Tag Archives: children

Teaching Your Child About Death: Someone Is Doing It Worse!

I’ve killed lots of people.


Sure they’ve all been fictional, but I’ve been fairly creative in the way I’ve dispatched professors, politicians, drug dealers, and an assortment of others.  So, you would think explaining the concept of death would be an easy task for a crime fiction writer who spent a decade working in law enforcement.

“Daddy, can we walk down the street to see the big white dog?”

Such a sweet question coming from my preschooler while we were taking a walk through our neighborhood on a beautiful Spring day.  There was one problem.  The big white dog we usually saw hanging out in a neighbor’s back yard had died months ago.  Now I had to explain this, and therefore the concept of death, with my three-year-old daughter.  She is our only child and my wife and I had never discussed the topic with her before.  Now, I was out on the street without my spousal back-up (she’s infinitely smarter than I am) and I was going to have to tackle the subject on my own.  But, I’m a writer.  I carefully choose and manipulate words to achieve a desired effect.  I had this well in-hand.

“I think Juno went away,” I said cleverly.

Nailed it.

My daughter asked, “Where did Juno go?”


Brilliant aversion plan:  FOILED.

Well, I was going to have to be an adult and explain the circle of life to a girl who up to this point believed Elsa and Anna’s parents just went away on an extended twenty-year cruise.

I took a deep breath.  “Juno died, Sweetie.  Do you know what that means?”

She looked up and shook her head.

“Juno was very old, so he went to sleep and didn’t wake up again.  Everything eventually dies and that’s okay.  That’s just the way things are.  Do you understand?”

I knew I was supposed to add something more, but the look on my daughter’s face told me she was trying to comprehend my words.  We walked hand-in-hand in silence for several seconds before she stopped and looked down at the sidewalk.  I knew then that some realization had finished processing in her impressionable mind.  As she stared at the concrete path in front of us, my mind raced:

Oh, no.  She’s going to cry.

She’s going to think our own dogs are going to die – this week.

She’s going to ask me if I’m going to die… THEN she’ll cry. 

I’ve scarred her for life and doomed her to a life of alcoholism or worse – reality television.  



“Daddy,” she said softly.

“Yes, Sweetie.”

“At school, my teacher said when things die they go —“

What followed was my daughter crossing her hands around her throat, sticking out her tongue, rolling her eyes back in her head, and swaying back and forth while loudly making a grotesque gurgling sound.

My eyes opened wide as I watched this overdone theatrical death play out in front of me.  Finally, the surreal street performance scene ended and my daughter looked up at me for confirmation that she had properly mimicked the act of dying.

I slowly nodded and said, “Okay.  Good talk.”

We then continued our walk as I discovered I had a newfound confidence that I had never known as a parent.  I now realized that just as with that initial fear of trying to write your first novel, much of the worrying is completely unnecessary.

Always remember:  No matter how bad you tell the story, somebody out there has already done it much much worse.

(Disclaimer: Don’t get mad a the aforementioned teacher.  It turned out she was explaining how plants could die if they didn’t get enough water when she had made the choking gesture.  She’s a wonderful teacher who apparently does fantastic impressions.)

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

Twitter @JJHensleyauthor


An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.



In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.


Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air


 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

Legacy cover





Why the Ancient Greeks Hated Running Strollers (probably)

Greek mythology tells us the story of a deceitful king named Sisyphus who the gods punished by forcing him to continuously roll a boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down.  Some have suggested the story symbolizes the vain struggle of man in the pursuit of knowledge.  Some believe it is intended to remind us that striving for power is ultimately an empty quest.  These are foolish theories.  All of them – foolish.  The story of Sisyphus and the boulder was obviously meant to give us a glimpse into the future.  It’s is a window into the modern world where a torturous mechanism has been thrust upon us and society has been told to smile, sweat, and rejoice.  So, what demon contraption did the Greeks foresee?

Of course, I’m talking about the running stroller.

If you have never seen a running stroller, here is a photo:


ball and chain


Oh, sure… that’s not what they look like in advertisements.  When you open up a running magazine or see an image online, this is what you get:


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Just look at the smiles, the joy, and the freedom!  Nothing can stop these runners.  They are gliding along with happy children and free spirits.

This is the new mythology.  The ads tell us the stroller is practically weightless.  “Go on out there,” the ads tell us.  “It’s like pushing a feather!”  And I have to admit, some strollers are fairly lightweight.  They can be anywhere from 20 to 30 lbs and roll smoothly across the asphalt.  I mean, just look at those ladies smiling.  What difficulties could be caused by a simple 25 lb stroller?  It’s a piece of cake.  We can do this!  Sweep the leg!!!

 photo cobraki.gif

Well, I’ll give you some difficulties right now.  Yes, the stroller may be 25 lbs and be shaped like the nose of an F-16 fighter jet.  But, that’s the economy model for this vehicle.  Let’s discuss some standard features.  First, you’ll probably want to take a water bottle with you.  Some are rather large.

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Sure, It adds a little bit of weight, but not much.  No big deal.  And maybe your child needs an extra blanket or jacket.  Perhaps a hat and sunglasses too.  Did you remember to grab the kid’s snack or favorite toy in case he/she gets fussy?  Not that children ever get fussy.

 photo temple.gif







Oh… do you know what else adds a little bit of weight?  THE CHILD!

My daughter is now 30 pounds.  It may not sound like much, but you fail to understand that my daughter has magical powers.  Really.  She is an amazing sorceress who can change her weight when a certain topographical feature is upon us.  Look again at those pictures of the smiling ladies pushing the strollers.  Now, do you see what’s missing?  Look carefully.  That’s right… hills.

As soon as my running stroller hits the base of a hill, my daughter can perform this incredible transformation where she goes from 30 lbs to 280 lbs while singing “Wheels on the Bus” and pausing only to point out every airplane in the sky.  I usually see the first few jets, but by the time I’m half-way up a hill, they are mostly blotted out by the spots floating around my eyes from oxygen deprivation.

Fortunately, my daughter has a tremendous amount of empathy for me.  I mean, she must because every once in a while a tiny shoe or a Dora the Explorer water bottle gets tossed from the stroller like a grenade and I get to stop and pick it up.  During those precious seconds, the world stops spinning and hallucinations fade as I realize the guy on the corner is washing his car with a hose and not handling a fire-breathing Boa constrictor.

Now, here is where I should admit that my disdain for the running stroller comes from a mental scar that will not heal.  I remember every detail with absolute clarity.  The year was 2008 (probably).  It was a simple Pittsburgh 5K for a worthy charity (probably).  I was on the last quarter-mile (I think) and I turned on the jets (tried not to throw up).  The next thing I knew a woman blew past me like I was standing still.  Now, I’m no running egotist and I have absolutely no problem with being, as some people say, “chicked”.  There are plenty of women out there who can outrun me any day of the week and twice on Sundays.  So seeing this woman hit Mach 3 while I was in a school zone would normally be fine.  But, what got to me was THIS:


stroller 3


The double-wide urban assault vehicle filled with at least 50 lbs of toddler weight was too much for me to bear.  The woman was pushing Beelzebub’s Chariot at such a rate, I doubt she saw my jaw drop as she passed by.  However, I’m pretty sure one of her kids leaned out, looked back, winked, and gave me the finger.  By the time I crossed the finish line, the trio had finished their post-race bagels and Spongebob juice boxes, and were headed to their minivan.

So, I’m biased.  I don’t care for the running stroller one bit.

Well, that’s not completely true.  My daughter enjoys it and she sings the cutest songs and practices counting while we run.  Sometimes she stops mid-song, asks me a question, and then treats me like I’m a freaking genius when I answer her.  Also, there are times that if I didn’t have her in the Sisyphus Stroller, I’d not be able to go for a run and you really don’t want to be around me if don’t get regular exercise.  So, I guess it kind of makes me a better person.

Not to mention, soon she will be too big for a stroller but too small to run very far.  Then, before you know it, she’ll be too cool to hang with dad and she’ll figure out my answers to her questions aren’t so profound.

Maybe that’s how this will all go down.  Several years from now I’ll be five miles into a solitary run and I’ll glance down at the hard ground scrolling in front of me.  I’ll come to the base of a hill and charge upward sensing no unnatural resistance.  Then, without warning, something inside of me will become painfully aware of all the weight that is no longer there for me to carry.

Perhaps the running stroller isn’t that bad after all.



Have you used a running stroller?  Like?  Dislike?

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, and other works of fiction.  His new novel, Measure Twice, also involves a distance running protagonist.  He is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

RESOLVE has been named a finalist for Best First Novel by the International Thriller Writers organization.

RESOLVE was named one of the Best Books of 2013 by Suspense Magazine.

Twitter @JJHensleyauthor

Available Now 

Measure Twice 750 x 1200 jpeg