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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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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).

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Happily Ever After (revised) by John E. Stack

(This is a revision of a previous blog in regards to Foster Care and Adoption.)

Stories. We hear stories everyday about people who were down and out, and they turn their lives around. They become successful and often wealthy. What about the stories we don’t hear? Are those lives successful? Do they pull themselves out or are they even capable of success?

We read stories where everyone lives “happily ever after.” Again, this isn’t always the case. This story about a kid is true. I’ll call him Calvin. This kid’s name may not be Calvin, and he could be either male or female. But, it is a true story all the same.

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

It didn’t matter where he was or what school he attended, in his mind people always disrespected him, because of his clothes or the way he looked. Life really sucked when you were thirteen and stuck in middle school where no one knew anything about you. Nor did they even care!

“I said get out of my way,” yelled Calvin, as he pushed the boy against the locker. The boy slammed against the metal lockers with a loud bang.

“Calvin, in my office, now!” said Principal Stern. “I’m really tired of your attitude. We probably need to call your mom. These outbursts really need to stop.”

“Foster Mom,” replied Calvin, a little louder than necessary. “I don’t live with my mother.”

“I said – to my office, Calvin!” responded Mr. Stern.

All of a sudden Calvin was near tears. “Go ahead. Call her.” he replied in an almost angry tone. “If I get into trouble again, she will just call the social worker and have me put with a new family. So what does it matter if you call her. You won’t have to worry about me anymore either.”

Calvin was a kid in the system. Yeah, one of those foster kids. Those are the kids that the state has to pay money for someone to take care of them. Maybe you think that you’ve never seen one before, but you have. There are usually two types: one that you never notice and one that you can’t miss. The one you never notice usually blends in with their current family. They are dressed nicely and they are treated like one of the family. They get to go shopping at the mall and get to go on vacations with their foster family.

The other type of foster kid usually doesn’t match the family they are with. They might look kind of dirty, or they need a haircut, or maybe their clothes don’t fit quite right. Their pants are either too long or too short. Shirts are almost always second hand, stained or too big. It’s obvious that they don’t belong to the family they are with. They are treated differently, like when the family goes on vacation, the kid gets to go into respite care with another family. Life is definitely not fair.

Calvin’s story was typical. He didn’t know his birth dad. Brandi, his mom, never really had it together. She was really wild in school – bad boys, alcohol and drugs. She liked to party and it finally got to the point that partying became more important than anything else, even him. His mom was fifteen when he was born. Brandi’s dad told her mom, “She needs to keep the little brat, so she can see what it’s like to raise a child on her own. That will teach her a lesson to not go sleeping around.” They had helped out a little bit, but kicked her out after a while when she didn’t follow their rules.

Calvin was three when he was taken away. Calvin lived with the first foster family until he was six. The second liked kids with problems because the state paid them extra money. There were many others. But few really cared. His current foster mom really cared, but didn’t know if his anger problems could be controlled.

She also didn’t know, nor did he, but Calvin had a little brother.  His name is Bill and he was born when Calvin was ten.  Bill was born with cocaine and heroin in his system.  He is okay for now, but they do not know the long term implications of the drugs.  Bill was also taken away by Social Services and this time Calvin’s mom was put in jail.

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

I don’t know if Calvin’s and Bill’s stories will have happily-ever-after endings or maybe real-life endings, but they will have some sort of ending. Kids in foster care have a very slim chance for success. Often circumstances push them toward drugs, alcohol, prostitution, or some form of abuse. Those chances for success get better when they have someone in their lives that care.

In North Carolina there is, as I suspect it is in other states, a shortage of foster parents. This results in over-crowding of good foster homes and the outgrowth of lots of bad foster homes. There is always a shortage. Right now in NC there are 5 to 7 thousand kids in foster care.

Being a foster parent is a tough job. My wife and I have been foster parents for almost nine years and haves had 20 kids in foster care. We do new-borne babies and keep them until adopted. We fall in love every time. Of the 20, we adopted one, and wish we were 20 years younger so we could do more. I said it was a tough job, the toughest job you will ever love.

In November we will celebrate adoption Sunday. Check it out. There may be a life out there that you can change and give the gift of a “happily ever after.


***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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Interview with Steve Hagood, Author of CHASING THE WOODSTOCK BABY

woodstock-copy

Welcome, Steve. What is your book about?

Retired Detroit police detective Chase is approached by a nice old lady who asks him to find the baby she had, and lost, at Woodstock. The search takes Chase to a small town in Michigan that has a secret that it has been hiding for four decades. The man who runs the town will go to any lengths, including murder, to keep the secret.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I have always been fascinated with Woodstock. When I heard the legend of the Woodstock baby I wondered what had happened to it. Why has nobody ever come forward to claim to be the baby, or the mother? My imagination took over from there.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Obviously, my protagonist Chase is my main and favorite character. A lot of Private Investigators in novels have a sidekick who acts as his foil – dark, mysterious, the guy who does the dirty work – Spenser and Hawk, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. Chase is both of those guys rolled into one. He is the wise cracking, lovable guy who isn’t afraid to do the dirty work.

Sarge and Sally are Chase’s partners in the bar he owns. Sarge was Chase’s training officer when he joined the Detroit Police. He still acts as a mentor and a steadying influence. Sally is the brains of the operation. She acts as Chase’s de facto research department. She doubles as the female, creating sexual tension between the two.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

Yes. I had to do quite a bit of research for this book. The internet is a wonderful tool for a writer. It can transport you to any place and any time you want. I was able to put myself at Woodstock through pictures and stories. Hopefully my writing puts the reader there with me.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

I don’t really have a schedule. I have a day job and a family so it’s not always easy to find time to write. I write when I can. I live by the mantra “Writers write” to push myself to write something every day, even if it’s just a few paragraphs or sentences.

What are you working on right now?

I recently finished another Chase novel, titled Cold Dark Places. Hopefully we will see it soon from Indigo Sea Press. It’s a story about a college girl missing in Detroit, and the basketball player implicated in her disappearance.

What was the first story you remember writing?

I didn’t start writing until about thirty. The first story I wrote was a ghost story. I don’t know why. It’s the only ghost story I’ve ever written. It was about a group of friends on a fishing trip who were haunted by the ghost of a Civil War soldier. It wasn’t very good, but it was a lot of fun to write.

Where do you get the names for your characters?

Names are tough. One of the techniques I use is to open up the internet and use the first name that I see, if it fits the character that I need to name. I head up a scholarship given by my graduating class to the high school we graduated from. I offered my former classmates their name in a book in exchange for a donation to the scholarship. I had a couple people who wanted to see their name in a book, so it worked out for me, for them, and the scholarship.

What’s been the most surprising part of being a writer?

The most surprising aspect of writing, for me, is when the story builds upon itself. Sometimes I feel like a stenographer. I’m just the guy typing the words, the story is writing itself. In The Woodstock Baby there is a scene where Chase is questioning a suspect, the suspect denies any involvement and Chase says, “We have a witness!” I thought, “Wow, there’s a witness!” I didn’t know there was a witness until I typed it, and I’m the author! I couldn’t wait to see who the witness was because I sure didn’t know.

What writer influenced you the most?

I actually have two big influences. The late great Robert B. Parker made me fall in love with books. His Spenser stories are still my favorite. I’ve read them all multiple times. The fact that Chase is known by a single name is in homage to Parker and Spenser.

The other writer who influenced me is JA Konrath. I love his books, but it’s more than just his writing that influenced me. One thing the general public doesn’t know is that it is very difficult to get published – “you should publish that” a lot. If only it was that easy. Konrath called himself the king of rejection. He wrote nine full novels in two or three different genres before he got one published. He accumulated literally hundreds of rejections, but he never gave up. He eventually broke through and now has millions of books sold. He inspired me to never give up, to never stop chasing my dream.

What one word describes how you feel when you write?

Joy

If your book was made into a TV series or Movie, what actors would you like to see playing your characters?

Ironically, in Cold Dark Places I make mention to The Woodstock Baby and how some Hollywood people wanted to make a movie about the case. They promised to get Denzel Washington to play Chase, even though Chase is “white, younger than, and nowhere near as pretty” as Denzel.

In “real life” I see Chase as more of a Will Patton type. He has the ability to be caring and tough and make them both authentic.

There’s this other actor who I know named Tevis Marcum who I think would do an outstanding job as Chase. He’s from the Detroit area and has the look. Like Will Patton he has the ability to be caring and tough in the same character.

What is something you never leave home without (apart from keys, money and phone)?

My flash drive. My work goes everywhere with me. I do back it up to my computer however. It has gone through the wash a time or two. There is no terror like the terror of finding your flash drive in the bottom of the washing machine.

What is your favorite place, real or fictional? Why?

Saline, Michigan. It’s my hometown. I moved away for a while and when I returned I thought, “Ahh, I’m home.” When I needed a small town to set The Woodstock Baby in I chose Saline because “there’s no place like home.”

Where can people learn more about your books?

From Indigo Sea Press http://www.indigoseapress.com/Stiletto-Books–Crime-and-Mystery-Authors-A-H.php#Steve and www.stevehagood.com

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Another Special Day by John E. Stack

Today marks a very special day.  In the doctor’s eyes, this special day was never supposed to happen.  Nor were the six before it.  Today is my daughter’s seventh birthday.  At seven years old, Allie is full of herself.  And, rightly so, because she has come a very long way.

We originally met Allie when she was 4 months old.  We are foster parents and she was in the pediatric intensive care at a hospital over an hour from where we live.  Right after she was born, she developed what is called “short gut” syndrome.  Due to lack of oxygen, her intestines started to die.  Her birth mom smoked a lot so delivery would not be so painful, but it was devastating to the baby.  After several surgeries, the doctors had removed around eighty percent of both her large and small intestines. 

Allie came to live with us at around six months of age.  The doctor at the hospital told us she was very sick and she didn’t expect the baby to live more than three weeks.  I won’t go into what my wife told that lady doctor.  We took her home and treated her as if she were our own – holding, loving, cuddling.

At that time, Allie was on a feeding tube and IV nutrition.  She had not been held or bonded with.  Through time, she has gone through more surgeries for intestinal blockages.   She has gone through occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy.

We quickly fell in love and knew that God had placed her in our lives.  At two years of age her adoption became final.  I became a dad again at the age of 56.

She is now in the first grade (a lot the doctor knew).  She is still in speech therapy but no longer has a feeding tube.  She has always been smaller than her peers, but is now starting to grow and is actually taller than some of them. 

Intellectually, she is doing great. Speech helped her to learn words that she did not know.  She taught herself to read at age three and now is reading chapter books, such as Nancy Drew Mysteries.

Allie surprises us every day with something new.  She is AMAZING.  God has blessed us in our old age with this wonderful little girl.  And, we praise him.   

To Allie:

Happy Birthday, my baby girl.  I love you!

                                                      Dad

***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.  He is also the author of soon to be released Cody and the Great Zoo Escape and Secret Lives (of middle school teachers).

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PURPOSE by Thornton Cline

PURPOSE
by Thornton Cline

In my debut non-fiction book, “Not My Time to Go” on Indigo Sea Press I devote chapter seventeen to the purpose of living on Earth. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines purpose as the reason something is done or used or the aim or intention of something.
Throughout my true compelling close-call, near-misses with death I gradually discovered my purpose for living on Earth. I once believed that I existed just to eat, drink, and be happy. I didn’t think too much about other people’s lives, but put high value on indulging in worldly pleasures. I didn’t have much concern for my fellow brothers and sisters. Life was all about me. And while I played the violin and piano growing up, I used those talents and gifts for my own self-seeking purposes, not for a higher purpose.
Through all of my self-seeking, I gradually became reckless, taking foolish changes with my life. Many times I felt immortal. I depended only on myself for everything. The Lord was far removed from my life, despite my childhood spent attending church. I had forgotten how to pray, and, in fact, I didn’t feel like I needed to pray at all.
Of course, that was far from the truth. My guardian angel, other angels, and my Lord and Savior have always been by my side. I just haven’t come to that realization yet. All that time when I thought I was doing it on my own, my angel and the Lord were there helping me through everything in my life.
While I was depending on myself, they were what I needed. But no one could tell me. No one could preach that message to me. I had to learn it the hard way.
Slowly but surely, I came to the realization that I wasn’t here on Earth only to take up space and to exist. I also realized that life wasn’t about partying and pleasing myself with selfish ambitions.
Through the near-tragedies that I experienced, I began to conclude that life on Earth was a testing ground for my everlasting life in Heaven. Life was about storing up treasures for the hereafter. It was not about pleasing myself in partying and living it up, nor was it about accumulating riches and wealth while on Earth. I realized that I was constantly being tempted and torn between the invincible greatness and goodness of the Lord Almighty and the dark, evil forces of Satan. I discovered that every decision I made in my life had its consequences.
Life, I finally saw, was about God’s kingdom on Earth, serving God faithfully, and planting seeds by helping others so that the fruits of my labor could be reaped later. My mission was to reach others with my gifts and bring them into God’s fold.
Finally, life makes sense knowing why I am here on Earth and what my purpose is. It took those 11 close-call, near death experiences to help me to discover my purpose and the meaning of life.

Thornton Cline, author of "Not My Time to Go"

Thornton Cline, author of “Not My Time to Go”

Recent discussion about "Purpose" with the Richmond, VA writers group

Recent discussion about “Purpose” with the Richmond, VA writers group

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Why Do I Teach? by John E. Stack

As a public school teacher, I take a lot of things personally.  Whether it is hearing how bad our students do on end-of-grade testing, or some bureaucrat stating that paying out teachers more money will not improve achievement, it really bothers me.  Then, you have some idiot that is either a teacher or is someone associated with the school system being inappropriate with a child.  So, all teachers are then identified as being child molesters.  

Most of us really take our jobs seriously, and we work not thirty-five or forty hours a week, but often work sixty to seventy hours a week writing lesson plans, grading papers and attending school functions that many parents are too busy to attend. Why do we do this?  Well, it is not the big bucks that we supposedly make.  We do this for several reasons.  We care about the students and want them to do their best.  We also want our schools to look good.  If our students do well on end-of-grade testing, then our school gets a good grade.  Personally, I feel if they become successful my taxes won’t have to support them.

End-of-grade testing is how the school systems put a value on the teachers.  Teachers do not like giving the tests and students do not like taking them.  Still, we put our all into preparing the students to take the test.

There is also a big push on teacher/student relationships.  It is said that if a student doesn’t like a teacher then they will not do the work.  My dad did not care if I liked the teacher or not, if an assignment was given, then it better be completed.  I raised my girls with the same rule. It was never what did the teacher do, but what did you do?  The teacher was shown respect and looked at as a professional.  It is not like this anymore.

It really starts to weigh on a person when they are told they don’t meet standards, even though they have been doing a great job for years.  Adequate compensation (pay raises) is a thing of the past, which tells us that our government doesn’t respect as professionals.  It is always something that makes many teachers feel inadequate.  Most only want respect and to be treated as professionals.

Our small town publishes a newspaper three times a week and on one day it publishes the court records.  Seldom does a week go by where I don’t read three or four names of students that I taught – drugs, alcohol, assault…  It just adds to the pressure.  You wonder if you could have done something different to change their lives or their decisions.

For me, being told that my scores are not good enough, that I don’t know how to relate to students, plus all of the above really made me want to get out of teaching.  Again, I take a lot of things personally.

Over the last year, things have started to change and my outlook has started to improve.  Over the last year, I ran across a few of my previous students.  One young lady followed some advice and was happy to tell me that she got a book published.  (She started working on it in middle school and talked with me about publishing and what she should do.)  Another was on maternity leave from her corporate job and she just had to show me her newborn son.

This summer I ran across two young moms that I had taught, one of which was a nurse practitioner.  She told me about three other students that I taught that were also in the medical field.  It is so nice and enlightening to see where your kids (yes, my kids – it I taught them then they are mine, no matter how old they get) become successful.  What a breath of fresh air.

Then, my wife went to register our little boy for preschool.  The lady asked if I still taught school and to let me know her son was now a doctor.  Wow.  After eighteen years, the mom remembered I was her son’s math teacher.

Most recently, I received an email from a parent stating her son was going into the military.  They were giving him a graduation/leaving for the military party.  She asked him if there was anyone in particular that he wanted to invite and he said that he would like for “Mr. Stack” to be there is possible.  What a privilege to attend.  I asked him why the Army and he responded that my influence and stories helped point him to what he really wanted to do.  As a middle school teacher I seldom get to hear about the choices my previous students made.  These are some of the bright spots.

Every new teacher goes into the profession just knowing that they are going to change lives.  They are going to give everything they have to try to do this. I have a niece that is a teacher, a niece that is studying to be a teacher, and a young lady that my wife and I mentored that just took a position in the mountains of Arizona to teach in a Christian Indian mission.

Why do I teach?  I feel God put me in this position, but still, I teach to make a difference.  

***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, soon to be released Cody and the Great Zoo Escape and Secret Lives (of middle school teachers).

    

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Secret Lives by John E. Stack

Children always seem excited when they see their teachers in a different environment outside of school.  They often wonder if teachers do anything other than teach and grade papers.  They always ask teachers what they do in their off-time, because in the student’s mind the teacher lives at the school.  Even though it really seems that some do, most of us lead exciting lives, married, raise kids, and work other jobs (is writing another job?). 

What if teachers did do more than teach?  What if the middle schoolers we worked with were actually alien rather than just acting as if they were from another planet? What if….?

The above is the proposed forward to my latest submission, Secret Lives (of Middle School Teachers).  Secret Lives is my first attempt at something like a novel or rather a story other than a picture book.  We are always told to write about something you know or you are interested in.  So I did.

Let’s see, I have spent ten months a year for the last eighteen years teaching in the same middle school.  With that, I have worked around a lot of the same teachers and many new teachers that rotate through our school.  Some of the personalities are unique.  Sometimes the faces change, but the personalities stay the same.

I’ve taught close to two thousand students.  I would try to describe the normal student, but who is to say what is normal.  I have had parents ask “What happened to the sweet, little girl I used to have?  It’s like some alien sucked her brains out and didn’t give them all back.”  Or, they wonder why their sons stopped taking showers and why hygiene now means nothing.

So, I took a handful of experience (eight four-day trips to Washington, DC with four bus loads of eighth graders gives some experience), several teacher personalities, and a fascination with astronomy mixed them all together with a little humor and came out with something like a story.

God gave me a little leeway and allowed me to create a planet system around a known star.  In that system is a planet named after an Englishman named Nigel that I go to church with.  I got to determine what the people looked like and the environment in which they lived.  I also got to develop worm-hole technology.

My aliens are called Nigelians (Nigel) and they are very humanoid.  The only differences are their lack of noses and ears.  While on Earth they wear assimilation suits to disguise their differences.  They also have tufts of hair rather than a full covering.  There are other differences, but maybe you can read about them later this summer.

If you have ever been to Washington, DC, you may have passed by the Old Post Office.  I have been to the building once and even took a group of students up into the clock tower.  Most of the story takes place in DC, but the Old Post Office became the home for our school and was the center for a lot of the action in the book.

I also tried something that I haven’t really attempted since I was a boy (and that was a long time ago) — free-hand drawing.  In the military, I was trained as a architectural draftsman.  I learned straight lines and right angles.  This was something different.  I did sketches, perspectives and some doodling.  Eventually, I completed all the drawings except for one, which was submitted by a student.  I did make some changes, but gave her the credit.

I have to admit that completing this book was a lot more fun than the picture books I’ve been doing.  There was more freedom in writing, in the ideas, and my thought process felt more alive.  I also got to learn a lot about DC.

When we continue to try something new we continue to grow in our art.  And, as long as we enjoy what we do it is not a job. Keep an eye out for my new adventure.  Read, write and enjoy.

***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.  He is also the author of the upcoming books Cody and the Great Zoo Escape and  Secret Lives (of Middle School Teachers).

 

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Writing Romance for Baby Boomers

It’s been great to get to know Australian blogger,Lana Pecherczyk  from Author Zoo. Lana asked me to write about romance novels from an aged perspective for her series on “How to write a Romance from A to Z”. Google Author Zoo and check them out!

 

Baby Boomer LOVE

by Jonna Ellis Holston

If you are writing romance then chances are that a large percentage of your readership will be of the baby boomer age. Infrequently is a romance novel written specifically for this generation, so in rarity we find value. If written well the rewards are great.

This is the population who met the Beatles, the Woodstock women who eased the way toward sexual freedom. They lived through the sixty’s and now they’re in their sixties. If you are interested in writing about and for the boomers then, author, know thy sub-genre.

Writing an older woman protagonist has undeniable appeal. In her you discover a character of complexity and depth. She has confidence, wisdom… experience. Imagine the possibilities for characters, setting and plot.

-Feel the energy between a silver cougar and her prey. Is her motivation lust for his hard body or is she damaged and hiding her need? Is he drawn to her mystique, living MILF fantasies or does he plan to steal her money? What do they talk about? Where is the conflict? Who gets hurt and who is healed?

-A similarly aged couple finds a second chance love. Can two households merge? Do their adult children worry about the wills or cringe in disgust with each kiss. Which is worse? Which is real? Can their love survive their offspring?

-An older woman is polyamorous. Is she honest or deceitful? What will the neighbors say about multiple partners? Would she care? Will her lovers meet in conflict then end in a threesome?

What about writing physical limitations and the body image issues that millennials have yet to discover? Tread lightly here lest you break the spell. Use softer images, shimmering fabric catching candlelight or try something risky like a shared vape under moonlight and they end up naked in the lake.

Her body is no longer perfect. You might describe the grace of her movement, the curve of a shoulder or the shape of his arms but consider what point when physical description must yield to expressions of feeling. The softness of her breast, the warmth of his skin, the magic of losing self-awareness in the moment, the urgency in knowing that this could be the last time either one experiences this feeling of love in their lifetime.

Age creeps on, choices lessen. Lovers sicken and die. When you write a character that a boomer identifies with she escapes more readily in your work. Once again she’s made beautiful, desirable and loved. They value this feeling for its rarity. They are greatly mindful of the moments ahead and appreciate each one all the more.

If you wish to write such a romance, understand that She is not your grandmother’s grandmother. She is Women’s Liberation in the Age of Aquarius. She’s the bra burner, the Great Mother and the flower child of love.

Do her justice. Write her truth. Write her well.

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