Category Archives: musings

Words & Coco-Words

For some reason or other, many times I’ve failed to find a dictionary word that would work for me, so I guess I’ve always made up words to better explain what I‘ve wanted to say or do, and I figure, at my age, why change. So, I’m still doing it.

My son, Rob, and his wife, Florence, recently married and shortly after the return from their Hawaiian honeymoon, their employer moved them to a new location two and a half hours south of me. They had been only forty minutes away. I was sad to see them go, but I was also happy for them, because the opportunities in the new location are better. I also knew that it would take a while to unpack and get settled in their new home, all the while working full time and learning the ropes of the new job and location.

The three of us are close, but I figured there would be less phone calls and visits at least for a while, so I’ve busied myself with all sorts of projects to keep my mind occupied. But to be honest, I’ve really been missing them! I called them a couple of times, but I didn’t want to bug them. Nothing worse than a “Needy” mama.

So, a couple of nights ago, I was in my kitchen whipping up my evening meal and the phone rang. My caller ID said it was my son. Yeaaaaaay! So I danced on over to the phone and answered with my most cheerful, “Hi!”

Rob said, “Hi, Mom, how are you doing? What have you been up to?” After we caught up a bit, I told him in great detail all about the projects that had been occupying my time; the cleaned gutters, new backyard privacy fence, the Solar skylights I had put in my living room, and said I’d even had my regular check-up with my doctor and all was fine, except I had been suffering from symptoms of Flob withdrawal. At this point I stopped talking and there was dead “pin-drop” silence on the other end of the phone. Finally about four seconds later, Rob burst into laughter which went on and on. Well, you know how contagious laughter is. I started laughing, too. Pretty soon all three of were laughing.

Rob told me that when I said “Flob” withdrawal, he was frantically trying to figure out what the heck I was talking about. During his thought process he turned and looked at Florence and she had this subtle, deadpan smile on her face. He suddenly realized what I meant. FLOB was a combination of her name and his. I’m usually better as an audience participant, but every now and then, I come up with a perfect zinger. The three of us enjoyed another few seconds of laughter and when we eventually hung up, my heart was cured. At least until next time.

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Examining My Own Mortality by John E. Stack

Something happened to me a few weeks ago that I’ve seldom gone through.  I read the name of a friend from long ago in the local obits.  It really threw me off since it was a person that had helped change the direction of my life.  It also from a time over thirty years ago and two thousand miles away on the far side of this United States.  He was distant kin and I was almost half way around the world when I chanced to meet him. Out of respect, I called him “Chief” due to military rank, and he called me “Cuz”.  Often times when old friends pass, particularly when they are not that much older, it sets your mind off on an excursion to rediscover the things that you went through, especially those things that may have had an impact on the lives of others.

I was about halfway through my Air Force career, stationed at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, Nevada. I would have been described as an arrogant and self-centered young sergeant.  I worked on the high side of construction and design.  We often went on temporary assignments and completed construction projects, such as buildings, roads and utility systems.

Not long after I was stationed in Las Vegas, I came across a brass, cigar-smoking chief master sergeant who had the same last name as my mom’s maiden name “Whitlow”.  A short while later I asked if he was kin to the Whitlow’s from North Carolina.  To my surprise he said he was.  He also said that my grandfather was his uncle.  What a coincidence!  It always gave us something to talk about.

The other things we often had opportunities to talk about was my mouth and attitude.  Both were horrible.  Not a time I’m proud of.  I often wonder now how my wife could stand to be around me back then. I won’t go into everything, but after the second time I lost my temper and said some very unprofessional, rude things to a young lieutenant he came to my rescue.  The lieutenant was extremely angry because of the name I called him and threatened to put me up on charges.  Chief saw (heard) what was going on and moseyed over to where we were having our conversation. He said that I was needed back on the job site right away because there was a problem. I think I was the problem.  As I walked away, I heard, “Excuse me sir, could I speak to you for a moment?”

I don’t know what was said in their conversation, but I do know that after I apologized to the Lieutenant, he agreed not to file charges.  After the butt-chewing I received from Chief, all I could say was thank-you.  I still remember some of the words he told me.  He said, “Stack“, I knew I was in it deep. “This is the last time I save your ass.  You are the best at what you do.  You don’t have to tell people, they can see it in the quality of your work.  You need to grow-up and make sure that you want to make the Air Force a career, because if you keep on this path you won’t last.”  I was surprised that he cared enough to call me out, and I’ve never forgotten.  It was more than just being family.  Even though I lost track of him, I never lost respect.

I often wonder if I have touched people in this way (the caring part, not the rude part).  I started to turn my life around and eventually I became a Christian.  After retirement, I went back to school and became a middle school teacher.  I felt that God pulled me in this direction and now I’m completing my twentieth year.  I’ve taught hundreds of middle-schoolers.  When I think back I question whether my old-school ways had positive effects on these students or was I too tough?  Did I care enough?  I like to think I did but often felt that my standards were a lot higher than the parent’s or kid’s expectations.

And then I think about the children that have lived in our home.  God provided us with a house way too large for just my wife and I, and then asked “what are you going to do with all these rooms?” (no, God did not speak directly to us but as we talked this was what we felt.)  We became foster parents about eleven years ago and have had twenty-two babies get their start from our arms.  I hope these beginnings have been positive.  I often ask myself, “have my fallings and failures affected these babies?”

As a teacher we are supposed to reflect on what we do.  Self-examination is much more difficult, and I hate them both.  I don’t like the feelings of inadequacy that I have when I question myself.  Will I get past this before I’m called to account that final time?  I know that I can’t please everyone, but will I meet my own standards for me?

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody and the Great Zoo Escape and co-authored with his daughter Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

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When is a series not a series? And when is a genre not a genre? by Sheila Deeth

I typed “The End” a few days ago. The end of my next novel, Imaginary Numbers: The final scene, where I finally know whodunnit, when, how and why… and I wonder if I’ve rushed throu

gh the revelations too fast for the reader, because I was too eager to understand. I think I might conclude I’m not a mystery writer, but that’s all right; Imaginary Numbers isn’t really a mystery. It’s not really a romance either, though it’s protagonists might be falling in love. It’s not really drama, though it’s pretty dramatic when David reads his mother’s obituary while he’s talking to her on the phone. (My continued thanks to Pat Bertram, author of More Deaths Than One, already published by Indigo Sea, for letting me play with her premise.) It’s not really…

obituaries

Ugh! Why do I want to classify my book? They say it’s so it can go on the right shelf of the library (Why not an Indigo Sea shelf, or a Sheila Deeth one?), so Amazon customers can type in a few words to find it (Then list all the genres it fits instead of choosing one), or perhaps… just perhaps it’s to keep a tighter rein on my pen (or my typing fingers) so I don’t stray too far from the path, so I don’t lose the reader on the way.

Imaginary Numbers is set in the same small town as Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum and Subtraction (at least, a few short scenes of Subtraction). It stars some of the same bit-players. It’s part of the same Mathemafiction series, woven between the same events…

…and there I lost my way, because Imaginary Numbers is not about what happened in Divide by Zero; it doesn’t need to grow on the same patch of green, by the same paths, in the same park… It doesn’t need to slow down while other events take place, or crash into a wall while the author explains…

I have some very generous friends who’ve been reading my chapters as they grew. The last set I gave them were rejects — too much stuff about too many people who really didn’t matter to the story, events that really had no bearing on it, and ideas I only included because I was weaving, weaving, weaving the threads of those other books into places they didn’t belong…

…because I’d forgotten to classify my novel! It’s not a mystery or a romance. It’s not about Troy trying not to be his father, Sylvia recovering from abuse, or Andrew trying to believe there’s still good in the world; it’s not about what happened in Paradise Park; it’s about the other guy at the garage — the guy who read his mother’s obituary and found that nothing he believed was quite as it seemed, and wondered why.

A writers’ job isn’t to tangle the stories together, not even if they’re part of a series; the writer’s task is to set them free. So I rewrote, teased threads apart, rewove, and typed “The End.” Next week my friends will see how the novel changed; I hope, perhaps, to please them. One day I’ll hope to please you too, but not till the story’s threads are separate and tight. Till then I’ll tend and mend it with the aid of great friends.

Thank you so, so much to my great critique partners: Jean, Judy and Karin! And thank you again to Pat Bertram for the story’s seed. I’m so thrilled I’ll really get to meet you soon!

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum and Subtraction, all published by Indigo Sea Press. Pat Bertram is one of her first ever online friends, and the author of many wonderful books also published by Indigo Sea. Jean, Judy and Karin are members of the Writers’ Mill.

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Spring Has Sprung

Spring is definitely here in my area of Florida and the scents of blooming trees and flowers abound.  Orange blossoms compete with ligustrum tree blooms and the delicate jacaranda and my favorite flowers, daffodils and hyacinths. It’s such a happy time of year; one with fresh renewal in the air.

I always thought, mother’s younger brother, my Uncle Rembert, was a bit on the quirky side and I liked him very much. He was a poet of sorts whose words, in style, reminded me of Ogden Nash or Willard R. Espy or Dr. Seuss. He was one of those people who always seemed happy. There was even a bounce in his step. He loved words, especially funny ones, and he loved playing with them.

When I was in school, I learned a little about figures of speech in English class. Words like alliteration, anaphora, euphemism, oxymoron, pun, tongue-twister, palindrome, malapropism, litotes, metaphor, onomatopoeia, simile, understatement, hyperbole, etc. That’s all that come to my mind right now, but I could probable look up a few more. Some of these are more familiar than others, probably because they are used more often, but these terms explain what the author is doing with our language.

I’m not sure my Uncle Rembert knew the terms for his poetry that he called jingles, but he certainly knew how to make them entertaining and unforgettable. I wish I’d had the opportunity to visit with my uncle more during my youth, partly because I might had heard more jingles to tickle my funny bone. Here are two of his jingles; one for spring and one for winter.

Spring has sprung

And the grass is rizz

And I wonder where

The birdies izz.

 

It blew

It snew

And then by jing

It frizz.

 

Dear readers, do any of you have a “tickle the funny bone” poem or jingle too?

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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I tidied my Library by Sheila Deeth

20170810_183141The best thing about getting flooded last year is the fact that one of our sons’ bedrooms has now turned into a library. I’ve always wanted a library of my own and, being somewhat of a book hoarder, I’ve always dreamed of having enough space to organize my books. Of course, the fact that my library’s shelves are (in many cases) stacked two deep and two high (and bending) does make it a little hard to find anything. I lost Brooklyn. Then I found it and lost A Man Called Ove, which surely should have been next to A Long Way Down. Then I forgot where the Ursula Le Guin paperbacks had been filed, though hardbacked Malafrena and the Dispossessed were safe on the top shelf. While looking for them, I realized I now had Asian novels on two different shelves, mixed up with The Thirteenth Tale and Olive Kitterege. So… I tidied my library, again. Each book like a much-loved friend, long-forgotten, long overdue an email or a letter… each character reminding and begging me to read me again… each shelf ever heavier while I cleared all the volumes from the floor.

20180212_164333Meanwhile there’s that top secret shelf upstairs, where I hide my dream that someone might file my books in a library one day. Novels of small-town characters–Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum, and Subtraction, all published by Indigo Sea–They stand together with Biblical fiction for kids and novellas mysterious and strange… short stories in anthologies… even poetry and picture books! Would they ever belong on the same shelf as each other?

New characters beg me to write me again and I turn to the computer where Imaginary Numbers is growing fast; David’s falling in love, while his mother slowly reveals her curious past, and someone out there alternately scares and pleads with them both–“Stop ignoring me.” But who is David’s mom ignoring? And why does David’s newspaper carry stories of her murder while she’s clearly still alive? I almost know. but I’ll just have to see how it all pans (or pens) out…

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum, and Subtraction all published by Indigo sea Press. Watch out for Imaginary Numbers coming soon.

 

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Musings of Hawaii

Rob and Florence, my son and daughter-in-law just returned from their honeymoon in Oahu, Hawaii. I dropped them off at the airport in Orlando and my grandson, Colby, met them at the airport in Honolulu and showed them around, since he lives there. While they were gone, Hawaii was on my mind.

I had visited three of the islands in February, 1989, with my friend, Joe. On Maui, we had arranged to go scuba diving one day. The prelude to this activity was to have a short lesson in the hotel pool to make sure everyone was familiar with the equipment. I was about to find out that Hawaii actually does have winter so, while the air temp may not be cold, the ocean water is.

I didn’t think that would be a problem, though, because in my formative diving days, my diving buddy and I used to break through the ice in northern New Jersey quarries before diving in winter. Hawaiian water wouldn’t be that cold, so… What I hadn’t taken in to account was the fact that I was renting my equipment during this trip. I had always had my own before. That fit me.

The “wetsuit” I was given was not a long-sleeved neoprene affair that covered all but my face like I expected, but a puffy vest that looked like it would fit an extra-large Sumo wrestler. My whole bony little 103 lb. body could fit in the arm holes and as for my legs, they were on their own. No other size was available and there was no way that vest would provide me with any warmth. My instructor ignored my pleas and told everyone to get in the pool. That’s when I knew I was in trouble. Not wanting to seem a sissy, I decided to “man-up” and shut-up. After all, Joe and I were experienced divers. Surely the two other couples, whom we knew had never been diving before, would say something when we all hit the frigid pool water. Wrong! Between them they had several hundred pounds on me.  Joe, being a guy, had more meat on him, too, so I knew I was facing a dilemma.

We all jumped into the pool and learned the vest held the weights needed to help us sink and it was also inflatable to help us rise in the water. Okay. The trick was to balance those two things so a person would be essentially weightless. I was used to a separate weight belt to weigh me down and the air tanks to provide buoyancy, but this set-up seemed easy enough. Next was the face mask. Can you believe my mask was apparently also made for a large Sumo wrestler? It didn’t come anywhere near fitting my tiny face. In the last fifteen minutes, had I suddenly morphed into a munchkin? Uh, oh, things were not boding well for me, but I didn’t want to ruin the dive trip for Joe, so I kept quiet.

To make a long story short, I spent all of my dive time trying to regulate my weight/buoyancy, clear my face mask of water and equalize pressure in my ears. So, my view of the ocean near Maui consisted of multi-sized bubbles obstructing my vision of some fish and coral, while I rose up and down like I was on a seesaw. Joe realized I was suffering from hypothermia when we departed the dive boat and the air hit me. He rushed me to our rooms and I spent a while in a cold shower to warm up, and gradually changed the temp to lukewarm. I was so exhausted; I slept the rest of the afternoon. So much for scuba diving!

The next day we went whale watching and every time I saw a whale surface, before I got the chance to snap the photo, it had disappeared, so I have wonderful photos of water and more water, port side and starboard. So much for whale watching!

The next day we flew to Kauai where it rained the whole time and our helicopter trips were canceled. So we decided to go shopping. I was lucky to find some colorful, thin wooden ornaments of Hawaiian fish that are perfect for my Christmas tree and remind me of Hawaii. Joe and I both bought exotic shells and had them drilled so when we blew them we could call the Hawaiian sprits to our homes on the mainland. And since I had had such a difficult time during our dive, he bought me a pretty dress to wear to one of the fabulous shows at our hotel in Oahu, the Royal Hawaiian.

Some things didn’t work out on this trip, but it didn’t matter to me. The Hawaiian people were so happy and friendly and had a certain spirit about them that I can’t explain. The scenery was spectacular and the food was delicious. I hope I get another chance to go. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to hear all about Rob and Florence’s trip!

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Belly Dancer to Writer

People have asked me how I transitioned from having a twenty-plus-year career as a belly dancer to my present career as a writer. The two seemed so unrelated. I have to admit I had a head start because I spent over fifty years searching for my family after being orphaned as a small child and when I finally found a family member, I wanted to write about it. But in further pondering the transition question, I surprisingly found similarities between the two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main hat I wore during my dancing years was as a Belly Grammer. I was hired to surprise someone for their birthday, anniversary, farewell, get well, reunion or event, with a ten minute dance routine consisting of three parts. The first part was lively Arabic music, accompanied by the rhythm of my brass finger cymbals. Then it slowed down for some pretty, mesmerizing veil work and the last part or finale was lively again, punctuated by the clinking sound of my tambourine. My guest of honor was seated in a chair by himself with people in a circle around him with room for me to dance in the middle. During the routine I presented him with a red banner with a gold glitter message of the occasion and included his name and a red rose. I also crowned him with my veil and tambourine during the number. It was good clean fun and became a very popular way for people to honor coworkers, bosses, family members and friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During this time, I attended seminars all over the U.S. and became a professional performer in shows that concluded those lessons. I met other dancers who became friends and I traveled out of the country as well. This opened up trade show jobs and Greek Night events, wedding receptions, gigs in New York and New Jersey in night clubs, fundraising for the Leukemia Society, and as a staff writer for an international dance magazine. I danced for actor Cliff Robertson at a Scottish Céilidh and for Whoopi Goldberg on a movie set and Mr. Winton Blunt, former U.S. Postmaster General asked me to dance in his home for Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki Bin Nassar. Two military bases in Montgomery, AL, near my home, had numerous events for which I was asked to help them celebrate. I started taking students in my home studio and was asked to teach at Auburn University and later to choreograph a production number for the theatre at Auburn U. I even did a tailgate party in the parking lot at Auburn University before a championship football game. I remember being absolutely amazed I was actually able to find my tailgate hosts without any trouble at the super crowded stadium that day!

Medieval Fantasy Dance

 

 

 

You’re probably getting the idea by now, dear reader, that one thing led to another in my dance career, and you’d be absolutely right. The scope for providing opportunities for dance was constantly changing and growing. In developing a routine for my belly grams I was telling a story through my movements and in some of the other shows, I was following a theme and creating a narrative through the dance itself. The magazine staff writer job and having to come up with written lesson plans for my college teaching stints were most helpful in my development with writing, but finding my sister was the clincher and I started writing a mystery novel involving my search for her. Years later, when my agent found my publisher and my book came out; it was time I retired from dance and start my new career. I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to have been blessed with two careers I loved so much! What about you? Have you had more than one career that you’ve loved?

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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A Christmas So Special

Yesterday, with carols blaring on my stereo, I finished decorating my house for Christmas. Since I started the day after Thanksgiving, and this is the ninth of December, I either have a big house, or lots and lots of decorations. Actually the latter is the true answer. And I’m a whole-house decorator, really into handmade gifts, flower arrangements, garlands and lights galore. I want my home to feel like It’s having a Hallmark moment.

Dining Room

Kitchen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I still have stockings and ornaments that I made the first year I was married back in 1962. The jester stocking is my son’s. The medieval hunting boot was my history loving husband’s, and mine is a plush velvet French style shoe, and after my mother passed away, I made a cowboy boot for my dad. We had little money in those days as my husband started out in the USAF, but all our friends were in the same boat, so we never knew the difference.

Stockings and Old Garland

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1965, Vietnam interrupted a year of our lives and while my husband was gone, our son and I managed as best we could. We lived temporarily in St. Louis, MO, and Famous Barr Department Store had a wonderful Christmas area with specialty items not found in other stores. I remember walking around totally transfixed. I decided to splurge $6.95 on a nine-foot garland that had old fashioned lanterns on it. In those days and with my budget, that was a lot of money, but I knew it would look so nice above the stockings I had made years before. Can you believe I have used that garland every year since without replacing even a single bulb? That’s fifty-two years! Fifty-two years of frequent moves to cold and hot, wet and dry climates with the decorations often exposed to those weather conditions. When I put that garland up this year, one bulb didn’t light, but it didn’t matter, it has definitely earned its place in my home forever!

Flower Arrangement

Livingroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Christmas tree is adorned with reminders of places we’ve lived or to which we’ve traveled: Germany, Greece, Hawaii, Bulgaria, Romania, France, Italy, Scotland, Egypt, Poland, Russia, and England, to name a few. There’s also a family area with ornaments with the names of my son, his soon-to-be wife, my grandson, me, my sister, niece, and even for my late kitties, Annie and Pippi. Not to be forgotten are two best-friend ornaments, and some shiny plain ones to add filler, color and brilliance. Most importantly, there’s the Nativity ornament and the tree topping angel to represent the meaning of this blessed holiday.

Angel

P1010900

 

 

 

Christmas, 2017 is one of those extra special Christmases, because in eight days my son, Rob, will marry, Florence, the woman of his dreams and my grandson, Colby, will be his best man. Then we all will celebrate Christmas together, eating and singing carols in front of the fire. Doesn’t that sound to you like A Christmas So Special?

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

 

 

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A COMEDY of ERRORS by Coco Ihle

You know how some people are just “funny” accident prone? Well, my son, Rob, is one of those people, but only when he is at my house. I’ve never been able to figure out why, but because of this affliction, we’ve had lots of laughs, and sometimes the mention of a single word will bring forth gales of laughter from both of us.

One such example happened several years ago, but the mere mention of it reforms the images in our minds and sets the giggles into action. And my son has a great way of recounting the story of how it happened. It was dinner time and we were having hot dogs. Rob was helping me by setting the table and bringing out the condiments. I opened the refrigerator door and grabbed the plastic yellow mustard container and proceeded to give it a good shake so the mustard would come out nice and thick instead of runny.

When I looked up, Rob was standing on the outside of the refrigerator door waiting to get in to get the milk when I suddenly realized someone hadn’t completely closed the top on the mustard container the last time we used it and there were continuous yellow stripes up and down my son’s face and one large glob that was slowly dripping from the end of his nose. I absolutely lost it! I tried really hard not to, but the deadpan expression on Rob’s face as he looked at me, left me completely unhinged. I couldn’t say a word. I couldn’t breathe. Tears blinded my vision. A tiny little squeak was coming from my lungs, but I thought I’d never get my breath back and my midsection was hurting so bad. Of, course, that set Rob off, and it was fifteen minutes before the two of us were able to peel ourselves off the floor and breath normally again.

The latest incident was a few weeks ago when my soon to be daughter-in-law, Florence, and Rob came to spend the weekend with me. I had transferred freshly brewed coffee to a thermos pump pot after it was ready and Florence and I were sitting outside on the patio enjoying the morning and our first cups when Rob came out to say hello. I told him the coffee was ready and he went back inside to get himself a cup. Several minutes went by and he didn’t return. Florence and I wondered what was keeping him and I was just about to get up and go inside when here he came. He had that famous deadpan expression on his face again, so I asked what happened. He said he held his cup under the pump pot’s spigot and was pumping the coffee into his cup when his hand accidentally knocked down a wall-mounted mixer whisk that was behind the pump pot and that startled him so he spilled the steaming hot coffee all over the counter, his hand and floor and when he opened the cabinet underneath the sink to reach the paper towels, he grabbed one and yanked and the roll took off like he was rolling out a red carpet. By the time he got the coffee spill cleaned up and the paper towels re-rolled, he said he was ready to go back to bed. He was kidding, but by that time, Florence and I were in tears and gripping our sides, and Rob joined in.

We all agreed it was nice to start a day off with laughter. Hope you have days like that, too!

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

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That Special Girl by John E. Stack

That special, one-of-a-kind girl showed up in my life a few years ago and totally changed my life. She had been badly hurt, even though there were few outward signs. You could tell by looking into her eyes that she felt unloved and was ready to give up on life. God had given my wife and I  a mission – to love. From the moment we laid eyes on her, we fell in love. I will call her Katherine.
My wife and I first met Katherine at a hospital about an hour away from home. Her room was at the end of the hallway. There was a nurse’s station right outside her room, but it was not being used. The lights were out and the hallway was dark. Even though it was daytime, her room was completely dark. Her bed was situated where she could not even see the door.
About the only visitors Katherine ever received were the nurses or the med tech’s coming in to check vitals or to draw blood. The doctors had given up on her and expected her to die, said they figured about three weeks. The nurses didn’t come in unless they had to because they didn’t want to become too attached. So, she was picked up in order to change her diaper, stuck with a needle in order to draw blood. She didn’t know many good touches. Katherine was four months old when we became her foster parents and became totally involved in her life.
My wife and I worked with the nurses and changed a lot of things, even to the point of having her removed from that hospital and transferred to one closer to home. Even if the doctors expected her to die, we weren’t going to give up. God had a different plan. There was something very special about Katherine. I went through a crash nursing course and the nurse supervisor had to sign-off that I knew how to complete certain tasks. It was tough but she was worth it.
Within a few days after having her airlifted to the new hospital, she was discharged and was able to go home with us. She was now six months old but only weighed nine pounds. When Katherine was less than two weeks old she developed a condition, which caused her intestines to die. The doctors removed almost eighty percent of both her large and small intestines. It took a while, but things started to improve, and her health started to improve. We fell deeper in love.
The adoption went through right after her second birthday. She was stuck with us forever.
Fast forward to about three weeks ago. Katherine was watching a video about kids going into foster care with her mom. As the kids were brought out of their homes they carried black garbage bags. “why are they carrying those black bags?” she asked. My wife explained that when social workers remove children from their homes, the kids don’t have much time to pack. They also don’t own suitcases.
Katherine was shocked, “What do you mean? Those kids have to carry their clothes in a garbage bag? That’s not right.” Katherine was upset about this when she went to bed.
My wife had been talking to me about finding someone that would supply some type of bag that social workers could have on hand to give kids if they had to be taken into custody.
The next morning Katherine woke up with an idea. She decided that for her birthday, she wanted her party guests to not buy presents for her, but to buy things that would fit in a string bag. She wanted to have people by tooth brushes with tooth paste, small blankets, small stuffed animals, toys for little kids, etc. She also figured her mom could make or buy some simple string bags and we could give these to social workers or police officers to give to kids when they were removed from their homes.
Her mom asked her about her birthday gifts and she said that those didn’t matter because we would buy her some things. So, on her birthday party invitations, we put a note explaining Katherine’s wishes.
More than anything we received a wonderful gift. We got to see a heart that was willing to give pretty much all she had and hoped to give to other kids that she didn’t even know. She’s my new super hero.
Happy 8th Birthday, to my beautiful, sweet, and wonderful daughter. We love you.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Olivia’s Sweet Adventure, and Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo.

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