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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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5 The Woods – Return to the House (1985) by LV Gaudet

 

 

The Woods:

1 – The Woods – The Dare (1985)

2 – Thirty Years Later – The Old Bennet House is for Sale (2015)

3 – The Woods – Jesse Hears a Noise (1985)

4 – The House – First Entry in 30 Years (2015)

 

 

1985

 

The boys burst into the house, hurriedly kicking off their boots at the back door before going any further.  Everything looks exactly like it did when they went out to play.

It’s 1985 and the furniture and décor are a clash of pieces mostly from the sixties and seventies, some bought new, some second hand, and some are hand-me-downs.  Nothing has been upgraded in the past ten years, a testament of thoughtful care and financial mediocrity.  The worn couch and dented coffee table, victims of having two rambunctious growing boys in the house, are overdue to be replaced.  A comic book lays discarded on the floor, open as if it is trying to fly away, The Thing is caught forever in an epic battle against a green monster that looks like a rough tree bark wall with many arms surrounding The Thing with flailing punching fists.  The television, an ancient tube set, sits dark and quiet on its stand.  A pair of discarded boy’s socks are tossed carelessly on the floor, and the latest edition of TV Guide sits on the coffee table.

“Mom!” Jesse looks around.

The house is dead silent except for their own breathing.

“Mom?”

Kevin stands there, looking around.

The house is exactly as they left it before they went outside to play.  How long has that been?  An hour?

But not quite.

Everything seems a little muted.  Off.

And more dusty than he remembers.

Jesse runs into the kitchen.  After a pause of a few heartbeats, Kevin follows.

“Mom?” Jesse pauses just inside the doorway, looking expectantly for their mother.

The teakettle still sits on the stovetop, two tea towels hang from the oven door handle where they were hung to dry after washing dishes in the sink, and the table is set for dinner with places for four.

Flour and sugar bags sit on the countertop next to a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon and measuring cup, pulled out in preparation of baking a cake.

Their mother is not there.

They run through the house calling, “Mom! Mom! Mom!”  They end their search back in the living room, out of breath.

“She’s not here.”

“Where could she be?”

“Next door, maybe?”

“Let’s go see.”

They pull their boots back on and rush out the door into the backyard, trained not to use the front door because that would somehow make more cleaning work for their mother, and around the side of the house to the front.

They stop, staring around wide-eyed, and turn to stare at each other, their faces full of fear and confusion.

They are standing in the woods next to that old stump.

“What the hell?”

“Don’t cuss,” Jesse says automatically.  There is hell to pay if their mom ever hears them use bad language.  Hell is one of many forbidden words.

Kevin turns to him, appalled.

“Seriously?  You’re worried about me cussing? We are back in the woods! How?  This is impossible!”

He stops.

“Jesse.”

“What?” Jesse is sulking now.

“The grass.”

“What about it?”

“Wasn’t there grass in the yard?”

“Yeah, so?  There’s always been grass in the yard.”

Kevin narrows his eyes, wondering if Jesse is just being dumb or is messing with him.

“It’s early spring.  Look around.  There’s still snow everywhere.”

“Yeah, so?” Jesse isn’t getting it.

Kevin’s shoulders sag with the futility of it.  Do I even bother? He sighs.

“Jesse, do you remember what the yard looked like? Just now, when we went back to the house.”

“Yeah, your bike was laying on the grass. I almost tripped on it.”

“Where was the snow?”

They both just stare at each other.

 

 

Follow The Woods installments

L.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm
where the bodies are

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions? Find out in Where the Bodies Are.

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

Take a step back in time to learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are:  The McAllister Farm reveals the secrets behind the man who created the killer.

Link to purchase these books by L.V. Gaudet

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

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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.

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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.

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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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