Tag Archives: John E. Stack

Summer: Where did it go? by John E. Stack

After a pretty rough school year, I was looking forward to getting some things done around the house. During the school year, I had to learn a new subject area, Social Studies. As much as history does not change, I really do not remember something I studied 20/45+ years ago (college second time and high school). Anyway, most of my normal free-time during the school year did not exist. I even had very difficult time feeding my reading addiction.
Last summer, I was able to undertake a bedroom/bathroom renovation (still haven’t found the right bathroom light fixture). But, I didn’t get the bedroom furniture refinished or the shower door replaced. Those were on my list for this summer. I also wanted to build a couple of new cabinets for the bathroom.
After taking a few weeks for relaxation/vacation, I planned to get things done. We spent a week up in the mountains of North Carolina, visited Chattanooga, Tennessee and a quick day trip to Helen, Georgia.
While in Chattanooga, we visited this beautiful place called Ruby Falls. After waiting in line or a couple of hours, we took a elevator one hundred and twenty-some feet down into the earth. We walked for about forty-five minutes through a maze of tunnels to discover an underground waterfall. It was highlighted by various colored lights but was absolutely beautiful. It was well worth the time and trouble.
On the day before we were to leave to come home, we visited a small mountain town of Helen, Georgia, where we decided to go tubing. The water level was a little low, but we went anyway. About half way through, we got stuck on a rock. Before we could get dislodged we were hit by a large group of adults. Allie was shot out of her tube in into the river. I went in after her but luckily another set of tubers grabbed her and held on to her until I got there. She was okay, just a little shaken.  Walking back down the river to where my wife anchored our tubes, a rock rolled under my foot and down I went. Now, if I were a much smaller guy, I would probably have been okay. Needless to say, I’m not and my foot jammed into the river bed. Ended up with a broken little toe, a broken big toe and a boot. I’m just glad it was the last day of vacation and not the first.
That pretty much destroyed my work schedule. Since then, along with a few weeks of healing, I have been able to refinish all the bedroom furniture and replace the shower door. I may even get to complete one of the cabinets before school starts back in a couple of days.  May be I’ll post some pics when I get it done.

Oh yeah.  In regards to my habitual reading, I’ve completed at least three eBooks and  6 hardbacks.  Even though my foot is not fully healed, life is good.

 

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

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Let’s Make It About the Children by John E. Stack

Mary likes to party. Mary likes to smoke. Mary likes alcohol and consumes several drinks a day. Mary likes anything for a buzz. She will take illegal drugs. She will take prescription drugs. It doesn’t matter the combination, as long as she gets a high. Mary is also pregnant, about 8 months. She has never been to an OB doctor, so she’s never had any pre-natal care and really doesn’t know her due date. Besides, she doesn’t want anyone telling her what to do or not to do. To her the baby is just something that happened because she had sex.

When her baby girl is born and drugs are found in her system, DSS will step in and put the child into foster care. Mom will go back to doing all that she was doing before the baby was born, except now, she will have the Department of Social Services watching her. She will be given a plan to work and regular court dates that she must attend. The goal of the courts will be to reunite her with her baby and if possible get her off drugs.

The baby will be addicted to many of the drugs that her birth mom continues to use: cocaine, heroin, the various prescriptions and she will have traits associated with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Due to these things her heads will be small, her eyes will look different, and her ears will be really low set. These are just a few.

After a while it will be evident that she has ADHD, and is developmentally delayed. She may have seizures associated with withdrawal and will have to take special drugs to help stop the seizures. More than likely the doctors will follow her closely to keep check on her development. She will probably need both physical therapy and occupational therapy. Her mother’s actions will affect her for the rest of her life.

How do I know these things? I’m a foster parent and I help take care of these small ones. We hear the screams of the babies as they go through withdrawal, we spend time with them in the hospital when problems arise, and we get up at night to feed, calm and clean them up. When the therapists show up we are the ones who help the baby progress and make sure they get the exercises done. We also take the babies to see their parents once or twice a week, if they bother to show.

My wife and I love what we do. We feel that God has brought us to this place in life and we can’t imagine doing anything else. But, I would love it if the birth parents were held more accountable.

When children are placed into foster care, it costs the state money. The more problems a child has the more money it cost the state every month they are in foster care. Due to the back up in the court system the average length of stay for a child in foster care as gone from one year to two years. There are approximately 8000 to 9000 kids in foster care in North Carolina. If the state has to pay $1000 per month for each child (foster care payment, agency administration, etc) that is over $9 million per month and going from one year to two years just doubled the budget for this part of social services.

Birth parents are given a year, sometimes 18 months to get their act together. Many take longer. They do not have to pay child support, buy diapers or formula, or provide anything for the child. But the state keeps playing their game. If DSS doesn’t cross every “t” and dot every ”I” then the lawyers convince the courts the birth parents need more time. When do the rights of the child come into play? If a parent can’t get their lives together in 6 months or at least make a real good effort then the courts should terminate the rights. Laws need to be changed and judges need to be tougher.

I feel that if a child is born addicted, the mother should go to jail. If a couple has a child in foster care, they should be required to be on birth control. They should not be allowed to keep having babies if they have any in the fostering system. If someone has a child in the system, they should be forced to pay child support or go to jail. Yeah, the jails are over-crowded but something must be done. If Mary had given her child drugs after it was born she would go to prison, but she can make the child addicted before it is born and nothing happens. When is it going to be about the children?

What is the problem with long term foster care? Both the child and the family become bonded and very attached. It has to happen or the child will not thrive. After a child is removed from foster care either to go home or to be adopted, it takes 2-3 months for each month in foster care for the child to fully bond to the adoptive parents or birth parents. This is tremendous stress on the child and can cause emotional problems. The children can become failure to thrive, lethargic, pull out their hair, scratch until skin bleeds, etc. It usually takes 3-4 months of transition time to move a child from foster care.

These children need a home where they can be cared for – a forever family. People that will love them, feed them when they are hungry, buy them decent clothes to wear and give them hugs. And, parents that will tell them that they are someone of importance.

The truth is that we need more dedicated foster parents. You do not get paid a lot to do the job but you do touch lives, and change them. You get your heart broken, a lot. But, the needs of the next child that comes into your life soon fill that void.

North Carolina is in dire need of foster parents. If you have ever considered fostering or adoption, please take time to check it out. It is the toughest job you will ever love.

***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.

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Hope in a World Without Hope by John E. Stack

During the last week of July, I was blessed by going on my second mission trip to Show Low, Arizona. Our trip was to AICM, American Indian Christian Mission. The trip was two-fold: In the mornings we would work and complete projects around the mission and in the afternoon we would visit various neighborhoods throughout the Apache Indian Reservation. The mission is operated on donations.

Throughout the year AICM serves as a boarding school for girls who are in 3rd through 8th grade. Primarily, the girls that attend are from the Reservation. The school is a five day boarding school where the girls live at the mission throughout the week and go home on Friday and return Sunday night. The staff live on site and often serve as house parents. We lived in a dorm specifically set up for teams that schedule in to do work during the summer.

Once we arrived we found out what our work assignments would be. Our goal was to help get the school ready to receive students and the first day of school was only a few weeks away. We would spend about 4 hours a day working in the school. After lunch we would make bag lunches to pass out to the kids after our afternoon program. It was close to the end of the month and we didn’t know how many still had food in their houses.

During the week, some of us waxed floors while others installed baseboards around new floors or tore out tile from floors that were cracked or in bad shape. Three of us were asked to do a special woodworking project where we built a wrap-around computer console in their computer lab. We also did lots of painting, cleaning and helping put rooms back together.

Each afternoon we visited a different neighborhood. It normally took us an hour or more to get to the areas. As we went through the neighborhood the driver would blow the horn and kids would come out and get on the bus. Once loaded we would go to a specific area in the neighborhood and unload. We would sing songs, and present a bible story skit. Once this was over we would break out toys and games. We had roller skates, legos, nail polish, basketball, dolls and bubbles. After around two and a half hours it would be time to take the kids home. As they got off the bus, each child was given two bags containing sandwiches, cookies and milk. Usually, we would get back to the mission around 7pm. Most of us got our nails painted (mine were blue or blue with sparkles) and it took forever to get the polish off. But we had fun.

We found that once the kids hit middle school they were no longer interested in our programs. It appeared to be a sign of weakness to play games and have a good time. Middle school is where gangs become more prominent. We were also told it was easier to be picked on than to be beat up. Where the little ones see hope in all directions, the older students started to face hopelessness.
Most of the industry in the area has shut down, except for a few saw mills and the casino. On the reservation unemployment runs about 80 percent with most people living on subsidies from the government. Alcoholism is rampant and most of the money is spent on alcohol. Kids often face physical and or sexual abuse, and incest is not uncommon. Once the kids hit a certain age there appears to be no hope.

As you go into the neighborhoods, you see vastly different living conditions. The homes close to the casino are in relatively nice neighborhoods. Most homes and yards are kept in fairly good condition. The further away you get from the casino, the worse the housing. Several houses had the roofs caved in or all the windows broken out, but people still lived in them. There were playgrounds, but they were covered in trash, beer cans and broken glass. We normally clean the areas before we get out and play with the kids. It is hard for people to care when they feel there is no hope.

As we went into one area we crossed a bridge spanning a beautiful canyon. Both sides of the bridge were blocked by a ten foot high chain link fence. This beautiful area became a symbol of death for this community where about 80 percent of the young people between ages 18 and 25 committed suicide by jumping from this bridge. As you cross this bridge you can feel the heaviness and sadness that has accumulated there. It is also the only way in and out of the community, so the residents are reminded of what happened every day.

Why do we go there each year? There is a need. We cannot do anything about the living conditions but we can meet other necessities. To some of these kids we may be the only light that they have in their lives. Through our hugs, our silly games maybe, just maybe we are able to help bring some joy to these small ones. Through our prayers and service maybe we can show them that Jesus cares for them and loves them, and that we do to. Through the little we have God will allow us to do great things for his kingdom. Please keep these great people in your prayers.

***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.

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It’s Just Middle School by John E. Stack

This is a letter to the cool parents of middle school students. These are the parents who pull their children out of school for a week to go hunting or to take a random week to the beach or allow grandparents to do the same. These are the parents who think they are they are their child’s best friend and allow that child to stay home from school so they (the parents) won’t be bored. Whether you want to believe it or not you are hurting your children in regards to their education.

Like I said I teach middle school and I know that for every day your child is absent from school they get two days behind. Some of my students missed thirty, forty or fifty days of school. I saw “A” students drop to D’s and F’s. This week, I saw many students in tears because they didn’t understand why their grades dropped, or it hit them that they have to retake a course since they didn’t pass the course exam. Most of these students had missed weeks of school.

Parents often ask for work that the child will miss, but in my 17 years of teaching I’ve only had one or two make-up the missed work. Mom and dad make up excuses on why it didn’t get done. I’m only caught by surprise when the student does the assignments. In my grade book assignments that are not made up become zeros.

Don’t get me wrong. I usually give students 2 to 3 chances to make up work missed, but in their mind it they can’t do it. Along with everything else it is just too much.

I believe that school is your child’s job during the year and they are giving 2-3 months of vacation during the summer along with multiple breaks throughout the year. Please pay attention to the school calendar to plan your get-a-ways. With hormone changes and school drama your student has enough stress without worrying about keeping their grades up. Sure they get excited when they get to miss school, but then struggle when they return. Just think, if you missed work at a very busy, stressful time , your boss might not be very happy. Neither are their teachers. Things like this also double the teacher’s workload. Thanks.

Decisions like this along with affecting your child’s education also affect your child’s work ethic in a very negative way. In a sense you are telling them that to have a poor work ethic is okay. That will stick with them for a long while. But, that is okay since most are convinced that you will always be there to bail them out and provide money for their support. I hope that this is true since they will not be able to hold down a job for longer than a few weeks, plus if they make it to college they have less than average chance of finishing.

Think before you pull your child out of school. Yeah, it is just middle school, but it the time where your child develops their work ethic. These habits are what they take into high school and into the work force. Your kids need to be at school every possible day and you as the parent are responsible for making sure they are there and doing their best.

***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.

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Authentic Man by John E. Stack

A few years ago a friend of mine confided in us that his wife had become very ill. She was getting really bad headaches that would last a day or so. After each episode, part of her memory would be gone. After many tests the doctors explained that it was very aggressive and that there was really nothing they could do. Eventually, she would stop remembering, her body would stop functioning and she would die.

This, as you could imagine, devastated their entire family. They had two children in college and one in high school. The kids came home more often and dad cut back on his work hours. In this and with the help of some of the ladies in the church, he was able to take care of his wife and kids and still maintain an income. It took a lot of coordination but he made it work.

As the past couple of years went by, she steadily became worse. He became more dedicated. Her walk soon became a shuffle and he was always beside her to steady her. Soon had to use a walker and he was always there insuring she would be okay. She was the mother of his children and not only were they married, they had a profound commitment to one another. He was doing as God commanded – loving his wife as Christ loved the church.

They moved to Florida a year or so ago so she could be near family. The kids did as their mom wanted and carried on with their lives, finishing college and getting adult jobs. They knew that in doing so, it would make mom and dad proud. Anytime one would ask how things were going all we would hear was that “things are okay.”

My friend and his family came back through town this last week heading toward their son’s graduation and visited our Sunday service. He looked a little older and a little more worn, but was still smiling. His wife has progressed to a wheel chair and is no longer able to walk on her own. He quickly approached me and gave me a big hug. He never said how rough things were, only inquired on how we were doing. He quickly pulled away wanting to get back to his wife.

After arriving back home in Florida he wrote our Sunday school class a note. He said that the doctors had told him that her time was short. He said that they would never return for a visit, but one day he hoped that he would he would be able to.

He did make one request and it was a request made through love. It was probably one of the most selfless requests ever made. He asked for us to pray that God would take her quickly and painlessly. He knew that heaven would be the only place she could ever be whole again.

He is an authentic man. A real man who is doing God’s will. Where many men would throw up their hands and scream for a divorce, or have an affair, or just pack up and leave, he has stood fast and continued to love his wife.

I didn’t mention any names – I didn’t need to. He is not looking for praise. He is just doing what real men do – keep loving no matter the circumstances. Love you, man.

***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.

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Bittersweet 2

Back in January I published a blog post called “Bittersweet”, about foster care and the pains of separation. This is a continuation of that story.

Mary’s new mom and dad were selected officially in January and it wasn’t long before visitation began. Mary immediately stopped calling us Nana and Papa and started calling us Mama and Dada. We had talked about her new mom and dad but never thought that at 15 months she would begin to understand. Anyway, if we would say “can papa pick you up?” she would respond with, ”No sir! Dada.” She would then hold up her arms so I could pick her up.

We began with seeing the other family at church and introducing them as our friends. We met on Wednesdays to eat our evening meal together. Finally we went for an overnight, and, all went fine. Each time she went to visit things seemed to get smoother.

Even when we tried two nights at a time, she did okay, but was really excited when she came home. We did this several times. All indications were really good that she was adapting to her new family. She had even started calling them mama and dada. We were back to being nana and papa.

Over time, we transferred all of her toys and clothes, delivering the last of her things on Saturday.

Her new mom, dad and big sister are so excited that she is there, but could not believe all the stuff that came with her. Now we have to back away for a couple of months so that she will fully bond to her new family. When we come back into the picture she will be mad at us, but at the same time she will be happy to see us.

In the meantime, we will have some rough times missing her, especially, our 5 year old. To her, that was her little sister, even though she knew the Mary wasn’t staying forever.

She and her new family will also go through some rough times. There will be new schedules to get used to, a new room to sleep in and then there is missing her first family.

But, we know that it will be okay in a little while. Mary was able to bond with us, so her being able to bond with another family will be okay too. The struggles that we survive only help to make us stronger.

Right now there is a big raw hole in our hearts. We are starting to miss that happy little girl. God will mend our hearts because we now have other things we have to deal with. We have a little boy that might need surgery.

Oh well, time to go because I have bottles to wash and papers to grade.

By the way, there are over 8400 children in foster care in North Carolina alone. Of those, over 2000 boys and girls are waiting to be adopted. You could change the life of a child. Or, if you know someone that is a foster parent, they are always in need of diapers, wipes, date nights, etc. If curious, just ask them how you can help.

***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.

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Why not Fantasy by John E. Stack

You know, sometimes you just have to have an escape. Life gets tough, people get rude and jobs get overbearing, so you just need to get away. But, either you can’t take the time or you just plain can’t afford it.

I’ve traveled to many places. I’ve visited almost all of the US and several locations abroad and they all have one thing in common – the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You have to go here or be there and you have to wait to see the next big attraction. You have to go through security where if they don’t search you, they still have to search your baggage. It is really difficult to enjoy yourself when you have to meet a time schedule. And, the cost, no matter what you do it is expensive.

We once visited London, England. The flight was long and expensive. The hotel was beautiful but outrageous. A good formulated, name brand coffee was the same price as it was here in the US, but when you took in account the exchange rate you were paying almost $8 a cup (the novelty wore off rather quickly). And, the crowds were unbelievable. All of that for a little rest and relaxation.

Where I most enjoy going when I really get stressed is a good book. I have traveled to many places, lands, and planets. I have seen sights that no one else could imagine. Sometimes beasts talk and often they are smarter than we are. Many times there is magic, or elves, or things you can barely comprehend.

I read a few different genres of books. I read the Bible often and especially when I need to be lifted up, and there are many good Christian authors that I enjoy for spiritual enlightenment. I’ve tried the true stories about someone’s life, but I live real life and sometimes it is not exciting, not humorous and not inspirational.

I’m also retired military. I do not like stories about war or battles or how flawed our military is. These too are about real life. I’ve been there and trained for that. No matter how you paint the picture these are not about victory, they are about death. Again, not fun, not relaxing, not exciting.

Once in a while I will pick up a mystery just to get my brain thinking again. Still not my favorite read.

I love to take a stroll through a forest and end up in a different world where the laws of the mundane are totally rewritten. I enjoy reading about and meeting beings other than men, where lives are lived differently, a lot simpler and maybe, just maybe a touch of magic. To see the ground riding on the back of a fire breathing dragon or race a horse across a grassy plane, how exciting is that?

I also like to write fantasy. I enjoy creating worlds where people have adventures or maybe a little child saves the day. I like worlds where people can change to animals, where they have their own special language, and where my imagination can run free, if only for a little while.

Many people I know will not read fantasy. They consider it silly fabrications and will only read stories about real people or historical novels. That is okay, but just not for me.

Cornelia Funke wrote several years ago that every book is a window to another world. Think of all the windows there are out there to look through. And, you never know what or who you may find

***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.

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Grippin’ by John E. Stack

Normally, my posts are about family, including my amazing daughter, and things that happen, whether cute or mystical.  But, today is different. I’m a little ticked.

I was listening to one of my favorite radio stations the other day (yes I prefer radio for variety, it is free and I do not have to download anything).  Anyway, a lady who is supposed to be the foremost authority or something in regards to teens in middle school was talking.

Unless I missed something, she gave advice to middle school students to not worry about middle school, and her advice to parents was to not worry about middle school.  The grades don’t transfer to high school so parents should use the time to learn to cope with and understand their child.

That really struck a sour note with me – I’m a middle school teacher.

Middle school is not play-time nor are teachers glorified baby-sitters. This is where we teach the basics for high school performance.

Middle school is where we try to teach our (your) kids a good work ethic.  We give homework so they can practice the things we learn in class.  We try to teach them that cheating is wrong and that they should learn to think independently.  We try to get the students to set goals and determine a path of study so they can be successful.  We also give tests so we can evaluate if your child is learning.  We also offer assistance if they are not.

We know that the habits that your child develops in middle school are the habits they will take with them to high school.  If they do not do homework in middle school, then why would they decide to do it in high school?  If a child spends time in trouble in middle school, it will go with them to high school.  They develop a poor work ethic and they carry that into the work force.

In the small town where I live, the local court docket is published every Tuesday.  I often glance through to see if any of my past students are becoming famous in their own rights.  In the past several years very few weeks have gone by where I don’t see 3-4 names of past problem students.  Things could have been different if they and their parents had viewed middle school or just school differently.

Another thing that bothered me about her words of wisdom was the fact that schools and teachers are evaluated on how well students take the end-of-grade tests.  This type of thinking kicks the feet out from under some very great teachers.  If students don’t show growth it effects the teacher’s evaluations and the grades that the state now gives schools for performance.

Teaching is not just a job, it is a profession.  As professionals we love our work.  We have to since the pay is not what it should be.  You may have one 12 or 13 year-old.  Daily, we have one hundred to one hundred and ten.  You don’t teach middle school because it’s fun.  We are called to do a special job.  Yes, school only goes for ten months, but we only get paid for ten months unless we have our pay spread out over twelve months.  We don’t have 6 hour days.  Counting the work we take home we often work ten to twelve hour days.  Oh, and we don’t get overtime pay.

Do us a favor.  Pay close attention to your children in middle school.  These are some of the most important years of your child’s life.  And they need your guidance in order to be successful.

By the way, have a great day.

*** 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.

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Bittersweet by John E. Stack

Have you ever had someone move away, a child grow-up and go away to college or lost a loved one? I have and it is tough. No matter the circumstances, you go through a grieving process which ultimately tells you that you are not the one in charge.

I’ve shared before that my wife and I are foster parents and in the last seven years we have fostered 20 babies. Of the 18 that have left our home all but one was adopted. Each child that leaves our home takes a piece of our hearts with them, and it is tough going through the grieving process time and time again. We talk and think that we just can’t do it again, and then we are called by the agency and we say yes one more time.

Almost a year and a half ago we got a call on a baby girl, I’ll call her Mary. Mary looked pretty normal but we started noticing small things. On her first check-up we mentioned those to the doctor. After lots of tests it was determined that she probably had severe cerebral palsy. Her joints were very stiff and she had a swallowing problem. The doctor made some calls and soon we were scheduled for Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy. She was fitted with leg braces and we were given exercises to do with her between therapy sessions. The talk was that everyone was doubtful that she would ever walk without assistance and that by the time she was two we would probably have to order a motorized wheelchair for her to be able to get around on her own.

Up until she was around ten months she took only formula and had very little movement. That is until ten months. We had tried several times to get her to eat baby food with no success. All of a sudden she was ready to eat. Within a couple of days she rolled over. By the next week she was moving around the floor. She spent a couple of days actually crawling, but that wasn’t fast enough. Within a week she was pulling up and cruising the furniture. By the time ten and a half months passed she took her first steps.

A month or so ago we traded her leg braces for orthotics that fit inside regular shoes. The braces were just slowing her down. Now at fifteen months, she runs, jumps and climbs just like any other toddler. She still has a swallowing problem, but we are working on that. God allowed us to witness a true miracle in Mary.

Now the bittersweet part. A family that attends church was selected by the agency to be her new adopted parents. They had met her at church and fell in love. Everyone is excited. She is going to a great family and we couldn’t be happier. We are now getting ready to start the transition period where she leaves our home and moves to theirs and it will take about 2-3 months. Here is another little one that will continue to pull at our heart-strings until a big chunk of it goes with them. One of the best things will be is that we will get to watch her grow-up. I know that God realizes how difficult this can be so he allows our hearts to mend – until the next time.

***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.

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A Time Ago by John E. Stack

Season’s Greetings and Merry Christmas.  This is a time of good cheer and celebration.  We plan for parties and we shop looking for just the right gift.  We often spend too much money on people we really don’t even like. I often think of years gone by.  A simpler time.  A simpler life.

I grew up in the 50’s and I think of the gifts that we received.  Many of the toys we received came from a small hardware store called Renegar’s Hardware.  If we really wanted to be overwhelmed,  we traveled to downtown Winston-Salem to the Sears on 4th Street.  It was huge and every year they decorated the balconies on the front of the store with a full size manger scene with camels, wise men, shepherds and angels.  They carried everything.

Renegar’s was a small shop located on the south side of Winston-Salem.  They carried toys year round but at Christmas you couldn’t find the  hardware due to all the toys.  They had wagons (Radio Flyers), bikes, sleds, Lincoln Logs, dolls, toy soldiers, baseball bats and all kinds of balls.  The only electronics you might find were compact am radios.  We didn’t have ipods, ipads color tv, or smart phones.  My friends and I would spend hours there just looking.

Another big treat would be about a week before Christmas.  Our church would have a Christmas program.  After all the singing we would adjourn to the church basement for a visit from Santa.  After talking to Santa or even if you were too big to sit on Santa’s lap each child received a small paper bag that contained an apple, a couple of oranges, a handful of mixed nuts and some hard Christmas candy. We were thankful for the things we received.

Today’s kids would be offended if they didn’t receive what they asked for.  A six year old doesn’t need an ipad or a cell phone no matter how badly they want one.  They need to build their imagination and their ability to read.

I encourage you to give your kids things they need not necessarily the things they want.  Teach them to be thankful for the things they do get and spend time helping others.  While you are at it reach out and help someone else have a more enjoyable Christmas.  If it is within your means, buy gifts for someone less fortunate or donate a meal.  Let’s go back to a simpler time and celebrate the spirit of giving – the spirit of Christmas.  It’s not how much you spend, it’s what you are willing to give.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

***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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