Category Archives: children’s books

Project Done by John E. Stack

Hi All.  It has been a while since I have been here, but I went through a rough time with lots of stuff on my mind and just not in the mood to write.  Anyway, I decided that it was time to once again try my hand at writing.

Last summer (2017), I undertook a remodeling project in our master bedroom and bathroom.  I waited all summer to build a door that would serve as the entrance to our master bathroom.   After everything else was complete I was able to start the door.  It took a while but since I was designing it as I went along that was okay.  The hardest part was getting the rail installed correctly since the instructions assumed that I knew a lot about installing barn doors.  Well, I finally completed the construction and finished the door with a paint wash (mix of 1/2 paint and 1/2 water).  It really allowed the grain in the door panels to pop.  I was pleased and Nana was pleased.


Then, Suzanne (Nana) found a cabinet that she really liked.  It had a barn door covering half the front but was much larger and heavier than what we had room for.  Anyway, I had some time at the end of summer to start work on redesigning the cabinet and to start building.  I decided I would take their suggestion of using pocket screws and glue for assembly.  This would keep any of the screws from being visible and fewer holes to be plugged or filled.  Before the end of August, I was about 90% complete, but had to stop due to school starting.  Isn’t it funny how work really interferes with what you really want to do?  This is as far as I got…


I knew that I needed to find time to work on it but with school going full force and life itself finding extra time was difficult.  Then we had a hurricane and our district decided to play it safe and close school on a Thursday and Friday.  Mostly, the weather was beautiful, so… I worked on my cabinet and finally completed it.  I did a paint wash on this one to match the original door, mounted the hardware and door and school started again.  This was as far as I got…


Well, only a short time went by and I was able to get it hung in place.  I do need to replace the pully bolts with some a little longer, but it is now complete and being used.  The left side hides supplies behind the door like deodorant, TP, cleaner, etc.  Sooner or later the right side will be used for some type of decoration.  I’m happy with it and Nana really likes it.  So, it was worth the time taken to construct it.  I did cut some corners from the original plan.  Instead of using 3/4 inch plywood, I used 1/8 inch plywood which was a lot lighter (it was heavy without the back).

Instead of buying a hardware kit, I fabricated the hardware from two 1 inch iron bars and two clothes line pulleys.  I cut it to size and painted everything black.  It’s not fancy but it works.  Here is my finished product…


I also designed it to be hung using a cleat so if we moved we could take it with us.  Sometimes you can’t leave all that hard work and creativity behind.  I hope you all have a great week.

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


Filed under children's books, fun, John Stack, life, writing

Leprechaun Gold by John E. Stack

For years we have been chasing that lucrative pot of gold.  Who?  My daughter, Allie, and I.  For the past several years we have been trying to catch that little green guy and gain access to his gold without chasing to find the end of a rainbow.  He trashed our daughter’s bathroom for the last two years.  Rainbows and shamrocks on her mirror, green foot-prints on the counter and on the toilet seat. and he somehow turned the toilet water green.

This year Allie decided that we were going to build a Leprechaun trap.  Suzanne did some research.  We used an oatmeal  box, cut a hole in the top, and camouflaged the hole.  Then we painted everything green.  We built a ladder from popsicle sticks and baited it with green M &Ms.

We even stuffed the bottom of the trap with tissues, so he wouldn’t get hurt if he fell.  We set the trap on the bathroom counter.

This morning, the tissue paper was torn and most of the M &M’s were gone.  We checked inside the trap and it was empty.  This time he left some stuff on the counter.

He also left her a note…

And some gold coins.

Well, it didn’t work out this year, but there is always next time.  We are always looking for a bigger and better Leprechaun Trap.

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



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When You Are Making Your Christmas Lists . . .

When you are making your Christmas lists, don’t forget books!!

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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!


***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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Our Future by John E. Stack

Sometimes children are known for exaggerating circumstances, especially those children in middle grades. Hormones and peer pressure can do strange things to a child’s brain.  You really have to listen carefully and try to discern what is true and what is not.  Even if you have years of experience you can be completely wrong in your assessment.  I know I was.

I had a young man about eleven years of age in my class, I will call him Tim.  Tim is kind of scruffy looking, often wore the same clothes, really thin.  He often made decisions that would get him in trouble.  One day I asked if he wanted me to call his mom about his attendance.  He said it wouldn’t matter.  It would just give her another reason to hit him.  I just looked at him, but I didn’t call.

Usually when a child has two homes, mom’s and dad’s, more often they will live with mom.  Usually, dad is out of the picture and has another family.  In this case, both parents are well educated and they share custody.

On another occasion, Bill told me that he was glad he was able to get lunch at school, because his mom never had any food in his mom’s house. Bill would laugh and cut up about how he couldn’t stand to visit him mom, because she didn’t care about him.  Again, he mentioned that she like to hit him in the head.

I don’t get some parents.  Children should be something you want, not a by-product of sex.  There are many ways to not get pregnant.  But, if you have a child and the marriage ends in divorce, it is not the child’s fault.  Even if the child reminds you of the other parent, they are not the cause of your problems.

Tim came in this past week and told me that his mom took away his phone and locked him out of the house.  He was only wearing a t-shirt and jeans (no shoes).  This was December and the temperature was in the low 40s.  He finally got a neighbor to contact his dad and his dad came and got him.  The police came and arrested his mom.  I asked what his dad was going to do and he said that he went to court and was trying to get full custody.

Hooray for dad, but why didn’t he see what was going on before now?  Why didn’t I see what was going on?  I only see him for forty-five minutes a couple times a week, but why couldn’t I see it?

The more I teach and the more I deal with the foster care system, the less I understand about people.  Everything is more important than their children: their addictions, their drugs, their alcohol, their other families.  Kids come in last in most cases.

In the foster care system, the average time that a child is in the system has gone from 1 year to 2 years.  This is due usually to extra chances for the birth parents to make some right decisions.  It doesn’t work

We really need to come up with a system to deal with parents who abuse or neglect their kids.  What we have now rewards the parents.  When are we going to wake-up?  No one seems to realize it, but the kids are our future.  They learn to treat people by the way they are treated. We have to do a better job of raising our kids.


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


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Hope in a World Without Hope by John E. Stack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Filed under children's books, John Stack, life, Travel, writing

Authentic Man by John E. Stack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Happily Ever After by John E. Stack

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.


I don’t know if Calvin’s story will have a happy ending or maybe a real-life ending, but it will have an 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 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 seven 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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What a Day – Happy Birthday my Littlest Princess by John E. Stack

Today was a big day – a REALLY big Day. Today (Saturday) we celebrated my baby girl’s 5th birthday. Allie has grown up so much and we never knew whether we would see this day or not. I know that some get tired of hearing other people talk about their children and if that is you feel free to hit the delete key. Anyway, we had a busy day. It was predicted that we have thunder storms all day and when we got up it was raining. We had planned to have the party outside since the long range forecast did not mention rain, but things changed. We all prayed that things would clear before party time.

Allie is a Frozen fanatic so we had a Frozen birthday. It is all we have heard about since she saw the movie. For the last month she has told everyone that she talked to that she was having a Frozen party. We ended up having about 35 people, mostly adults. We had wall hangings of Anna, Elsa and Olaf. We had Pin the Nose on Olaf game. We had Frozen necklaces and Anna/Elsa centerpieces. And, we had a Frozen piñata filled with chocolate. Oh, and we were supposed to grill out.

Our prayers about the weather were answered. Just before noon it stopped raining and the skies cleared up. The humidity spiked but by party time it was really nice outside.

After about an hour we were mostly through with eating, but not quite ready for cupcakes. Suddenly, we had a visitor. My wife had arranged for Queen Elsa to stop by and spend some time with the girls. Allie screamed as soon as she saw who it was. The closer she came the more excited Allie got and the louder she got. Queen Elsa played games and made crowns and took lots of pictures with the girls.

We tried to get my grandson to join in but he didn’t like princesses. He wanted to make a crown, but there was no way he was going to be seen with a princess. He is almost 4. After they moved on to the next thing he took time to sit and make his own crown.

Elsa stayed about an hour and the party started to dwindle down. The excitement lingered for several more hours. Now we have cleanup and thank you notes. Yes, we still believe children should write thank you notes. This birthday will be one long remembered.

We received another blessing this week too. This past Saturday was the Bookmarks Festival in Winston-Salem, NC. The book that Allie helped me write, Olivia’s Sweet Adventure was released at the festival. Since that day she has read the book twice a day and carries it everywhere she goes.

Through all of this I’ve come to realize that life is not about things. Things break. Memories last forever. I think Allie stored a lot of treasures today.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Trip at the Zoo and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure (co-authored with Allie). These can be purchased from Second Wind Publishing or on Amazon.

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End of Summer by John E. Stack

It’s that time of year again, when parents begin to smile once more, students get anxious and teachers get overwhelmed with all that is going on. Summer is winding down and it is time to start getting up early again. This is true for both students and teachers. Sorry for those of you that must work year round.

Even though I teach, my summer did not end with me looking forward to school starting. I had other things on my mind.

“Take care of my little girl. I love you, sweetie.” After this was said, I watched the doctors wheel my little girl off to surgery. I felt like my heart just got ripped out and I was trusting the care of my child to the hands of someone I barely knew. The last time I watched her go to surgery she wasn’t quite mine. She was in foster care and she had a bowel blockage. That was the second surgery in so many months and she still hadn’t fully recovered from the first. And, we almost lost her.

This time it was a little different. With being born premature and a lot of medical problems, Allie had to have a feeding tube. It went in at around 2 weeks of age and now she is almost five. We had adopted her when she was two, so now things were different, more personal. The doctor had decided to remove it but before he had a chance, the balloon on it popped and the tube fell out. The hole in her tummy should have healed within a month, but did not. The gastric juices started to breakdown her skin and the site was always irritated, so it was time to do something. It was either wait-and-see what happens or surgery. Seeing that school was getting ready to start, we opted for surgery.

The morning of the surgery, we arrived a few minutes early. It was just Allie and I. My wife had to stay at home since we have 2 small children (3 months and 10 months) in foster care. Usually we face difficult times together. This time we were together, but 20 miles apart. In my mind this was not quite the same. I think I was more nervous than my little girl.

The doctor said the operation would last a little over an hour. At two hours I started to get a little anxious. I waited another 15 minutes and asked the receptionist to check for me. She said they had just moved her to recovery and I should be able to go back and be with her shortly. After three hours and lots of prayer I finally got to see my child again. I was pretty much a nervous wreck, but relieved it was over. About 30 minutes later she was wide awake and ready to leave, but were had to stay the night just to be sure that all went okay.

By the time we got to her room almost 6 hours had passed since we arrived at the hospital. Allie was thirsty and grumpily hungry. After a couple of hours the doctor said she could have liquids, so she munched out on a cherry popsicle and drank some apple juice. She finally settled down around midnight.

If you want a good rest, the hospital is not the place to hang out. They said they only came in every four hours but I feel I saw them much more than that. When the doctors made their rounds at six thirty, Allie was awake – fully. She told the doctor that she was hungry, so she got to order breakfast. She wanted bacon, eggs and grits (my southern girl) and a short time later she devoured them, along with some pretzels, chex mix, and a lot of pedelyte. She was ready to go home, but she wanted to eat lunch first. After a couple of hours in the hospital playroom the doctor informed us that we could leave as soon as the paperwork was complete. She had chicken strips for lunch and we left. That evening she was back to her 4 year old self.

For all my worrying and anxiety, it accomplished nothing. God had blessed us with her and I should have known that he would continue watching over her as he had so many times before. Allie is back to normal, eating and running and playing just as nothing had happened. But a part of her was missing, that little piece of plastic. It had been part of her life for almost five years and now it is gone, hopefully forever.

Now that her surgery is complete and life is back to normal, I can now look forward to starting a new year with a group of brand new eighth graders in the wonderful world of math. Allie is also excited – she starts pre-school next week.

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


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