Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste


Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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The Lighter Side of Brain Surgery

February 1, 2016

On Friday CJ had a final surgery to clip his aneurysm. The procedure took four hours and went remarkably well. We were told his speech and mobility might be affected for a few days, but so far this hasn’t been the case. When not knocked out by morphine and fentanyl, he’s been good natured and chatty—well, he is a chip off the old block. He does have an incision with fifty staples stretching from his left ear to the middle of his forehead, but the doctors were considerate enough to make their incision well into CJ’s hairline so, once healed, it will barely show. For weeks I’ve been reassuring our son that chicks dig “scars” (as if I’d know) but now it seems he won’t be sporting a visible one for long. On Monday or Tuesday he’ll have another angiogram so the surgeons can inspect their handiwork, and then our son will be released to us for a few weeks, at least until he’s cleared to drive.


Now that this is behind us, I can’t resist focusing on the humorous aspects of this trauma—things even CJ is now laughing over. Of course there’s always humor associated with my mother. She decided to mail her grandson a card using stationery CJ gave her for Christmas. She addressed the card to CJ at St. Vincent Hospital—no hospital room number, street address, city or zip code. Two weeks later the card arrived at CJ’s room. My mother was enraged it took so long for it to reach him and complained about how terrible the Postal Service has become since Obama became president. Inside the card she wrote, “Get Well Done,” as if our son were a baked potato. She signed the card in a most endearing way: Best wishes, Grandmother Hayes.


Since our local police department considers CJ family, they’ve rallied behind him; rare are days when a cop hasn’t appeared at CJ’s bedside. At times this freaked out the hospital staff. CJ’s bed was once surrounded by seven armed and uniformed cops, prompting a nurse to poke her head into the room to ask, “Is my patient in some sort of trouble?” Eventually, the nurses took the police presence in stride.


The police chaplain showed up many times to offer comfort, and after a while CJ said, “I appreciate our discussions about Jesus but is there something else we can talk about?” The chaplain thought about it, perhaps recalling CJ’s passion for cars, before saying, “My truck is making a strange sound.” They were off and running.


After having a drain put into his head to prevent stroke-inducing pressure, physical therapists showed up every hour to grill CJ and make him perform motor functions to be sure nothing was amiss. I’ve already mentioned that he correctly answered math questions I couldn’t answer, but a chuckle always came when he was asked where he was born. His response: “Right here.” Confused looks were answered with him pointing upward and adding, “I was born three floors up, in this hospital.” And indeed he was.


I tried to convince him to answer “President Trump” when asked who was president but he wisely thought this a bad idea. Even after brain surgery, he’s more level-headed than his old man.


When CJ’s surgeon emerged from the OR after clipping the aneurysm he said, “CJ is as good as new and completely aneurysm free, which I can’t say about myself since I’ve never had an angiogram. One out of ten people have aneurysms and don’t even know it until there’s a problem.” It was less than reassuring thinking our son’s surgeon might himself have an aneurysm.


So many of you have left positive comments on my blog or e-mailed me personally, and I can’t express the magnitude of our appreciation. The warmth and concern sent our way has been exceptional and has helped me and Mrs. Chatterbox cope with a very trying situation.


Thanks from the bottom of our hearts.







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such very, very good news!!!
By: TexWisGirl on February 1, 2016
I am elated for all of you and I wish CJ a continued surprisingly fast recovery. These stories are a joy, but I'm really glad the surgeon didn't have an aneurysm of his own during the surgery! So glad he didn't share that little statistic BEFORE the procedure. Anyway, I'm glad CJ was well done and I hope Grandmother Hayes forgives Obama for giving CJ St. Vincent an aneurysm.
By: Mitchell Is Moving on February 1, 2016
Glad it went so well! Maybe chicks do dig scars. Hilarious story about the letter from his grandmother. Wishing CJ a fast recovery.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on February 1, 2016
So glad that all went well. Humour held get us through so many things. Speedy recovery, CJ at St. Vincent!
By: Hilary on February 1, 2016
It's good to hear he's doing good. I'm going to start telling people to get well done.
By: PT Dilloway on February 1, 2016
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious news!
By: Daniel LaFrance on February 1, 2016
So glad to hear the surgery went well!! Yes, there is always something to giggle about even in the darkest hours. Humor has helped me survive many times. Best to you all!! :)
By: Rita on February 1, 2016
That's fantastic!
By: Uncle Skip on February 1, 2016
I have a hint for you and our son...women like men with a sense of humor, scar or no scar.
By: Tabor on February 1, 2016
I am so happy that CJ is well on the road to recovery. I love that you have been able to find some laughable moments and in your telling of them I laughed as well.
By: Cheryl P. on February 1, 2016
Great news and all the more so with the humor!
By: John on February 1, 2016
So glad to hear that your son is doing so well. It sounds like he is a valued member of the community. That must make you very proud. I love you Oregonians because you are so friendly (unlike Utah)!
By: Michael Offutt on February 1, 2016
Great news! No surprise you find humor in CJ's surgery. I firmly believe in the power of a smile and a laugh. As I was being wheeled into the OR to have my hemorrhoids removed, I thought to myself, "THIS would make a funny story." I'll bet your smiling now. By the way, that was almost thirty years ago and it still makes people laugh.
By: Al Penwasser on February 1, 2016
Great news. And funny stuff.
By: cranky on February 1, 2016
This is fantastic news! I am so glad that he is getting better and that the scare seems to be over. Also that you have found laughter to ease your heart..I cannot imagine going through this. But, I do believe in the healing power of humor. Will be sending up prayers for your son's complete recovery. So glad he is ok.
By: Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines on February 1, 2016
I'm so glad to hear that all went well, and I can fully imagine your relief, all three of you. And a sense of humour about life and all its ups and downs is a wonderful trait. Continued good wishes for the Chatterbox family.
By: jenny_o on February 1, 2016
I am so glad to hear this good news!!!
By: Hey Monkey Butt on February 1, 2016
I'm so pleased to hear he is recovering well. This is great news!
By: LL Cool Joe on February 1, 2016
You have developed a great sense of humor about the things your mother says, and it is serving you and your family well with CJ's ordeal. Glad things are going so well!
By: Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma on February 1, 2016
So funny about the letter. Amazing it made it at all. This is great news. How wonderful that the fear factor is gone and humor has taken its place. That's when you know you are healing. Time to exhale Stephen and start enjoying.
By: Arkansas Patti on February 1, 2016
Oh my goodness- your mother absolutely cracks me up- Get Well done? It sounds like CJ has been in good hands and will be in even better hands once he is home with you and Mrs C! All my best to all 3 of you! Cheers!
By: Kathe W. on February 1, 2016
It's great to hear CJ is on the road to recovery, and that everyone's sense of humor is still intact. :)
By: Scott Park on February 1, 2016
It's great to hear that Cj's surgery went well and that you can look at the humor in the situation.
By: red on February 1, 2016
Wonderful news and a joyous post. We are happy for your family. BTW tell CJ scars are not a hinderance with some women, the one's who count for sure. I went through a windshield and had a compound skull fracture while in college. A by product was scars, though it didn't slow dating, working on the air in TV or marrying my beautiful wife. They had "character!"
By: Tom Cochrun on February 1, 2016
I am so pleased to see that he's doing well! I have a slightly different story about groups of a profession gathering at my bedside... When I was in my significant car wreck, I was helping at one church, friends with a pastor at another, and attending a third. One afternoon, they showed, one after another, announcing to the nurses each time who they were, and who they were to see. Finally a nurse came in and very seriously took my hand, and told me that I was doing well, and I really didn't have to have that many pastors, there was almost no chance I was going to die from my injuries at that point... After wiping the tears from my eyes laughing, I explained the situation... The nurse looked very relieved, then non plussed. Meh... Can't win 'em all. Anywho, I am so glad things went well, and hope he will be back to work very soon! Cat
By: Cat on February 1, 2016
Mazel tov!! Re CJ's visitors: I'm reminded of the time President Reagan was shot. I think it was when he was being wheeled into the OR he said to the medical staff, "I hope none of you are Democrats!!"
By: fishducky on February 1, 2016
Hooray for a full recovery! That's what i'm praying for, and will continue.
By: messymimi on February 1, 2016
Arlynda's mother also rails against President Obama. I have learned to not ask her to elaborate on just what he has done so wrong in comparison to the supposed good done by others. For not having an answer makes her much angrier. Sigh.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on February 1, 2016
very good news, it warms my heart. i hope cj continues to improve and his recovery is complete. what an ordeal for you all to go through.
By: fran on February 1, 2016
Get well done...bwahahahaha! Glad CJ is doing well enough that you all are starting to find the humor in situations. Continued best wishes!
By: Pixel Peeper on February 1, 2016
Heh, heh! That cracks me up! "Get Well Done."
By: Val on February 1, 2016
I was freaked when I first read about what happened to your son, but he's made a remarkable recovery and I know that's a huge relief (I know this is an understatement.) President Trump. What are smoking out there :)
By: Rick Watson on February 2, 2016
Such positive news, Stephen! I am forever amazed at how far medicine has come. Keep us posted as C. J. recovers!
By: Michael Manning on February 2, 2016
I'm glad to hear he's doing better. That "President Trump" answer was mean, but funny! There was a comic this weekend sent in 2046 or some sort of year with a kid asking a grandparent how President Trump was elected and the answer being "that was the year adults began to play with coloring books."
By: Jeff on February 3, 2016
Your mother is SUCH a hoot - thanks for the laugh :) So glad CJ is doing well!
By: The Bug on February 3, 2016
Superb news about the successful operation. Upwards & onwards from now. And I agree - there's always humour to be found in the darkest of places. Take care.
By: Bryan Jones on February 4, 2016
This is music to my eyes!!! So happy he's doing great.
By: Bouncin Barb on February 10, 2016

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