Tag Archives: truth

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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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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Halloween, then and now! By Arhonda Luman (based on true events)

The excitement was thick enough in the air, it was almost smothering to my mom and aunt. bunch-of-kids-and-old-houseNine kids were scurrying about trying to get their chores done. It was a special day! It was Halloween, and that meant “Candy!”   The kids could almost taste it. Having candy was a rare treat in those days. It took a massive amount of work and ingenuity to feed a family of seven, and now there were twelve. We always had plenty to eat, but we ate a lot of beans and water gravy.

Aunt Dee and my mom did not know if they could survive the barrage of questions that were fired at them. Those questions were like a machine gun, pelting them from all directions. They didn’t have time to answer one before another one was asked!

“Is it time to go yet?”

“Are we ready?”

“Is it going to be scary?”

“Can I sit in the back?”

Aunt Dee and mom took it good-naturedly. After all, they had  a total of  nine children, when you added them together, and believe me when I say, “We were together!”  All nine of we children slept in the same bedroom. That room always sounded like a barnyard fullgoats-playing of goats, jumping and running and playing.  We spent a lot of time outside because of the amount of energy we spent having fun! Oh, don’t get me wrong, there was a few hair pulling and knuckle knocking incidents too, but when all the anger left, we all loved each other very much.

We lived in a house that was barely habitable but my mother decorated it with so much love; everyone wanted to come.  Mom had five children. I was the oldest and at the time had just turned twelve years old. Her youngest was four years old. Aunt Dee had four boys ranging from six years old to a baby in diapers. Well actually, she had two in diapers.

Aunt Dee was having some hard times, and my mother invited her to stay with us until things straightened out. It required a truckload of patience on everyone’s part, but we made it work.

It was cold as ice,  the day of Halloween.  Mom saved her brown paper grocery sacks for old-pickupeverything from wallpaper to kindling. This time, they were used to collect the candy. Mom and Aunt Dee put all our coats on us and put socks on our hands for gloves. They set us larger children in the back of our pick-up with our backs to the cab and set the smaller children in front of us so we could hold them while we drove five miles into town. It was also warmer on all of us to snuggle together. The two babies rode in the front with the adults, and away we went to trick.

Every time we pulled up in front of a house, it looked like the owners were invaded. Seven little kids clamored over the side and tailgate of the pickup and raced each other to the front door. Everyone wanted to be first. Not because they were greedy, but because it

candy was a game and all in fun. We all knew when we collected all the loot; it’d go into a community bowl at home. Mom could make it last longer if she budgeted it, so all of us were ok with that!

It was so cold, our noses were running and our fingers were numb but we didn’t’ want to stop. Halloween only came once a year!  I carried the sacks for some of the smaller ones and let them warm in the truck  for a while, but they could not stand missing the excitement.  They jumped out and ran with us.

Too soon the night was over. On the ride home, the sun had gone down and the temperatures dropped even more. It was a cold ride home but we looked forward to pouring the candy in the big bowl to see how much there was!  We got to pick our favorite piece. I spied a popcorn ball right away. My oh my was that a wonderful thing! Homemade cookies and caramel apples lined the bowl.

I’ll be taking my grandchildren tonight. I will take them to something called a safe house, so they will not be served a dose of meanness. The time has passed when caramel apples and popcorn balls will be served. Now, only candy that is unopened in its original wrapper is acceptable.  The kids don’t know the difference, but I remember.

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Mythical Truth by Arhonda Luman

unicornWe live in the day of instant knowledge. The internet, with a tap of a button, can search for anything you can imagine, and plenty of things that are unimaginable. One can search  until they are blue in the face, and still, have a problem finding truth. Truth seems to be as elusive as a unicorn.

It has been said, that knowledge is the answer to truth. The problem   with that statement is, knowledge  fails to provide us with a mental grasp of every topic that can be thought of,  from religion to politics and believe it or not, every day living.

We base our truths on our heritage, environment, education, life experiences and probably a few more factors I missed.

In the name of truth, people on opposite sides have been killing each other  since the beginning of time. All of whom believe in their view of truth.

Oh, I know from personal experience that many of us think we are living in truth. I’m the first to be guilty of that.

When I was a young woman, I believed myself, to be honest. When someone who knew me asked a question, they knew they better have their loins girded up because I would tell them the truth. As an old woman, I have come to believe that the truth is; there are many truths to any given situation. As a result of that, now I can only say, “My answer is my truth.”

Every day of our life is a revelation that will eventually lead us closer to the truth. Sometimes I miss the interpretation because of being busy, or maybe I rob myself from enlightenment because of lethargy or denial, but it is ever-present and will reveal itself a little at a time to those who seek it. There are those who are exempt from learning. They are like the potatoes in granny’s bin, they have eyes but cannot see.

I’d like to share a couple of “aha!” moments that happened in my personal life that might give credence, and maybe a bit of sanity, to this muse. Perhaps it will aid someone else in their search for truth!cherries

One day a couple of weeks ago, I poured ice from a local establishment into my cup to make myself a soda. Just like I do every day,  I poured the soda over it. When I took a drink,
I shuddered. It tasted like it was flavored with cherry or some other fruit. It wasn’t awful, but it was not what I thought I was getting. My first thought was to check the can of soda to see if I accidentally picked up one with cherry flavor. To my amazement, it was not cherry flavored. My next thought was that the Dr. Pepper company had “Improved,” the taste again. I was aggravated and poured it out.

A few days later, the same scenario happened. This time, one of my children got the ice and I thought, they must have bumped the cherry button on the soda machine. I rolled my eyes and threw that concoction out. Three times this happened. Finally, I was determined to search for the truth. I opened my own refrigerator; a dorm sized one that I usually only keep soda and ice in, and discovered that my husband had brought me a bag of apples and plums as a gift. He did not tell me he did that, so I hadn’t discovered it. I blamed several entities, but the fault lay on my doorstep.

You would think I would have learned a valuable lesson. Not so. It wasn’t two days later that I was driving down a street and saw a house where someone had planted trees in their tiny front yard. The trees were cute last year, this year they are almost touching. I gasped.

Totally in disbelief, I asked myself out loud, “Why do people plant trees that close together. Don’t they know they grow? It won’t be long, and their yard will look horrible.!”

Exasperated I turned down the street my shop was on, and when I started to turn in, I saw a pile of garbage and limbs in my yard where my husband was clipping branches.  My yard looked horrible. Shame encompassed me like a vice. Again, I gave away blame, but I was more guilty than they were.

Food for thought.

In my quest for a deeper meaning, I did a search on, “Fault line.”  I was surprised but not shocked at the definition.

 

 

 

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Don’t Kill the Messenger

TruthNow don’t get angry with me just because I’m about to tell you the truth. I know, I know, the truth hurts, but sometimes we have to face it. Now I am just going to be honest with you, and if the truth hurts, remember I’m just the messenger.

White houseJeffersonThis truth business all came about because a friend, well OK, an acquaintance really, had just returned from D.C. and was rhapsodize about all the monuments and I thought, “Yeah, that’s a city of nothing but liars and monuments and all the monuments are to liars.”

Arlington

UnknownI realize that may not be a very nice thing to say, so I’ll mitigate it somewhat by saying there may be a monument to someone other than a liar like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and some of those little monuments in Arlington.

Aside from that slight possibility; in all likelihood the greater the liar, the larger the monument, because almost every monument is to a “gone from here” politician and everyone knows there is not a more accomplished liar than a politician. Continue reading

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Loyalty

Have you noticed that a characteristic such as loyalty seems to have vanished in our modern day world? It is a tragic loss if it can not be revived. Companies no longer seem to care about their employees and employees change jobs for a few dollars more in a pay packet.
In my parents and grandparents day, people got a job with a company, worked their way up the ladder and for the most part retired from that company after many years of loyal service. This is an out of date notion. Workers, for the most part, are no longer loyal to one employer. In recent times, there are those who job hop, hoping that the new company will offer better pay and benefits. Or they may play one company off the other to negotiate the best deal. However, this is not so prevalent anymore with the job market what it is now.
Employers do not encourage loyalty in their workers like they did once upon a time.
A friend of mine gave a company fifteen years of service and loyalty. Then she was let go along with three others from this same company. There were no satisfactory explanations for their terminations; just good-bye with no severance, no references and few prospects in the job market today. There are not many openings for jobs on that same managerial level.
Another friend recounted to me that her company wants people to start sharing more of their responsibilities because the company wants to eliminate numerous jobs. They have not said what jobs, or which employees will be released, so the sword of Damocles hangs over them all. The company also has offered early retirement sweet deals that are available to the first fifty of the one hundred and fifty that are eligible. Even with retiring fifty people, they still will cut jobs.
Another horrifying item that surfaced about this company: someone distributed a book about ~ how to treat employees so poorly that they quit, leaving the company without having to pay the unemployment fees.
I wonder what is happening in our world.
Where is loyalty?
I remember a story my dad told me about a friend and client of his.
Mr. Lubin loved to bake, and he was good at it. His hobby blossomed into a small business as he took over the family kitchen. Soon the demands for his baked goods grew, and he moved his enterprise to the garage. Orders came in consistently allowing him to first rent, then later to purchase a building of his own to keep up with the growing demand.
In the process of his expansion from the kitchen to the garage he needed proper packaging for his goods. He called a number of companies and met with their salesmen. He had a specific package in mind. No supplier had it readily available. The salesmen told him that his demands could not be met. His order would be too small to make it worth their while. Except for one young man who needed to establish himself with his company. He said it would be worth a try. He would do what he could to fill the order. A week later the man returned with what they company could do for Mr. Lubin. The men shook on the order, and the salesman got the ball rolling to create the packaging Mr. Lubin wanted.
Mr. Lubin’s business grew and grew over the years allowing him to build his own building to make all his bakery products. As his fame and fortune grew, the salesmen from the companies that told him he was too small to bother with began to come back, they offered sweet deals, they undercut the price of that first salesman who had taken the risk with Mr. Lubin’s order.
Mr. Lubin would simply smile; shake his head and say; “No thanks.” He let them know that he was remaining loyal to the man who had been with him from the early days. That the salesman who had had taken the risk to create his packaging needs deserved his loyalty.
Another facet of his loyalty was his constant ability to keep his promises. Mr. Lubin did business on a handshake and his word. His word was his bond. He did not need contracts or signatures. He never reneged on an agreement, if he told you something was going to be done, it was.
Mr. Lubin was also a devoted family man. We all have at some time heard of his company, many of us have enjoyed his products. He named his company for his daughter, because after all; Nobody doesn’t love Sarah Lee.
In this world where loyalty, honesty and keeping a promise means nothing, I am reminded of Mr. Lubin and his principals. An honest, hardworking man who built a multi-billion dollar business from something he loved to do. Mr. Lubin was a man who remained loyal to those who were with him from the earliest days, believing in him, in his product and his abilities. Loyalty was rewarded ten-fold.
My father spoke of Mr. Lubin with admiration and respect. I hope his story will empower you to take a look at where your loyalties lie, and create a better world, because you become a better person. Loyalty is a dying virtue. We can revive it by being loyal. I’m in…are you?

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Truth Be Told

One of the characters in my mystery thriller series, Detective Smoke Dawes, uses the expression, “Truth be told,” from time to time. He says it when he is about to make a personal confession, such as, “Truth be told, bad dreams sometimes scare me more than bad things in real life.” But he might also use it in an interview or interrogation to coax out an admission of guilt.

We encounter episodes of telling, thinking, and listening for truths countless times each day. I was at a book event this past week and a reporter from the local paper asked me questions about my qualifications, my writing, and a variety of subjects. One question he posed was if I thought it was honest for authors to write their books with other authors, i.e. Tom Clancy with . . . I think his point was, is it really a Tom Clancy book if another writer helps write it, perhaps does most of the writing? My reply was, “Sure, as long as they give the other author credit. What’s not honest is if you use–steal–what someone else has written and don’t give them credit.”

 The next day I took a class from a trained criminal investigator. He ran the Cold Case Division of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for many years and helped solve some big cases. He said, over and over, “Everybody lies.” A former FBI agent had said the same thing in another class I took. What did they mean? In addition to out and out lies suspects tell for obvious reasons, others lie because they are not telling the whole truth. Victims because they’re embarrassed, witnesses because they think they are telling you what you need to hear, what they think is important for the case.

 Victims sometimes have an irrational sense of guilt over what happened to them, or may have blocked out key facts. And when people witness a crime, it often happens very fast. One person may see the robber as a dark-skinned Latino man, age 35, five foot ten with thick wavy hair, and another will see that same person as a light-skinned Asian man, age 25, five foot six with short straight hair.

But they both see the most important identifier–a dragon tattoo that covers his entire left forearm. If the suspect turns out to be a dark-skinned Caucasian male, age 30, six feet with short thinning dark brown hair and the dragon tattoo, it doesn’t mean the witnesses meant to lie, but they did. And some people are very sure of what they saw, even when it’s not true.

 I think most of us have had conversations with people we’ve shared an experience with and later compared notes. While you’re talking, one of you will say, “That’s not the way I remember it,” or, “No, that’s not what happened.” And you’re so sure you’re right, but start to wonder if you aren’t, after all.

 I am an honest person, but admittedly have not always told “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Why not? For many reasons: I didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings by being brutally honest. I was embarrassed by something stupid I’d done and thought of a way to explain it so it didn’t seem as bad. No, not specifically a lie, but not the whole truth. I have not given information when I could have. Each instance burdened me to different degrees, and I’ve carried the weight of guilt.

 It’s usually pretty easy to tell when someone is lying and a good investigator will use that to his or her advantage. Like Abraham Lincoln said, “No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar.” I love that quote. It’s like the tangled web–it’s hard work to be deceitful.

 “The truth shall set you free,” John 8:32

Please share your thoughts. Thanks!

Christine Husom is the Second Wind Publishing author of Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, and An Altar by the River

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The Truth Shall Set You Free by Sherrie Hansen

At my bed and breakfast, the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House, each of our guest rooms is named after a children’s storybook. In the main house, we have On the Banks of Plum Creek, one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” series, NeverNeverland from Peter Pan, Sherwood Forest from Robin Hood, Sleeping Beauty,  Secret Garden, and Heaven to Betsy, from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy Tacy series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We call the circa 1951 cottage where my husband and I live A Wrinkle in Time, after Madeleine L’Engle’s classic, because it is sandwiched between a Victorian house (The Blue Belle Inn), built in 1895, and a giant arts and crafts built in the 1920s. Four years ago, when we bought and renovated a new little house just to the north of the Blue Belle, we christened it Anne’s House of Dreams, from the Anne of Green Gables series. Upstairs is Green Gables and downstairs is Four Winds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The theme of each room is loosely in keeping with the theme of the book it is named after, with a lot of whimsy thrown in for good measure.

In the case of Four Winds, part of that theme is a staircase that quotes John 8:32 – The truth shall set you free, with one word painted on each step as you climb upward.

If you’ve read Anne’s House of Dreams, you know that there are several characters in the book who are keeping secrets. The offending characters think they have very good reasons for keeping their secrets to themselves and hiding the truth, but in the end, we learn that as long as duplicity is present, there can be no resolution, no contentment, no fulfillment, and no happy ending.

The truth shall set you free. Falsehoods, no matter how nobly intended, create a prison that binds you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my new book,  Merry Go Round, slated for a late April release, the characters  have a few secrets of their own.  Trevor has kept the fact that he is gay a secret for almost 20 years. His duplicity and belated honesty have impacted his wife’s life in many ways. And because Tracy is determined that no one else learn the truth (especially not her children), she is left without a way to process the ramifications of those events. Because she’s chosen not to reveal Trevor’s sexual orientation, she’s cheated herself out of the listening ears and supportive arms she would otherwise have had.

Like a bottle of a champagne with a firmly plugged top, the pressure is mounting on the inside, and you know that eventually, someone is going to come uncorked. Things are going to blow up in your face.

But as much as we may believe in our heads that “The truth shall set you free”, many of us grew up in stoical northern European homes where we were taught to keep our thoughts to ourselves, and hide our true feelings lest we offend or make everyone uncomfortable.

In her song, Don’t Cry Out Loud, Rita Coolidge sings:

Don’t cry out loud
Just keep it inside, learn how to hide your feelings
Fly high and proud
And if you should fall, remember you almost had it all.

 

If the truth intrigues you – the wisdom of sometimes withholding it, and sometimes, conversely,  letting it all hang out – I encourage you to read Merry Go Round when it comes out later this spring.  It’s easy to think that we should always tell the truth – until you know what’s at stake. Only then can you know what you would do. Are some secrets worth keeping? If so, to what lengths would you go to camouflage the real story? Or is honesty always the best policy?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I can’t keep living a lie.” Trevor’s voice sounded far away and tinny, maybe because her cell phone was the cheapest model on the market, and maybe because he was calling from California. Regardless, it didn’t dampen the impact of his words.

It had been almost three years since Trevor had told her the truth, and she still had a hard time believing it.

“I can’t keep pretending I’m someone who I’m not,” Trevor said.

“You most certainly can. You have to.” She lowered her voice for fear of waking the children. “If you can’t do it for me, then do it for them.”

from Merry Go Round, by Sherrie Hansen

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Characters You Love to Hate!

I lie.  We all lie. So, can you spot a liar? Really? In real life or fiction?

When “School of Lies” was only a flicker in the back of my mind I knew that characterization was going to be problematic.  I wanted to entertain but I also intended to draw from my real life experiences as a teacher, experiences that would show sides of Special Education that aren’t generally acknowledged, especially in our politically correct society.  To see how this would play out, I whipped up a few scenes and asked people with no background in education what they thought. The readers always zeroed in on certain characters and and expressed the fervent hope that they’d be written to death, sooner rather than later! From the feedback I got, it seemed that many of my characters “deserved” this fate.

I wondered if I should change the tone, but after all, the book’s a murder mystery and there has to be motive! Still, I worried that with characters so awful that they don’t deserve to live, some readers within the field of education might take offense, to put it mildly.   I wanted to make the characters behave with honor,  but they refused! The characters would remind me about my own experiences and laugh when I told them to tone things down.  Now I worry, who’s going to be the one to pay for their deficient behavior?

Well, I wrote fiction and isn’t fiction just “making stuff up?” My novel is full of instances where lies are told to protect, to distract, to justify. In real life, everyone’s been in a situation where a lie might actually be a kindness. In those situations we tell ourselves that these are “white” lies and they’re for a good reason. But often, lies are told purely for self-interest. If you’d like to know how good you are at ferreting out the truth, try my quiz, “Can you spot a Liar?” http://mickeyhoffman.com/

Mickey Hoffman is the author of a murder mystery, School of Lies,Lying heart published by Second Wind.

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