose a loved one. And with you being so young and all, it makes it that much worse. You have your whole life ahead of you, but now you'll have to face whatever comes your way alone.

If I could take care of you myself, believe me, I would. But I live in a townhouse community, and there are strict bylaws about certain types of pets. The rules don't specifically say "NO DEER," but I think it's a given that wild animals of any kind are disallowed. So I will have to leave you here.

Don't worry about your mother now. I'll make sure that someone comes and takes her away so she doesn't have to lie here for too much longer.

I promise that I will be more careful in the future – the pain in your eyes compels me to do so. Please forgive me, dear fawn, for my negligence and for taking your mother from you.


"Hello, who are you?" the doctor said.

"I'm Hugh, who are you?" I said from bed.

"I'm Doctor Whew," he simply stated.

"Pleased to meet you," I said, elated.

"Why am I here?" Doctor Whew inquired.

"I think I'm sick," I said. "And tired."

"You don't look sick," my doctor asserted.

"But I feel like death!" I wildly blurted.

"How would you know?" Doctor Whew proposed.

"Because I have a stuffy nose. And chest congestion to beat the band."

Doctor Whew arched his eyebrows and asked me, "And?"

"And my head is pounding. I might have a fever!"

"Have you tried," Doctor Whew asked, "A pain reliever?"

"I took two, Doctor Whew, but nothing helped!"

"Then why did you wait to call?" he yelped.

"Am I dying?" I asked, as I started to cough.

"You might be," he added, "Or it's tapering off. It's hard to determine unless you've been tested."

"You mean, like an X-ray?" I softly suggested.

"That's one way to tell, Hugh," Doctor Whew uttered.

"I'm scared of the outcome," I silently muttered.

"Buck up, Hugh," Whew said, adding, "Don't be a baby!"

"Alright, do the test," I said, "But, could we maybe –"

"Maybe what, Hugh? Sir, you're wasting my time!"

"Maybe," I said to Doctor, "Could we not have to rhyme?"

"Indeed," said the doctor. "I was tired of it, too."

"Thank you, Doctor Whew."

"You're so welcome, Hugh."

One Last Baker's Dozen Of Songs By Innovative, Imaginative, And Incredibly Interesting Icelandic Bands

This is the third (and will be the final) installment in a mini-series of posts exploring the modern music of Iceland. If you missed the previous installments, you can view them here and here. I won't rehash my previous intro or try to reword it, I'll just say...enjoy!

1)  Leaves  ~  "Whatever"

2)  Mezzoforte  ~  "Weather Ahead"

3)  Ourlives  ~  "Den Of Lions"

4)  Hera Björk  ~  "Je Ne Sais Quoi"

5)  Mum  ~  "Green Grass Of Tunnel"

6)  Ólafur Arnalds  ~  "Ljósið"

7)  Ólöf Arnalds  ~   "Crazy Car"

8)   Retro Stefson  ~  "Kimba"

9Seabear  ~  "I Sing I Swim"

10)  Vigri  ~  "Sleep"

11)  Steed Lord  ~  "Hear Me Now"

12)  Emiliana Torrini  ~  "Sunny Road"

13)  Birgitta  ~  "Open Your Heart"

Monday, February 18, 2013

Story # 17: "For Pete's Sake"

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I don't know where I get all these crazy ideas from, but once I think of them I can't help but to write them down. Such as they are. This one's plenty twisted, but I hope you'll like it anyway. If not, there's always next time.  ~  JH


If you've never had a turtle bite off your toes one by one, let me tell you, you're really missing out. I, for one, am glad to have had the experience, even if it means that walking on that foot will be difficult, if not impossible, going forward.

I was a little nervous at first. I mean, I didn't go into it willingly, you understand. I was there, the turtle was there, he felt like biting, I have meaty feet, and the rest is history.

The pain was unbearable at first, but after awhile I just sort of forgot about it, lost in the wonder of watching the turtle going about his carnivorous task.

I took a few pictures – I don't know if you'd like to see them or not. Most people don't. For some reason.

You're probably wondering how I can speak so calmly about what most would deem a harrowing experience. I can't explain it myself. I know I should be horrified, scarred for life even – more than just the physical scars, I mean. But I'm not. In fact, I find myself longing to relive the experience, as strange as that may sound.

Which, as it turns out, is entirely possible. You see, after it was all said and done, I wouldn't let them kill the turtle. I had become as attached to him as he had been to me. These days, I consider him not only my pet, but my very dear friend as well.

So if, in the next week or the next year or whenever the notion may strike him, the turtle (whom I call Pete) feels the need to gnaw on something again – well, he's welcome to my other foot. What do I need it for anyway? Walking is optional, but loyalty never is.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Stories # 14, # 15, & # 16: "Scared Less," "Sand Giggles," & "For Brains"

Okay, so here we have three brand-new short stories (and I do mean short – they're each around 150 words, give or take 5 words), all unrelated to each other, other than the fact that I wrote them all today. One's about irrational fears, one's about mischievous relatives, and one's about zombies. Go figure my imagination! Enjoy! – JH


I used to be afraid of my own shadow. Literally. My parents said that when I was a toddler I would faint at least twice a day upon merely glimpsing the dark, suspiciously me-like figure which relentlessly chased me down. My fear has abated somewhat over the years, but it's never truly gone away. Blame it on horror movies (which I love) or dark fiction (which I also love). Whatever the cause, I am – and will likely remain – a fraidy-cat at heart. Recently I discovered the secret to breaking free of this particular fear. Wherever I go, no matter what time of day it is, I will carry a giant flashlight. Sure, storing it will be difficult and people will stare, but I will be protected. My shadow can't harm me then, because I can make him disappear. I may still be afraid, but now I will be scared less.


I was walking along the beach, enjoying my favorite pastime of picking up seashells, when I passed a suspiciously noisy mound of sand. I thought what I heard must have been my imagination – because seriously, how can sand giggle? But my ears did not deceive me. It was then that I saw the straw poking up from inside the mound of sand. I peeked down the barrel of the straw, but it was too narrow to see anything. I must have jostled the straw though, because at that moment the giggling stopped and the gurgling began. Whatever – or whomever – was down there was no longer jovial. I dropped to my knees and began digging furiously at the mounded sand, frantic to unearth whatever living creature was trapped below and struggling to breathe. To my astonishment, I soon revealed the face of my grandmother. She gasped for air, then started giggling anew. Not again, Grandma!


I'm not your typical zombie. Sure, I'm undead. And yes, I do wander about aimlessly at a snail's pace terrifying the general populace. But one thing I don't have in common with my fellow zombies is my gastronomical preference. You see, I don't have a hankering for brains. I've tried them – I felt it was my clichéd duty as a member of the walking dead to do so – but I just can't stomach them for some reason. I think it's a texture thing. Personally, I'd much rather have a pan full of pizza than a plateful of brains. Call me crazy, but it's true. So if you see me shuffling down the street in your direction, and for whatever reason – like most humans – you don't have the presence of mind to run in the opposite direction – don't worry. I'm not after you. Just point me to the nearest Domino's and I'll be on my way.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Baker's Dozen Of God-Honoring Christian Hip-Hop Songs

Since you clicked on this link, maybe that means you're at least mildly interested in broadening your musical horizons. Maybe not. You don't have to like all of these songs (or any of them), but I'm sharing them because I personally like them. I think there's a lot of truth and positivity to be gleaned from the messages in these songs. These particular artists are among my favorites in Christian hip-hop, but this is not an all-inclusive list. That would take too long. Alright, let's go...

1)  Lecrae ft. Mali Music  ~  "Tell The World"

2)  Trip Lee ft. KB & Andy Mineo  ~  "One Sixteen"

3)  J'Son ft. J.R.  ~  "Parent Me"

4)  D-MAUB  ~  "People Crazy"

5)  Bumps INF  ~  "Shunned By Society"

6)  Bizzle ft. Lavoisier & Sevin  ~  "This Ain't Love"

7)  Swoope ft. Lecrae, Tedashii, & Jai  ~  "Actions Speak Louder"

8)  Beautiful Eulogy ft. Theory Hazit & Lee Green  ~  "King Kulture"

9)  Level 3:16  ~  "Tell 'Em (Internal Conflict)"

10)  Kareem Manuel ft. Plumb  ~  "Open Your Eyes"

11)  theBREAX ft. J.R.  ~  "Perfect Storm"

12)  Young Joshua & Tee-Wyla ft. Donielle Rodwell  ~  "Potential"

13)  MC Jin  ~  "Open Arms"