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Honey-Do’s Part 2 by John E. Stack

Summer is coming to a close way too fast and I will soon return to school. After nineteen years of teaching math, this year I have the opportunity to teach 7th grade Social Studies, but that is a story for a different time. This is a continuation of my last post about my adventures in the remodeling of our master bedroom and adjoining bath.
First off, let me say that even if you pay fifty dollars a gallon for paint (with primer), there is no such thing as one coat paint. I guess if you prime the walls with a flat paint the same color, but that defeats the concept of one coat. Anyway, the job that should have taken about three days took about a week.  The eleven foot ceilings didn’t help much either.
We used a real cool paint called “Sandstone”. Feels like sandpaper. We used a light gray on three walls and an aqua blue on the fourth. I trimmed it out with white. I thought it was looking pretty good, and I was almost done when my wife suggested that we should also paint the ceiling. Did it need it? Probably. Did I want to spend another day cutting in the edges and then staring at the ceiling for a few hours? No. Did I do it? Yes, and it looks good.
I used an aqua semi-gloss in the bathroom, trimmed in white. I didn’t do the ceiling yet, but probably will before all is said and done. By this time, I was used to doing two coats, so no big deal.
About three years ago, my oldest daughter won a shower door. She could not use it, so gave it to me. She asked if I could take pics of the installation in order to show how easy the install was. Since we were re-doing the bath, I figured that this would be the perfect opportunity to install the door. Well, I took everything out of the box and started looking at the instructions, only to find out that the maximum width of the door was one-half inch less than the opening we had. So, I placed it back in the box and ordered a new door. Maybe that one will be installed within the next month or so.
Before the paint was even dry, it was time to go look at flooring. We needed new flooring for the bedroom and for the bath. It started out with bathroom flooring, but I guess the bedroom floor was jealous, so we caved and purchased flooring for the bedroom first. We found an engineered hardwood that looks like weathered planks. It’s nice, and was very easy to install. It took about two and a half days. Since we had no place to store the bedroom furniture, it was move furniture – remove carpet – lay floor, move furniture – remove carpet – lay floor, etc. I got my work-out for those three days, but it looks pretty good with the paint scheme.
The next day, we went to pick-out/pick-up the flooring for the bathroom. We found a gray vinyl plank system that was waterproof. It looks similar to marble. It took about three hours to remove the existing vinyl floor. It consisted of adhesive tiles on top of sheet vinyl. It was nasty. It took another couple of days to place and cut into all the nooks and crannies, and then replace the toilet.
Over the next couple of days, I have to install quarter-round trim in both rooms.  After that, I get to build my barn door. This was the small project that started the renovation. I previously purchased the rail and yesterday I bought the wood. I really wanted to have all this completed before school started, but that might not happen since I only have a few days before I have to go back.
Once I hang the door, I will have spent a little over a month working on this. My wife keeps reminding me that a lot of people have volunteered to help, but you know, there is just something about saying “look what I did.” (Anyway, most sane people wouldn’t want to work with me, because I’m very particular about how things are done.) Maybe next time I’ll include pictures.

 

By the way, I know that some of you readers are used to me writing about foster care, and often about our last little boy, Bill.  We had Bill for almost three years.  I won’t place blame, but the transition to the adoptive home was absolutely horrible for us, for Bill and for his adoptive parents.  It took a while, but Bill seems to be adapting and bonding to his new mom and dad.  So, my wife and I decided to take a few months off from being foster parents, and are now trying to decide if it something we should continue doing.  I am still very passionate about foster care and adoption, and maybe one day I will include a few excerpts from the book I have been working on about real kids in foster care.

 

*** 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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The End Times by John E. Stack

We are in the end times and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. What? No, not THOSE end times, but kids are out of school and report cards come out next week.  Teachers are still working.  The end of the year is full of surprises for students and teachers alike.  I do many things like writing, foster parenting, drawing, woodworking, helping take care of a seven-year-old, and the list keeps going.  But, out of the many things that I do, my main job is that of a middle school teacher. 

I have observed many things.  Some kids will find out that they are not as smart as they think they are.  And, some parents will find out that their kids aren’t as smart as they thought they were.  Some will find that their child was smart and could do the work.  Others will find out that their smart child doesn’t work up to their potential.  And, a lot of this will be the teacher’s fault.

Now-a-days, almost everyone gets promoted, whether they need to or not.  Sometimes the child is just too old be with younger children.  I think fifteen is the maximum age for kids to stay in middle school, so off they go to become someone else’s problem.  Sometimes those children have an epiphany in high school and realize that their free ride is quickly coming to an end and making minimum wage is not enough to survive on.  Others never get it.

I was blessed this year and taught some super kids and I will miss them.  I had an unusual assortment of teaching positions this year.  On one day I taught math study skills to multiple classes of middle school boys and on the next day I was the in-school suspension teacher.  At the end of the second quarter, a teacher went out on maternity leave and I was asked to take over her classes.  Job Change!!!  I became a sixth grade math teacher.

I’m in my nineteenth year of teaching math and I have never taught sixth grade more than one day when another teacher was absent.  It scared me to death.  These were little tiny sixth graders, except for the couple of eleven-year-olds that stood over six feet tall.  I was told I needed to tone down my personality.  But, no matter how hard I tried, that 8th grade teacher inside of me (yeah, the loud one) kept sneaking out.  But I made it to the end, and some of the sweet children actually cried when I had to leave.  They were either tears of joy or sadness, I’m not sure which.  I’ve always said that I bring joy into the life of everyone that I meet, some when I come into the room and others when I leave.  I choose sadness.

But, just like children get promoted, so do teachers.  I spent time in sixth grade and next year I get to spend time in seventh grade.  I don’t get to teach math, though, I get to teach Social studies, American History, to be exact.  Now, I’ve spent a lot of time in the social studies classrooms, usually to harass the other teacher, but never to teach.  That is unless you count my student teaching nineteen years ago, when I taught two math classes and two social studies classes.  Maybe it’s because I’ve lived through a lot of US history, not most, but a lot.  In all actuality, a friend of mine retired and my school lost a math position, so in order to keep me at the school I was selected. Therefore, I still have a job.  There are few things better than a regular paycheck.

So, now I’m out for the summer and real work begins.  Don’t start on how teachers are so lucky, because we get two months paid vacation, ‘cause we don’t.  We are employed for 10 months, so we can elect to have those checks paid over twelve months or we have to figure out how to save and pay ourselves for those two months.  Anyway, I will probably work harder over the next two months than I did most of the year.  My honey-do list awaits.

By the way, since you’re reading my blog, click the link and check out some of my other writings.

 

***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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Bill – Not Quite the Last Chapter by John E. Stack

 

Well, it finally happened.  Bill has been placed in his forever home, and he now lives several hours from us.  His new parents said that they will stay in touch, but you never know.  Even though we still have a seven-year-old, the house is so quiet.

 

A week after I wrote my last blog, Bill went to visit for four nights and the following weekend we delivered him for the final time.  Unlike all the other transitions we have ever done, we did a parking lot transfer.  In other words, as we unloaded his things from our car the social worker brought the final paperwork and told us we could go.  We had hoped to talk for a few minutes and say good-bye, but we quickly hugged, said our good-byes and left.  She made a visit a week later and couldn’t figure out why he was having a tough time – clueless.

 

The only thing I can compare the feeling to is the loss of a loved one.  Bill lived with us for two years and nine months.  The loss feels tremendous.  Everything we do, everywhere we look and most everything we see reminds us of that laughing little boy.  He was such a lively part of our lives.  But that time is now over. 

 

We pray that Bill comes to accept his new mom and dad.  We pray that his new mom and dad have fallen so much in love with him that no matter what manifests, they will love him enough to keep him.  (Yes, adoptive parents have the option of returning kids if things get too tough.)  And, maybe one day they will re-establish contact with us and at least send us updates with a few pictures.

 

Many have asked us if we will continue to be foster parents and we always answer that we do not know.  That decision belongs to God.  We do need time to heal and for our family to reconnect.  We will renew our license, but we will wait to see where God leads us.  That will sound strange/weird to some people, but many will understand.

 

********************

 

I hope that this first Mother’s Day was the best for his new mom.  I know that she has anticipated this day for years.  Today was a dream come true.  We are so glad we had a hand in this.

 

Being a mom is not instinct, it has to be learned.  Girls learn to be moms from watching their own moms.  Pretty much any lady can have a baby, but it takes someone special to be a mom.  Blessings to all the moms that happen to read this. 

 

 

 

***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 Not Really All About Bill by John E. Stack

Bill came into foster care two-years and nine plus months ago.  Bill was a micro-preemie weighing less than two pounds at birth.  We met him at two months and he weighed a little over four pounds.  He has been my daughter’s little brother since.  His dad was given almost two years to get his act together, but other things were more important.  Most parents only receive one year to work their plan.

Time has moved on and months have passed.  The more we experience, the less we like dealing with Social Services.  At first, it was a real dog-and-pony show.  For those of you who are not familiar with this term or have never been in the military, it means we are going to tell you what you want to hear and pretend that we are doing everything in your best interest.  We have really got our act together.  In regards to Social Services (some, not all) and adoption, we get “if we transition back home we will probably take four months” or the transition to a new home will be slow so that Bill suffers no trauma.”  “This all about getting Bill into the right home and we want to keep him in the local area.”

 

What these things translate to are “Bill has been in the system too long and we need to get him placed now.”  “My boss and the transition team decided that we know what is best for Bill (most never met him) and we think a fast transition will work best.”  “I have too many kids on my case load and if I place him, then that is one child we no longer have to worry about.  Even if he is re-homed (put back into foster care), it will go into someone else’s case load.”  It’s not really about Bill.

 

We had a family that was real interested in adopting him until the case-worker and her boss tried to force the family into a transition of 3-4 weeks.  The family thought that they and Bill needed to have a longer time to transition.  They were told that if they didn’t want to do this, then someone else will be found.  So, they backed out in the interest of the child.

 

Another family was found in another part of the state.  We were given no information, such as names, visitation dates, length of transition, etc.   We did get a call saying that they (social services) would pick Bill up on a specific day and transport him to another town to meet his new family.  Let me rephrase this:  they were going to have a stranger pick Bill up and take him to a strange place to meet someone he did not know in order to see if he will be a good fit for their family.  Then another stranger would bring him home.

 

We were trained to believe that a transition needed to begin in the place the child was most comfortable.  For the past several adoptions we have been involved in, they all began in our home.  We had the adoptive couple in as friends, maybe shared a meal and got the child used to the other couple.  We would have some day visits, then maybe an overnight or two, then over the weekend, and so on.  Eventually, the child spent more time in the other family’s home than in ours, so the final move was really easy.

 

Bill went almost three weeks between his first and second visit.  The first visit was for one hour, the second visit was for eight hours.  Due to his confusion, Bill now hits, pinches, bites, throws tantrums, and screams.  He doesn’t know whether he is coming or going, but neither do I.  After about a week and a half, it was time for a third visit – pick up on a Friday and return on a Monday.  Even the family thought it was a bit much.  We did get to meet the adoptive family when they brought him back.  We feel that they will be a good match for him and can tell that they are already in love with Bill.  They wanted to know if all transitions went like this and we had to tell them that we had never experienced a transition like this before and we had no say so.

 

 Bill will have another visit or so and the transition will happen at the end of the month.  The couple seemed like a couple that we would really like to get to know.  Maybe we will be able to in the future.  I have to think back to a saying an old friend used in regard to something done wrong that actually turns out right – God’s will will be done, even if he has to use the devil to do it.

***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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Be the Example by John E. Stack

 

I had a date this past week and my date was one of the prettiest girls there.  I’m sure that every other guy believed the same about their date, but theirs didn’t even come close. She wore an emerald green dress and her hair was fixed just so. She looked good and she knew it – you could tell by the way she carried herself.  She was ready for an evening of partying and dancing.  This date had cost me at least $50 and we hadn’t even dined or arrived at the dance.  Who knew what to expect.

 

When she saw me, her eyes just sparkled.  She told me that I looked very handsome – not something most men hear when they arrive to pick up their dates.  We were running a little behind schedule, but we knew that we would arrive at the Father/Daughter dance right on time. 

 

I decided many years ago, and I was strongly encouraged by my wife, that I would be the first guy that my daughters dated. I hoped that the example I presented would help influence the decisions that they would make in the future.  I wanted them to always believe that they were special and they deserved to be treated that way.

 

My dad taught me the proper way to behave toward ladies, and it is a shame that the dads of today don’t believe that it is important.  I was born in the 50s, 1953 to be exact, and I still believe what my dad said. Too many men, today, believe that men and women should be treated equal. 

 

Dad said to always treat a girl with respect. What does that mean?  First off, when you pick her up for a date, ask for her at the door, don’t blow the horn from the curb. Then open doors – car doors, restaurant doors, any doors. And by all means, don’t use foul language around her. And last of all, be even nicer to her mom (this one will go a long way.) Oh, and one more thing.  Just because you asked a girl out on a date and paid for it doesn’t mean she owes you anything. Yes, the guy should pay for the dates until you both have discussed taking turns paying.

 

Any time I take my wife out, this is how I behave. So, when I take my daughters out I act the same way.  I want to be the example that my daughters compare their dates to.  My opinion is that if the guy doesn’t treat you better than I do, then he doesn’t appreciate you for who you really are.  Therefore, that guy doesn’t deserve to go out with you.

 

Though I would never admit it when I was young, my dad was a lot smarter that I wanted to give him credit for. He gave me advice on a lot of things, but I won’t go into them right now. I need to get back to the story of my date. 

 

She was kind of shy at first, but when she saw everyone dancing we had to hit the floor. We danced several songs and she got thirsty, so we took a break to get food and something to drink.  We were back on the dance floor after a few bites and really had a blast.  It is difficult to slow dance when you are six foot and she is only three and a half feet.

 

I only really embarrassed her once.  I tried to get her to do the chicken dance, but she was having none of that.  So, she laughed at me while I danced.

 

I got her back home before curfew, around 8:30, and right before bedtime.  He mom was happy that we made it home with time to spare.

 

Dads, I challenge you to be the example for both your sons and your daughters.  Teach your sons the correct way to behave when dating, and tech your daughters to except nothing less.  You will seldom be disappointed.

 

 

 

***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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Bill (continued) by John E. Stack

Bill has been in foster care for two and a half years now.  He has been the topic of my writing several times over the past two years, and we thought that last month we had a forever (adoptive) family for him.  Prayers were answered and visits were started.  Then Satan decided to get involved, again.  He placed a grain of doubt in the perspective father’s head and he couldn’t break free of it.

Adoptive mom had fallen head-over-hills in love with Bill and could just see him being an integral part of their family.  She spent time with him 3-4 times a week for around four weeks.  After a few visits, adoptive dad started to come to visits.  All indications were that he was “in,” meaning that he was ready to take on the responsibility.   They were going to proceed with getting the adoption started.

In watching Bill’s interaction with them, he didn’t warm-up quickly.  But, that is true with anyone that he doesn’t see on a daily basis.  Usually, about half-way through the visit he would  start warming up and by the end, he would be sitting on their laps.  It was evident that the mom was all in, but dad never seemed to truly get comfortable.  Before their last visit, all was good, but by the next day all had changed.  We don’t know why, just that dad had changed his mind.

We are glad that it happened before they started the proceedings, but dad should have been more honest from the beginning.

Bill was starting to bond with this family.  He was starting to get comfortable with them being there. Then, when visitation stopped.  Bill’s behavior changed.  For a while, he was angry – hitting screaming, biting. Things have calmed a bit, but Bill is now more weary of strangers coming in to the house.

We have not given up hope that right adoptive family will come along.  Bill deserves it.

Today, there are over 10,000 kids in foster care in North Carolina.  Two to three thousand of them are available for adoption right now.  These kids did nothing wrong, but many have problems.  Many have been abused: physically, mentally and sexually.  Many have done without food for days because their birth parents would rather party or spend money on drugs/alcohol.  These kids were not a priority in their own families.  Most of the babies that are in foster care are victims of mothers doing drugs and drinking alcohol while pregnant.  Fetal alcohol syndrome and ADHD show up in lots of these babies.

These kids have done nothing wrong, so they deserve a chance to have a family that loves them.  Will there be problems? Yes.  Will the children be angry? Yes.  Will there be some learning disabilities? Probably.  But, these kids deserve a home with loving, understanding parents.

What happens to a child that does not get adopted?  Unless they sign an agreement to stay in foster care and go to college, they are released at age 18.  Hopefully, they have bonds with their foster family so they can have some stability.  Most often, they turn to drugs and alcohol.  Many are homeless and get money through various ways.  More often than not, they end up in jail for theft, prostitution, drugs…

Most of the girls end up pregnant.  They continue using drugs and don’t/can’t get prenatal support.  So, if the baby or the mother has drugs in their systems, the babies go into foster care.  It’s a cycle that needs to be broken.  It costs $1200 to $2000 per month for a child to be in foster care, but it costs the child a lot more.

These kids have done nothing wrong.  Open up your heart and home and change the life of a child.  Is it tough?  Yes, but worth it a thousand times over.

Consider a career in foster care.  There is a vast shortage of foster families and even a greater shortage of adoptive families.  Step out of your comfort zone and do something that could change the world.  Open up and change a life.  Some how, some way, just get involved.

 

***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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Children Don’t Belong in Plastic Bags! by Arhonda Luman

It was a day like any other. I was at work styling hair and giggling with my customers, until one man, who was patiently awaiting a haircut, remarked “OH! That scared me!”

He had all my attention. I jerked my head around so quickly it nearly spun off my shoulders. His face was ashen, but a smile slowly appeared.

He was not the type of man to be easily scared. I tried not to panic. Cautiously, I asked him, “What happened?”

 

He grinned a bit more but the smile wasn’t quite to his eyes yet. He was trying to recover his senses. mannequin  Quiet stalked the room like a lion does it prey. Every eye was upon him.  The room full of people waited for his response.

He looked into the room next to where I work and said, a little sheepishly, “I thought there was a child in that plastic bag on the floor.”

I had to go look at the scene because I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. When I entered the room, I knew what had happened.  The child wasn’t a child at all. It was a mannequin head that is used for practice. It had been packed into a bag to take to State Board when my granddaughter went to test for her license.  My little boys, who are akin to a hurricane, had made a spin through the room and knocked it off the table without my knowing. Ha!  It was funny, but I couldn’t laugh.  I had seen the look in my customer’s eye and the stress on his face. He couldn’t believe I would have a child in a plastic bag, but his eyes saw something different. His emotions were torn asunder trying to decide what he should do. Clearly, if there had been a child in the bag, he would have contacted child protective services as fast as his fingers could dial. And he should have if that were the case.

I forgot this incident. It blended into the obscurity of a sea of episodes that one accumulates over a lifetime. Then, yesterday, I was playing on Facebook, and something drew my eye to a video. It was about a homeless man being a hero. It drew my attention as sure as it was a magnet and my eyes were steel. As I watched it,  everything stopped around me. There was no sound, only the caption below.  I watched in horror as the video revealed what is missing in the hearts of many people.

The city was a large one.  The day was frigid. Busy people brusquely walked to and fro. Some were shopping, others were trying to get to work. The little boy stood on the edge of the sidewalk holding a black plastic bag. He was begging.

I leaned closer to my computer screen. Bile rose in my throat as I saw people, waltz by him as if they could only dance to their own music. So lost in themselves, they could not hear the sound of the little boy’s distress. They were all bundled up for the day in their warm coats, hats, and gloves.  Gucci shoes clicked on the concrete. Men glanced furtively at their Rolex watches.  They never even noticed the boy wearing a t-shirt in freezing weather.

My mind furiously searched for answers to a thousand questions. Was this video staged? Why isn’t someone helping?  Can’t someone give him some warm cocoa? Why doesn’t someone go to a thrift store and buy him a jacket?  Who is holding the blasted camera??

Of course, it was a surveillance camera, In my distress, I almost missed that nugget of knowledge.

homeless-in-americaI screamed at the monitor screen, “Help him!”

The boy stood in the cold for over an hour. When he could not stand the cold any longer. He climbed into the large black plastic bag to shield himself from the wind. Only his head and shoulders were visible. Hundreds of people passed him. Still, no one offered help.

“Why?” I didn’t know. I cried.

After two hours, a homeless man approached the little boy. He sat him up so that he could look into his eyes. He removed his coat and placed it around the child. Though I couldn’t hear what he said, his actions spoke volumes. The coat was symbolic. By giving it, he offered the boy hope.

Again, I had questions. Why did the homeless man wait so long?  I shuddered. The sobering clutches of reality made its grand entrance.  I knew what he had been wrestling with in his soul. He had a front row seat in the arena of humanity and witnessed first hand, his own fate. If he gave up his own coat in the freezing temperatures, it would likely mean his death. It was obvious to him, anyone who did not have enough compassion to help a child, would never find enough in their hearts to help a grown man.

I was ashamed.

Have we become a nation that can ignore the cry of the little children? We, who live in the land of milk and honey, can we not spare a cup for the poor and desolate?  What are we to become if our bowels of compassion are locked so tight that all that is good in us dies.

Kindness is one of the cheapest commodities available. There is no reason it cannot be freely given. The homeless man set an example for us all. He, who used the frigid sidewalks,  to teach by example,  gave all he had, himself.  In so doing, he gave hope and encouragement to those not as fortunate as he. He might not have a college education or drive a luxury vehicle. He might not own anything but the clothes on his back, but he jeopardized his life to save a child. Even he knows, children do not belong in garbage bags!

 

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You Are What You Ink by LeeAnn Elwood McLennan

I’m getting my fifth tattoo today. Some of you may smirk at the measly amount of ink adorning my body while others will wince with dismay at the whole idea. To tattoo or not tattoo — a great way to get people talking, isn’t it?

800px-Alice_05a-1116x1492

Tattoo # 1

When folks hear I’m getting a new tattoo, the natural question is what am I getting? True to writerly form, all of my tattoos are literary — specifically from Alice in Wonderland. My ink-marked road began back in 1992 with the Caterpillar smoking his hookah tattooed onto my left thigh. A few years after that, I balanced things out with the Mad Hatter on my right thigh. Later on, I added the Cheshire Cat on my back and more recently, a playing card painting roses on my foot. For my next tattoo, I’m branching out into Through the Looking Glass for the White Queen, along with her wonderful quote ‘sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast’.

I considered the Red Queen but as I explained to a friend, the Red Queen has taken on menacing connotations since appearing in Through the Looking Glass. Anyone who has read Frank Beddor’s The Looking-Glass Wars series or watched Resident Evil knows what I mean. I’m not sure how I feel about putting something sinister on my body. Would it imply I’m sinister? Reveal my dark side to the world?

This got me thinking about what drives folks to choose what they have tattooed on their skin. If you ask someone about her tattoo, you’ll hear a story in return. The story could be about the design — be it a Chinese character denoting a name, an Egyptian symbol for Osiris drawn on a napkin at a bar by a tipsy friend, or a favorite piece of art reimagined just for you. The tattooed person might choose to reminisce about the experience — perhaps the ink was drawn by a renowned artist, maybe the tattoo shop clientele was rougher than expected tinging the experience with a little fear, or possibly close friends came along as support during the session. Sometimes the story is about why she got the tattoo — it could be in memory of a parent, to commemorate a momentous event, or a reminder to be strong. The stories are as varied as the human experience.

A tattoo is more than ink cut into flesh. For most folks their tattoos express how they think of themselves, who they present to the world. I’m a fantasy author and one of the first stories I remember loving was Alice’s crazy journey though Wonderland. Tattooing her world on my body tells the world a little bit about who I am and what I like. Some folks want original art on their bodies, while others sport family portraits. A gorgeous design of flowers twining around your arms could lure you to the tattoo parlor chair while your friend would rather have words from a favorite movie coiling around her arms.

Oftentimes, a non-tattooed person will mutter, “I don’t know what I’d get” — I think that’s a sound reason not to get a tattoo. You’d better like what you pick — because it’s going to hurt and be permanent. Tattoo removal notwithstanding.

Tribal designs, Chinese symbols, family photos, movie characters, album covers, favorite foods, a lover’s name, a child’s birthdate — anything can be mined for ideas. If someone chooses a menacing, evil design, be it historical, religious, literary, or simply violent, he is embracing a philosophy, declaring an affiliation with something disturbing. It’s a deliberate choice.

Of course, the Red Queen isn’t all bad in Through the Looking Glass, but she gets bad rap since she’s often confused with the Queen of Hearts from Wonderland. You know, “off with their heads’ — that Queen of Hearts. In fact, The Red Queen even helps Alice become a queen and celebrates with her near the end of the book.

Mmmm — perhaps # 6 will be the Red Queen after all. A kinder version of the character.

I’d love to hear your stories about your tattoos in the comments.

With thanks to Amber Hettman for the title. In addition, a shout-out to Brynn Sladky at Blacklist Tattoo (http://blacklisttattoo.com) for designing and inking tattoo number five.

Tattoo # 5 or at least the original design before Brynn worked her magic

Tattoo # 5 or at least the original design before Brynn worked her magic. She added the ‘six impossible things ‘quote as well as some other wonderful details.

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan 05 Color (2)LeeAnn Elwood McLennan is the author of Dormant, the first book in the Dormant Trilogy available on http://www.secondwindpublishing.com, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She’s diligently working on Root, book two in the trilogy. Follow LeeAnn on Twitter @atticusmcl and on Facebook at LEMWrites.

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Do You Want to be Healed?

Do you want to be healed? Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Why else would healthcare be a multi-billion dollar industry? No one actually likes being sick. Everyone wants to be healed…don’t they?

It occurred to me this week that a seemingly simple question, may be more complex than we first think This question appears in John 5:6 when a man “who had been in this condition” (though the condition is unclear, we know from the context he is disabled) from 38 years. He is lying next to a cleansing pool, and there is no indication for how  long he might have been lying there, but when Jesus asks: “Do you want to be made well?” the man doesn’t answer with a simple and evident “Yes!” Instead, he mutters an excuse of all things.

And it made me think, how often I do the same thing. I’m offered the opportunity for healing, enlightenment, encouragement or even just to be made whole…and instead of embracing the opportunity with a wholehearted “YES PLEASE!” I shrink back into myself and mutter, “Well, you see, Jesus, I’d like to receive this blessing but…”

  • I don’t have time.
  • I’m not ready for that.
  • I don’t know where I’d find the money.
  • I’m not sure I’m the right person.
  • I am too tired.
  • I’m scared.

And why do we mutter these excuses? Because despite the fact that we’re broken and stuck—we’re comfortable. The disabled man had grown accustomed to his ailment—he’d lived with it for 38 years. I mean, sure it was inconvenient, but he was comfortable with the inconvenience. People probably helped him live day to day life (how else did he get to the pool? Sure he had no one to help him get all the way into the pool…he says, but it sounds more like a convenient excuse than an actual problem), so he felt secure in knowing this was he lot in life.

In a lot of ways we are just as stuck—we’re right on the brink of where God can bring healing into our lives. Maybe it’s a physical healing, but even more so, an emotional, spiritual healing and instead of taking that final step we stop and find an excuse. All so that we can stay…

Comfortable.

But what if we’re not meant to be comfortable? What if life is about more than being comfortable?

The man had come to “get into the pool where the water is stirred.” But that’s not what Jesus has him do. Instead he tells him to “Get up!”

Our lives are meant to be lived in action. “Get up!” It’s a command to live. To experience, to be that which God intended. It may not be comfortable. You may have to do some walking—some moving, some shaking, some stirring. But it will be real, and that’s where the true healing comes from.


Ashley Carmichael is the author of Valerie’s Vow a Christian Romance which can be purchased at Indigo Sea Press or Amazon. Follow Ashley on twitter @amcarmichael13 and Facebook.

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Flood Waters

The last time I heard so much hype of rain and hurricanes, I was living in Wilmington, NC. At or below sea level, naturally when it rained we flooded. A lot. In fact the street outside my second floor apartment was a regular river when we got two or more inches of rain. But we were in college, so instead of making wise, adult decisions (because adults always do that…) we looked out the window and saw people street surfing and thought ‘hmm…that looks like a disaster waiting to happen’. So naturally, we went out to watch.

Fortunately, no one was hurt or killed, but as we were standing out on the lawn cheering on the surfers we noticed a little Toyota (I think it’s a Toyota—this was 2006 and I can’t really tell from the pics…if it’s not a Toyota, just go with it) make its way to our street. It paused as it got to the flooded area, got out and studied the surfers. Made some impatient hand gestures—clearly wanting them to get out of the way so the Toyota could pass through. Even as unwise college students, we knew this was an even worse decision than street surfing, so we tried to wave the person off, but…well let’s just say the hand gestures began to escalate so we eventually moved out of the street to let him pass.

Now, I lived in a decent looking apartment complex, with a beautiful pond across the street. Beautiful. On that day, when the Toyota revved his engine and tried to plow it’s way through the flooded street we learned just how deep that pond was, because the Toyota only made it about halfway before it began floating away, down…down…down and into the pond. There was nothing we could do, brah, but help Toyota dude get out. Fortunately, the pond only went up to the door of the Toyota and other than the car itself, no one was hurt. Well, except for Toyota dude’s pride, which I still think is at the bottom of the pond along with his transmission.

When our South Carolina governor issued the warning: Turn around, don’t drown. I kind of smiled a little at the corny tune, but that image of the stupid Toyota in the pond on a road he could have gone around stuck in my mind—because all he had to do to avoid that street was circle the block! Everything else around us was fine and he’d have added maybe 3 minutes to his journey instead he ends up ruining his car. And the sad part is, the sight of the car being towed out of the pond didn’t deter other drivers from trying to pass through. They just kept plowing through this flooded street, unphased by the potential damaging effects of this flood. Some got through (flooding their vehicles), some got stuck, and though only one ended up in the pond, it still all seemed a little ridiculous. 

And it got me thinking about how often my life looks that way. I get so busy moving forward, trying to push through the waters, or street surfers, that I miss all the warnings. I either miss them or I just choose not to listen because I’m impatient, I’m in a hurry, or it feels like the floodwaters are closing in. When all I need to do is turn around—turn right—circle the block and I can get back on track. Many times God places a roadblock in our way for a reason. Not so we can plow through it and injure ourselves, but so we can experience something new and rest in the pockets of grace He has set up along the way.


Ashley M. Carmichael is the author of Valerie’s Vow a novel published by Indigo Sea Press and Second Wind, which can be purchased at Amazon. Please follow Ashley on Facebook or on Twitter @amcarmichael13.

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