Tag Archives: family

My Christmas Card List

My early adult years in the mid 1960’s were spent as a military spouse and as such, friends were most likely people who had shared my husband’s and my life. Military bonds tend to run deep, because they frequently involve hardships. So when friends are made, they often remain so for life, at least for me.

For instance, my husband, Byron and I were assigned to a small radar site in northern Montana, six miles from the Canadian border as the crow flies and thirty-eight miles from the nearest town, population 10,000. Temperatures reached minus 50 degrees that first winter and sand storms were the norm in the spring and fall. Twenty-eight houses comprised the living quarters for families and a small BOQ (bachelor officer quarters) held two or three single men. We were lucky to have TV, but the signal was interrupted every 18 seconds or so with the sweep of the radar antenna. Once every three months, we had a doctor, dentist and priest/minister rotate to our site for a few days, so neighbor helped neighbor, regularly. We became family, a concept particularly meaningful to me, having been orphaned early in my life.

I imagine you have an idea what I’m trying to say about how deeply military families extend and grow to include neighbors and friends. And in each place Byron and I were stationed, our original family of three became larger and larger. From our first deployment, I decided to create a Christmas card list so I could keep up with my family no matter where we all were.  Even now, fifty-five years later, after a divorce even, I’ve kept up with many people from those wonderful military days. From Montana, the people across the street, Cliff and Shirley had a daughter who babysat for our son, Rob, when he was three. Cliff has passed now, but Shirley and I still stay in touch. Then when Byron was teaching aerospace studies at North Texas State University to ROTC students, several of those students are still exchanging Christmas cards with me.

Three years in Germany added to the list and New Mexico and Texas did too, and I gained another friend when I was lucky to invade my husband’s remote tour (without family) to Iceland for a two week R&R (rest and recuperation) visit. And during Vietnam, I spent time with my in-laws since I lived nearby. Our last assignment was in Montgomery, AL at Maxwell Air Force Base Wing Headquarters ROTC and we lived just outside the back gate of Gunter Air Force Station, so the family we gathered there were not just military, but members of a Scottish society and civilians alike.

My husband and I may have divorced, but not my through-the-years friends. In fact they became even closer to me since I’d lost part of my family. And I made new ones from neighbors, church, and various interests.

Yesterday, I received a Christmas card from my sister and enclosed was a poem that I just have to share with you. It says everything I feel about my Christmas card list. Perhaps you have your own version.

 

The Christmas Card List

There is a list of folks I know
All written in a book,
And every year at Christmas time
I go and take a look.
And that is when I realize
Those names are all a part
Not of the book they’re written in,
But deep inside my heart.

For each name stands for someone
Who has touched my life sometime,
And in that meeting they’ve become
A special friend of mine.
I really feel that I’m composed
Of each remembered name,
And my life is so much better
Than it was before they came.

Once you’ve known that “someone”,
All the years cannot erase
The memory of a pleasant word
Or of a friendly face.
So never think my Christmas cards
Are just a mere routine
Of names upon a list that are
Forgotten in between.

For when I send a Christmas card
That is addressed to you,
It is because you’re on that list
Of folks I’m indebted to.
And whether I have known you
For many years or few,
The greatest gift that God can give
Is having friends like you!

Author Unknown

 

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.

 

10 Comments

Filed under life, musings

I Think I Got the Lividity and How Perceptions Differ by LV Gaudet

Anyone who has ever experienced the family vacation knows the family vacation experience starts weeks before and ends weeks after the actual vacation.

 

This is about a family vacation experience, and about different perceptions.  Writing a story is all about the use of perception.  Twisting and focusing the reader’s perceptions, utilizing opposing perceptions, and even tricking the reader into thinking you are following a certain line of perception before revealing your true intentions.  What you do with this depends on your story and its goal.

 

Real life is drama.  Don’t shortchange your readers by forgetting that in your stories.

 

Feel free to skip to the parts that actually interest you.  I am also sick again as I write this, so please bear with me.

 

BEFORE THE VACATION

 

Of course, there are the “pre weeks” aka “the months you can’t get back”; the weeks where one of you spends a painful amount of time researching vacation possibilities (because travel agents are for wusses, people less cheap than you, and people with a different type of common sense).  They endlessly read opposing reviews, getting excited and then woefully disappointed by the same resorts, before finally taking a great intake of air, holding it indefinitely, scrunching their eyes tightly closed, and hitting send.  The vacation is booked.

 

And then once the vacation is booked it is the stressful “vacation time coordination”. Anyone with differing vacation in-house work rules will find this more difficult.  We are lucky in this.  Unlike some, we don’t have to definitively and un-irrevocably book vacation time all at once for the year and not be able to change plans.  Still, you have at least two people with different work vacation booking rules, plus kids/others, to try to book everyone off for the same week and it can be a juggling act.

 

Then it’s the preparation time.  You have to make sure you pack all of your stuff, that everyone else has theirs, and plan for every possible contingency and buy a pharmacy.

 

How you think it will go aka “the boring story” or “what your character wants” – You make your list, pack and purchase, and everything is packed nicely and easily.  Stress free.  And you happily and contentedly go to sleep looking forward to your vacation.  Your vacation is flawless. You do stuff, relax, enjoy, and come home refreshed.

 

How it really goes aka “insert drama here” – Ugh.  Let us not forget how real life can get.  You have a job, kids, dogs, and a house.  So, in between looking after all of that, you have to find the time for packing, lists, shopping, re-packing, and cleaning.  And, if your dogs are lucky enough that you have someone willing to house sit/dog sit so they don’t have to spend the week stressed and panicked in a boarding kennel, you also want the house clean when you leave.

 

Starting with the dogs, the husky, Roxy aka The Big Dumb Bunny, decides to pick that time right before your vacation to start blowing out her coat.  In the middle of winter and -30 to -45 wind chills.  How a dog can shed more than her weight in hair every hour is beyond me. Cue the endless vacuuming.  We call the other dog, Meeka, the “good dog”.  She does not blow out her coat, steal all your socks, or make you put her out every five minutes.

 

20180210_173118.jpgThe kids.  Anyone with kids can tell you that you really need to plan a week off kid free to clean the house for anything upcoming of importance.  This still applies when they are teens.  As fast as you try to clean, the place is unraveled around you into a bedlam of chaos and mess.  And, the virtual extra large dogs aka the Big Dumb Hair Bunnies you need to vacuum up endlessly.  You are also trying to get all the laundry done, and make futile attempts to pack your own stuff.

 

Just a quick interject – naturally, pre-vacation week you get sick (cough cough). You feel like Bill the cat from Bloom County looks. If you don’t know, look it up.  But you still must be up before six every morning, go to work, and deal with the kids, dogs, family, house, etc. every evening, plus vacation preparation.

 

Three days prior to vacation you announce to the entire household (repeatedly), “Tomorrow night I have to pack my stuff for the trip.  All my stuff.  I have nothing packed.  So let me do that or I won’t have any clothes to wear.  After I pack all my stuff, I can help you with yours.”

 

Two days prior to vacation, the “I MUST PACK ALL MY STUFF” evening, …guess what. Yes, you guessed it. Kids.  One, who is old enough to handle it in my opinion, absolutely needs your help to figure out and fill out the grade 10 course registration for next year that ABSOLUTELY MUST BE DONE THAT NIGHT OR THE WORLD WILL END.  Because it has to be handed in tomorrow, since it is due when you are gone on vacation.

 

The other kid has a mountain of homework that she absolutely cannot figure out on her own, even though she is the one going to school to learn it and knows it better than you do.  Seriously, some of these math word problems I am sure are written in some archaic ancient dead language from a planet in a far away galaxy.  Mostly I repeated the questions on the page until she started actually thinking about them and solved them herself.

 

Now, it is past bedtime for everyone, you still have laundry and cleaning to do, and have not packed a single sock.  Or maybe you did pack a sock, but the Big Dumb Bunny stole it.  At this point you are too tired and sick to know or care.

 

The Nightmare before Christmas, I mean (um), the night before vacation.  Okay, now you really need to pack.  You start your morning with slopping an entire cup of coffee on yourself minutes before you have to leave for work.  Nice.  Now you have to do laundry again because you had to pull clothes out of the stuff you washed to pack, because you don’t have enough clothes that fit.  You bust your butt at work all day making sure everything is done. You half expect at this point that your car will break down on the way home.  Somehow the stars and planets align and it does not.

 

However, and, I should have put that in all caps.  Let’s try that again.

 

HOWEVER, you get home and while you were at work the good dog puked, the toilet upstairs plugged and overflowed, and the house is a complete disaster.  The panicked teen tries to resolve the overflowing toilet by staring moodily at the toilet bowl, water flowing over its sides to flood the bathroom floor, glares at it, and starts throwing all the towels on the floor in an effort to make it all stop without asking for help, and the water continues to flood over the toilet bowl.

 

Meanwhile, on the downside, aka the kitchen, water has begun to flow from the ceiling light fixture located directly below the offending toilet.  Cue the sudden discovery by your spouse that something is wrong upstairs.  This, by the way, is next to the brown spot in the kitchen ceiling from the other kid previously trying to fill water balloons by placing them over the entire tap end, forcing the water to wash back up the space between the water pipe and the tap covering until it wets and stains the ceiling below.

 

20180210_075200.jpgIt is your last evening to pack, and you are overtired, still sick, and trying to clean, do laundry (again), deal with dramas, back up all your life’s work so you don’t risk losing it if anything happens to your laptop (because you stupidly think will all that spare time while you are up hours before everyone else every morning on vacation you will have time for writing), and attempt to pack your stuff, finally.  Only, the evening is gone before you know it, you have accomplished little if anything, the house is still a mess, you are still doing laundry, and EVERYONE HAS GONE TO BED WITHOUT YOU.

 

Oh yeah, and you still have to pack all your stuff for the week, but you can’t because everyone went to bed.

 

Vacation day!  You are not sure what time you went to bed.  Eleven?  Eleven-thirty?  You are up at two am because you are supposed to be ready to leave the house by 4 am.  Showered, dressed, and dolled up.  Your brain is mush.  You know you are forgetting a thousand things.  You have half an hour to pack.  You are constantly being interrupted despite your pleas of, “Let me pack!”  Your spouse is trying their best to help.  You gather stuff, set it down, turn, and it is gone. Your spouse packed it in their bag.  At this point you are now packing without knowing what you actually packed.  You can’t find anything because your brain is mush.  You will take stock of everything you are missing when you get there.

 

20180208_194931You will get there to find that you are missing basic essentials like deodorant, hair brush, and a toothbrush.  You will spend an exorbitant amount of money buying two of the three at the little resort store, only to find halfway through the vacation it was packed in your spouse’s suitcase.

 

After arrival and after going through the customs security screening and passing through the door of “Thou Shall Not Go Back”, the thirteen-year-old discovers she left her phone in the bathroom on the other side.  Being stupid Canadian tourists they let us through and watch in confusion as I scurry with her to retrieve the lost phone.  Later we learned how terrified our handler was that we committed such serious a faux pas, and we speculated was possibly shocked we were not arrested for it.

 

20180210_112138.jpgThe vacation.  Day one, everyone wakes up cranky.  Everyone is moody, miserable, and fighting.  The beds and pillows actually inflict pain; they are so bad.  But, once settled in, each person has the time to start living the moment instead of only reacting to a fast paced series of reactionary moments.

 

While on the drive from the airport to the resort the previous evening, you are taking in the world the local people live in through the bus window, your kids, who are sitting much closer to the front of the bus, are noticing how rude, insensitive, and disrespectful they feel some of our fellow vacationers are being towards the travel guide whose job it is to get everyone to their hotels.

 

20180209_153704.jpgWe are in a place where the local population is predominantly dark skinned.  You notice how kind and friendly all of the people working there are, how some struggle with the language barriers between them and their guests, but they still do their best to help.  Your kids, however, whose sole experience with different people in your other raced neighborhood is what they learned in school about the history of black slavery, are feeling weird and at odds over watching all these dark-skinned staff serving the predominantly white guests.  They question the appropriateness of it, not understanding it is so only because of the nature of the local population’s demographics.

 

20180210_103428(0).jpgDuring one dinner, while you are observing the strange behavior at the next table, your spouse is observing a very different scene behind you.  The table next to you, a larger group, are taking turns politely clapping each person as if each is taking a turn quietly sharing some life affirming moment.  The moment feels almost cultish to you, and you wonder if this is some sort of retreat for some group.  Your spouse reaches across the table, touches your hand to get your attention, and looks you in the eyes.

“Get ready to move fast, there is going to be a fight behind you and I think it will be ugly.”

You glance quickly at your teen sitting next to you and then at the couple quietly arguing being hind you, just at the moment the whispered argument gets louder.  The wife was very inebriated, and the husband not.

We each had a very different memory of that dinner.

 

Naturally, being a vacation of the sort we have not been on in years and may not again for years to come, everyone has to take a turn being sick.  Another wrench thrown into that perfect vacation.  Another drama, another obstacle to overcome.  I have to say, I don’t know when I felt a sickness like that.  After the vomiting the large ball of discomfort settles in to take up permanent residence in your stomach.  You are cold and hot.  Every inch of your muscles and skin hurts.  The weight of your body against the mattress is agony.  Even the feather weight of the light sheets is pain.  Luckily we packed a pharmacy.

At one point, as I lay there, my spouse thought he saw bruising.  It was only shadow.  I said I had the lividity.  That now I know what dying feels like and it hurts like hell. That I am now The Walking Dead and if I didn’t feel like such crap I would probably be eating everyone.  My spouse called me a dork.

 

20180210_075334.jpgOf course, the vacation was not all bad.  Kids and teens, being who they are, were in a constant flux between getting along and annoying each other.  Anyone with teens knows how little you see them when they start hiding in their rooms.  And, with work and kids, how little time a couple actually has together.  We had eight full days, including travel both ways, of all four of us being together 24/7, getting reacquainted with each other.  That was through good and bad, sickness (literally, with us taking turns being up all night vomiting), and health.  We still like each other.

 

20180211_144645.jpgThe trip home.  The plan was to have everything packed and cleaned up the night before and ready to go.  Everyone is up, showered, dressed, and last bit packed with lots of time to haul our stuff to the front lobby, get lunch, and hop on the bus to the airport.  Easy.  No fuss, no muss.

The reality; okay that actually did sort of work out for us.  Not so much for the other family with two small boys who were on the wrong time zone.  They missed the mandatory check out time, thus incurring the wrath of the forewarned late checkout surcharges.  The bus did wait for them while they hurriedly put their two small boys on the bus and scurried off to hastily pack all their belongings and race back to the bus.

It also presumably did not work out so well for the others who our vacation company on-site liaison, bus driver, and hotel staff were unable to locate.  They missed the bus.  All but one eventually made it to the airport, where we all looked at each other wondering what fate befell the mysterious man they kept paging over the intercom to make his way immediately to our boarding gate.

 

20180211_105331.jpgGoing through customs is its own experience.  Leaving Canada, the fourteen-year-old was randomly selected for the “sniff test”.  Yes, apparently they had to make sure a fourteen-year-old girl was not carrying or recently in contact with cocaine.  I, being the concerned parent, laughed at her plight.  The Canadian customs staff were typically Canadian, indulgent and kind about it.

And then there was the phone in the bathroom incident on arrival, which we teased the thirteen-year-old about and told her that her father would have had to contact the Canadian embassy or consular service or whatever they have there to have our government try to negotiate our release from a foreign country prison.

Coming home, we learned while in line to check our luggage that the rules for carrying going the opposite way are different.  We hastily shifted items from our carry on to our checked luggage.  On the way to security I ended up having to throw out my chapped lip stick because that apparently is illegal.  Every man woman and child went through a cursory pat down.  The Dominican customs people were all very understanding and kind while processing all of us.

On arrival in Canada, and after a slightly bumpy landing, it is time to breathe a sigh of relief.  It is over.  You are home.  Cue laughter.

We are in the back quarter of the plane.  Naturally, disembarking is done from the front to the back.  Everyone is collecting their stuff from the overhead compartments and beneath the seat in front of them, committing incredible acts of acrobatics trying to squeeze through the ten-inch aisle with their stuff to the front of the plane, and stumbling numbly down the tunnel ramp on legs and buttocks that are no longer functional after a more than six-hour flight trapped in tiny uncomfortable seats with their legs pressed to their chins.

20180211_144010.jpgLiterally, with the last of the rest of the plane passengers passing through the door at the end before us into the great terminal beyond, an airport worker hurriedly rushes to the door and closes it in our faces.  We, and our fellow back of the plane passengers, are left staring dumbly at him as he motions us to stay and runs off through the secondary set of doors.  We look at each other.  There are a few nervous chuckles.  We are literally in a dry aquarium.  A glass-walled prison with no way out except to race back to the plane, whose door is presumably closed by now, and no place to shelter.  Is there some sort of airport security event?  Should we be afraid?  But, this is Canada, so the worst it might be is that someone forgot to say please and thank you.

After some moments of the same man who locked us in and another worker looking around in confusion, the other trying his swipe card on some random card swiper at a desk through doors the rest of the plane did not disembark through, a third airport worker came along and let us through.

20180211_143714.jpgAt last, we are home.  Or at least on the last leg of home, driving home with a slight detour that involved going in completely the opposite direction of home for some distance before realizing we are going the wrong way, and made it home.

The vacation, naturally, does not end there.  Because now you have to catch up at work and do all the other post-vacation stuff.  But the real story has already ended and that stuff happens after you cut to end story.

 

And that, my friends, is how an unexciting vacation story becomes filled with obstacles and drama.  Real life throws a wrench in things and so must you when you write your story.

 

While we were all in this together through various stages, every person would have had their own unique perspective and experience.

 

There is more to the story, of course.  The monkey on the beach, the walk off-resort through a possibly sketchy area, and the salami taxi.  But that is the fine details you flesh out later in your story.

 

Now, if I were to re-write this from each person’s perspective, each would tell a very different story.

 

Follow me on my blog.

The Intangible World of the Literary Mind

This blog is about writing, being an author, and life.

 

LV Gaudet, author

This blog is for the fans of dark fiction, those stories that slither softly into your dreams in the night to turn them dark and foul.

 

 

Published with Indigo Sea Press:
where the bodies are

 

He can’t stop killing.

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

Learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are.

1 Comment

Filed under L.V. Gaudet, life, Travel, writing

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.

 

 

16 Comments

Filed under musings

People and Things, by Carole Howard

My mother died in 1997 at the age of 80. She’d been losing weight and the docs neither found out why nor ended her slide, even after I insisted they admit her to a hospital and get some nutrition into her body.  Still, it had never occurred to me that she was gravely ill. So it was a shock when I got the phone call. Naivety, I guess. Or maybe denial.

My brother and I flew to Florida to pack up our mother’s things and help our dad decide where he’d live. (He couldn’t care for himself — that had been my mom’s job – because of Parkinson’s.) The packing-up process practically smacked me in the face with, “All this stuff we accumulate, in the end, it’s just….. stuff.”

But the hangers in the closet did me in.

After I took some pieces of her clothing that I wanted, I sorted the rest (which involved removal of my mother’s notes to herself, like “This blouse goes with the blue pants or the green skirt plus the paisley scarf), then donated it to the nearby synagogue. But they didn’t want the hangers. What was I to do with them? It felt wrong to just throw them out.

The hanger issue tormented me. I gathered them into bundles and used twist-ties to join them at the curvy ends. They were unwieldy. I unbundled them, then put them in cardboard boxes. It took a lot of boxes to accommodate those pieces of wood, plastic, and wire. And I was still left with the question of what to do with them. In the end, I put them back in the closet, neatly arranged according to type. Closure. Logic. Neatness.

I knew my reaction was crazy but, just like the time I went up to the apartment my husband and I were moving from, to get one last thing, and unexpectedly bawled, I knew there was something else involved.

Yet when a very good friend and member of my extended family recently died, I had a completely different reaction to her possessions. “Lily” knew she was dying, since she was the one who had declined chemotherapy. The process wasn’t a mystery, just the timing. In the last month or so of her life, she had friends come over, a few at a time, so she could give away her beautiful (she was an artist) clothing and jewelry. She had a LOT. Every piece had a story. What was unsettling to me was that she took enormous pleasure – glee, practically – in telling the stories and giving the pieces away. Really, glee. I wanted to be gleeful, for her sake, but glee was too much to ask.

Now that she’s gone, I have quite a collection of things that remind me of her: scarves, sweaters, earrings, earrings, and more earrings, and one pair of shoes. So does my daughter. She wears them frequently. I have another approach: I take out one thing and wear it a few times before I take another. Each one reminds me of Lily, one at a time, widely spaced.

I’m not sure what accounts for the difference between my reaction to my mother’s things and to Lily’s, nor the difference between my daughter’s approach and mine. Nineteen years older? Mother vs friend? Cleaning everything out vs accepting some gifts to give Lily pleasure?

I just don’t know. Did anything similar ever happen to you?

  •     *     *     *

Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, a murder mystery with a musical undertone, set in West Africa.

6 Comments

Filed under musings, writing

Politics by John E. Stack

I do not like politics.  I do not watch politics. I loathe political hate ads (they are a waste of millions of dollars that could be better used elsewhere.)  Don’t tell me who you are , show me who you are by the things you do.  Don’t tell me what you are going to do, tell me how you are going to do it.  Don’t slam the other candidate, it makes you look bad.  Anyway, I was thrust into this place I do not like by a seven-year-old.

The other day my first grader came home and told me that her class was going to vote for president and she had to decide how to vote. Our conversation went kind of like this:

So, who are you going to vote for?

“I think I’m going to vote for Hillary.” 

“Why?”

It was like I had asked the most difficult question ever.  After a moment, she responded,

“Because she is a girl.”

“Not a good reason. Too many people vote that way.  You need to know something about the person and what they stand for before you make a decision.”

“Oh, okay.”

Suddenly, our conversation was over and she went off to finish her homework.

The next day, when I got home from work, our conversation continued:

“Do you know who Gary Johnson is?

Yes, do you?

“Of course.  He is running for President with Hillary and Trump.  I think I will vote for him.”

“You think so? Why?”

“Dad, have you seen him?”

“Yes, but that is not a reason to vote for him.  Too many people do that already.  You have to look at more than skin color, whether they are male or female, or if they are cute or not.”

“So, how do I know who to vote for?”

“You have to research how they feel about the things you care about.  You are a Christian (her own decision), and do you believe what the Bible says?

“Yes.”

“Okay.  So, as a Christian you should decide if the person you plan to vote for feels or believes the same way you do.  If you believe the same way they do about the important issues, then that is who you should vote for.  If they argue against what you believe then maybe you shouldn’t vote for them.  Let’s get the computer.”

So, we found a web-site that had a comparison of things each candidate said about different topics.  We went through the issues that she found an interest in.  The seven-year-old mind is a strange, but wonderful thing.  It is so full of questions, but has just enough knowledge to analyze some facts to form opinions.

We discussed babies and abortion; we discussed same-sex marriages; we discussed illegals; we discussed guns.  For some reason, she didn’t want to talk about corn subsidies, but we did spend about an hour and thirty minutes talking about the candidates and seeing if she agreed with any of their opinions. 

I reminded her that every candidate was not perfect and each in some way went against the American people.  I think that the most important thing that I told her was to use her knowledge of God and the things that the Bible tells us are right, and choose the candidate that feels the same way she did.

“Dad, none of these people make a good choice for president.”

“I know, honey, everyone has their own opinion of who to vote for and why it is the right thing to do.”

Her response was, “That’s hard, dad.  Who should I vote for?”

“I can’t tell you who to vote for.  That is the best part.  You get to make your own decision and no one has the right to tell you who you should vote for.   No one can tell you that you made the wrong decision.  Just remember, that God is still in-charge.”

She went to school and made her decision.  I didn’t ask the question I so badly wanted to know.

 

*** John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.  Also, to be released very soon: Cody and the Great Zoo Escape, and Secret Lives (of Middle School Teachers).

2 Comments

Filed under John Stack, life, writing

If that was my child… by Arhonda Luman

I’d like to take that kid for a week. He would come home different.  If she would bust his rear end, he would not do that.  That is a horrible child and those are terrible parents!major-payne

Ever been guilty of saying or thinking those things about a child you saw out of control in Walmart or when you go out to eat? Maybe you’ve heard stories about the monster children at school who terrorizes other children. Did you blame the parents?  If so, shame on you and YES, shame on me because I admit to being guilty on all accounts.

While I will give credence to the fact that some children misbehave because they are not disciplined, I will also play the devils’ advocate and say, none of us are qualified to make judgements about other people’s children as to whether or not the child needs a spanking. The first reaction of seeing a child lying on the floor in the store, banging their heads on the concrete, screaming to the top of their lungs, not only makes people cringe, but it also sends a barrage of negative thoughts and emotions pulsing through their minds. I know this to be true. I have quickly exited stores and restaurants to get away from the chaos.

The shameful thing about this, is that I never considered the child had been reduced to that state because they were overwhelmed too.  I should hatempertantrumsve tuned in to a much larger problem than just a tantrum. Why would a child have that violent of a reaction to being told they could not have a toy or a candy bar?  There has never been a candy bar created that is good enough to injure oneself for.

 

Sometimes it is difficult to make a judgement call for your own child. When our babies are born, they do not come with an instruction booklet. If they did, each child would have to have their own because no two children are exactly the same.

\We are so proud and protective of them when they are born. How could anyone know, that our child would be broken when it was born? How could we even imagine they would be ostracized, made fun oppositional defiantof, banned from social events and yes, discarded by the very people who should be able to help? Rarely is the child praised for being wonderful or sweet. It is those intense moments they are remembered for.

I have experienced this within my own famiy. Well meaning people give me their advice on how to *fix* the problem. My parenting skills, or lack there of, are always being scrutinized. I have suffered through a constant barrage of posts on “Parenting done badly!” on social media and winced with every arrow that was shot in the form of an amen or a signature. I personally have been held accountable for the things they have done or not done and I’m almost ok with that. I totally get it! The first responsibility lies with me as a parent to find them help; however  there is so much more to it than that and help isn’t delivered under my pillow by the tooth fairy. Help and understanding is as illusive as a unicorn.  Most times help is achieved only, by blood sweat and tears.   There are those sweet moments though when someone actually *helps*.

As one who succumbs to being a drama queen to get a point across, I must ask this question, how many of you would spank a child to heal it from cancer?  spankingI daresay, none. With that being said, a spanking does not fix *broken* no matter the diagnosis.

If I may be presumptous for one more moment, I would like to encourage  you, the next time you see a mother who has a child in crisis, offer to help her open the door or push her basket of groceries or just smile at her and say something encouraging. She likely has little of that and her load is heavy. (and don’t be surprised if she wonders if there is an ulterior motive, I can assure you, she has not been offered support very many times by the people who are close much less strangers!.

I am enclosing information some of you might find enlightening and/or needful.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensory_processing_disorder

http://www.parents.com/health/kids-who-feel-too-much/

http://www.webmd.com/children/sensory-processing-disorder#1

http://www.sensoryprocessingdisorderparentsupport.com/

6 Comments

Filed under writing

When life overpowers Death by Arhonda Luman

When I was a child, I  found a little bird that had fallen, or was pushed, from its nest.  It’s skin was so thin and transparent, I could see its tiny heart pulse every time it beat. It’s miniscule eyelids were so thin, I could almost see through them. I walked gingerly into the house with it cradled in my hand. I was trying  to protect it. Being the natural born caregiver that I am, I told my mother I was going to save its life. My innocence had not allowed me to know, it was not always in my power to do that.baby bird

Life on the farm exposed me to many harsh realities, some of which, were lessons about the circle of life, specifically,  birth and death. I learned at an early age, that no matter how sincere I was, or how much I truly wanted something to live, even if I cried all day and night, sometimes the answer was no. . . .

For nearly nine months I had looked forward to my fourth grandchild. When my daughter went into labor, we were thrilled. He was nearly here. July 14, 1998, my grandson Mark, fought his way into this world.  Of course it was love at first sight and already my heart had wrapped its loving  arms tightly around him. Perhaps, I even loved him harder for that moment, because I knew it was possible, he might not stay with me. Life had taught me to give him all the love I could, in the time we had, because there is no promise of another minute for any of us. baby in incubator

As I helplessly watched his chest convulse, trying to gather enough oxygen to keep him alive, then quiver in an attempt to expel it.  I remembered the little bird. Their noses seemed to be cut from the same mold. They were sharp and long because  they were so gangly. His little lips did not look like they were big enough to accommodate a nipple. He was so tiny and frail, he looked like earth was just a place to visit but could never be his home.

I didn’t get to hold him. He was too weak and could not come out of the incubator. He needed a sterile environment.  One bad germ could be the difference in life and death for him. I promised him through teary eyes that when he got better, I would make up for lost time and hug and kiss him till he begged me to stop. Then, the helicopter took him away.  I ran to the whelicopterindow to watch the helicopter, carrying my precious cargo,  rise into the air and turn its nose to its destination.

That baby had a fighting spirit! He did the most courageous thing, he spent a couple of weeks in the neonatal unit at children’s hospital and decided to come home to us.

Sometimes, the answer is yes!

I’ll be telling a little more about his miraculous life in future posts! Watch for them!

5 Comments

Filed under life, musings, writing

The Waiting Game by John E. Stack

Back in January, I posted a writing about having to say goodbye to “Bill,” the baby boy who is now a toddler that we have in foster care.  Bill came into our lives when he was two months of age.  He was born at 26 weeks, was 12 inches long and weighed about one pound twelve ounces.  He was the smallest baby we had ever seen, much less taken care of. 

We knew that he was extremely attached to my wife and I and that placement was going to be difficult.  He had been in our family for around eighteen months and we were also very bonded to him.  Bonding is very important to a newborn.  If they don’t bond with a caregiver, then it will be almost impossible for them to bond with an adopted family.  So, the children we have in foster care are treated just like they are one of our own.

Now it is the middle of June.  Bill has now been with us for 23 months.  Every month when they were supposed to have the case heard by the judge, it was continued until the next month.  And continued, and continued.  Last month the courts shut down to close out the year and for vacations.  Now his court case is supposed to happen in July.  I can’t mention the particulars, but Bill will reside in our home until the court makes a decision.  This will be around six more months.

No one seems to think about the children who are put in this type of situation.  Not only do they lose contact with their birth families, but then they have to be separated from the people that have been their family since they left the hospital. 

Bill will not accept the change so easily.  If the courts cared about the welfare of the children, this mess would be resolved within about twelve to fifteen months.  Much after this, the baby will suffer trauma from separation and feelings of abandonment.  More than likely Bill will have to undergo therapy of some type to make it through the full transition.

People believe that babies do not remember things that happen because they are so young.  Not true.  We fostered a newborn baby girl for about 10 days until she was placed with her adopted parents.  We had received her at three days. Around a year later we were invited to her one-year birthday party.  Her mom got her up from her nap after we arrived and explained that she was starting to be afraid of strangers, so not to be disappointed if she started crying.  As soon as the baby heard my wife’s voice, she lifted her head and went straight to my wife.  She had remembered my wife’s voice a year after she left our home and she was only two weeks old at the time.  Yes, babies remember.

We’ve thought about adopting Bill, but we don’t believe that would be fair to him due to our ages – we are both in our sixties.  That would also mean we would need someone to take legal responsibility for him if something were to happen to us.

So, again we wait.  We wait on a court system that is not really concerned about the children as long as they are in a safe place. Our home is a safe place, but not a permanent safe place.  Also, to adopt Bill would mean that we would probably have to stop foster parenting, and we do not want to do that, yet.

I just wish that the court system would hire enough judges so that cases would not have to be continued multiple times. I wish they cared about other’s children like they care about their own.

Right now, I’m frustrated.  Frustrated at the system.  Bill has brought a lot of joy into our home.  He is funny and a lot smarter than most think.  Do I regret any of it? No, not in the least.  We fully believe that we are doing exactly what God wants us to do.

Have you ever considered being a foster parent or adopting?  I encourage you to check it out.  It is a tough job, but the blessings are uncountable.  Pray about it and take a step out in faith.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure. Also, to be released sometime this summer: Cody and the Great Zoo Escape, and Secret Lives (of middle school teachers).  

7 Comments

Filed under John Stack, life, writing

Change

I woke up this morning to a fine layer of snow blanketing our cars. Throughout the day, we saw occasional flurries. Yes, we live in Quebec, but seriously…it’s the 16th of May!

This led me to think about climate change, which then led me to think about changes in general (It’s funny how things snowball, isn’t it? – pun intended).

As my husband and I are in the throes of planning our 25th wedding anniversary celebration, I’ve recently had some opportunities to sift through some of the memorabilia which has accumulated over the years.

Trying to recall songs which were sung at our wedding reminded me of my brother who sang them, and who has since been lost to us. Remembering the planning of the event reminded me of my mother, who helped me, and who has also passed on. Remembering the building of our home reminded me of a father-in-law who took such an interest in the process, and has since passed away.

But, mostly it’s the pictures. All the pictures which chronicle our lives together also reflect the changes. Of course, there are the obvious physical changes – hair that’s a different color, body shapes which aren’t quite the same – but it’s the changes in the fabric of our lives which are the most significant. We have friends who have been with us since those early years, and there are new ones which we have acquired. Our extended families have expanded with the creation of little ones who are now creating little ones of their own.

Of course, our own children have had the biggest impact on our lives. From the moment they were born they became an integral part of our hearts and souls, our entire reason for being. The years have passed in a flash. They’ve gone from being precious little bundles to lovely young women. I thought about all the stages of their lives and how they affected us as parents. Our daughters shaped the way we lived our lives and firmly cemented our values.

Other changes are evident in our conversations with our contemporaries, which often include discussions of our health issues. Twenty-five years ago, we would have been talking about our social plans not our retirement plans.

While some may complain about the ‘negative’ changes in their lives, I remind myself that we’re lucky to have something to complain about, whether it be the climate, the aches and pains, or the gray hair. It’s not just a celebration of twenty-five years of marriage, but a celebration of twenty-five years of change, all of which brought us to where we are today.

From my point of view, I wouldn’t change a thing.

*****

A.J. McCarthy is the author of Betrayal, a suspense thriller, published by Indigo Sea Press

6 Comments

Filed under writing

Mother’s Day by John E. Stack

I casually walked toward the front of the auditorium and took an end seat about four rows from the front.  I have been attending church here for around twenty years and it was not unusual for me to be there alone.  Suzanne will often stay home if we have a baby or if one of ours is sick. I don’t sit with friends, because I have a tendency to talk and misbehave. I’m well over fifty, but for some reason I find sitting for long periods of time quite troublesome.

Anyway, we had a sick little boy at home with a double ear infection and Suzanne refused to let me stay home and take care of him, so Allie and I took off to church to celebrate Mother’s Day. So, again, here I am singing during worship time and decided to look around the auditorium. I really wasn’t surprised by what I saw, even though slightly disappointed at some parts.

In many faces I saw joy.  Some people are naturally radiant when they sing.  Not me, I do try to smile when the words allow, but sometimes my mouth can’t do two things at once.  Anyway, joy in the eyes of adults who have the pleasure of being with their own elderly moms.  There was also joy in the eyes of the middle aged parents looking at their “little” girl celebrating her first Mother’s Day.  It was and is a beautiful sight to behold.  One couldn’t help but smile along with them.

Then there were eyes of sadness and remembrance where families had recently lost their beloved mom, or wife, or grandmother.  Eyes wishing that they could have spent one more Mother’s Day so they could tell “mom” how much she really meant.  To say the things they never got around to saying, because it just didn’t seem like the right time.

Then I spied a family, actually several, but I will single out this one.  In this family, there was a multitude of emotions going on.  The most obvious was the mom.  Her face said it all – “why did I even bother?”  There was anger, and self-pity. “I’m not happy” just screamed from the look in her eyes. I’m sure she thought, ”they will miss me when I’m gone.”

Beside her sat her disassociated husband.  The look on his face said “I know there is somewhere else I need to be.”  If he noticed his wife’s mood, he wasn’t letting on.  In his mind he must have been on a golf course or on the beach.

Then I saw the teenage daughter’s face.  The look of disgust, and anger.  She looked as if she could have called down fire to destroy her parents (mom) for making her come to church.  She was probably missing hanging with her friends and her mother forced her to be here.

I continued to glance around all through the twenty minutes of worship and no smiles were cracked, and no praise was sung.  It was sad, really sad.  My heart went out to each one of them.  Why? Because we have all been there.

Sure, the Bible says to honor your father and mother, but it also says fathers (parents) not to exasperate your children.  If your adult or semi-adult child doesn’t want to come to church, maybe they will settle for lunch.  If you force them, you will only build resentment and hatred.  Guilt doesn’t work either.  You can’t make your child want to be with you, no matter how much you love them.  

Kids, you really need to spend important times with your parents, times important to them.  If you come out of obligation, you miss the whole point.  You do things with parents, because you love them.  And, you want to spend time with them.

That love we all crave starts from the very beginning.  Showing our kids what we want with respect and love.  Kids also need discipline which is part of love.  If you try to put yourself in charge after your kids turn teens, it won’t work.  You have to be the parent from the beginning.  You can’t be your child’s best friend.  If so, all respect is lost.  Kids don’t listen to you when they do not respect you.

Wounds heal with time and sometimes when you think you have lost the battle, that prodigal child comes home.

I do miss my own mom.  She died several years ago, and there are always things we wish we would have said.  But, no regrets.  I look at my wife as she still mothers little ones and I can see the love she instills into each baby.  I see my own daughters.  Two of the three are married and the love they have for their little ones is the same love that their mom instilled in them.

I hope all the moms who read this will continue to love their children, have the patience their children need, and have forgiveness in their hearts for wayward children and disassociated husbands.  We need you.

Oh, speaking of love.  May is Foster Care Awareness Month.  I pulled some information off the Dropping Anchors Blog on Facebook and this is what I found:

*Over 415,000 children live in foster care in the US because of child abuse reports.

*Over 100,000 children in foster care are eligible for adoption, but one-third will wait over three years before being adopted.

*25% are infants.

*The average age of a child in foster care is 2 years old, and 50% are separated from their brothers and sisters.

*Over 23,000 teens will age out of the system without a family to call their own.

*Those kids that age out will normally experience homelessness, drug and alcohol dependence, sexual abuse and commit crimes.

Kids belong in families.  Families that care and love.  Fostering is not an easy job, as a matter of fact, it is one of the hardest, most difficult jobs I’ve ever done, besides parenting.  A lot of people say “I just couldn’t let them go.”  More often than not, you don’t need to. Others say, “I would love them too much.” Don’t you wish that sometimes someone would love you too much?

 Look into foster care.  You could change the life of a child, not to mention your own, forever.

 

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

14 Comments

Filed under John Stack, life, musings, writing