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Friday, September 8, 2017

The Little Man



I am a sucker for the underdog. The kid or the adult who has it all stacked against him or her, who doesn’t seem to have a chance to win or succeed, no matter however you define it. Except for, perhaps, his or her own belief in him or herself. Sometimes that belief is all that is needed.

It seems like when I . . . we . . . come across such a story, we cheer at the end when it turns out “just the way it should.” And I think you all know what I mean by that.

When I was working on Stolen Lives, the first book in my trilogy, I had thought about killing off one of my favorite characters. He was a hero. He saved his friends and took a bullet doing so. Conventional wisdom is to “kill off your darlings” as they say, and this character would become most everyone’s favorite according to many of the reviews after it had been published. As I wrote that chapter however, I had bounced the idea off my daughter, Emily, and she emphatically told me not to. I reminded her that life doesn’t always have a Disney version of “and everyone lived happily ever after.” She leaned forward, pointed a finger at me and said, “Well, it ought to.”

Well, okay then . . .

We know of the Biblical story of David and Goliath. The big brute was chosen to represent his tribe and when no one stepped forward to fight him, a skinny, scrawny kid with a slingshot stepped forward to do so. We know how that ended.

One recent Saturday, I had the TV tuned to the NFL network and there was a profile of Doug Flutie on at the time. Originally, I had it on as background noise while I worked on something around the house. But then, I started to pay attention.

Flutie was a college quarterback who stood five foot nine inches. For a quarterback, that’s tiny. For a quarterback at a major college or near major college, that’s Smurf-like, to quote Jim McMahon. A college football game took place between the Boston College Eagles and the University of Miami Hurricanes on November 23, 1984 that later became known as the Hail Flutie Game.

This was a big game between the #10 Boston College Eagles and the #12 Miami Hurricanes who were coached by Jimmy Johnson. Boston College was looked down upon because it didn’t have the notoriety of Miami. There were several milestones that occurred in this game. The Hurricanes' Bernie Kosar passed for a school-record 447 yards. Miami running back Melvin Bratton ran for four touchdowns. And tiny Doug Flutie passed for 472 yards and four touchdowns and became the first collegiate quarterback ever to surpass 10,000 yards passing in a college career.

But the fireworks took place towards the end of the game.

In the final seconds, Dough Flutie threw a Hail Mary to wide receiver Gerard Phelan to give Boston College the win. At the time, Miami was the defending national champion and the game was played at the Miami Orange Bowl.

A real David and Goliath moment.

The world of sports has many such stories and we celebrate them. Everyday life also gives us stories as well.

Mother Teresa. Helen Keller. Eleanor Roosevelt. Gandhi. Rosa Parks.

And we know of students who have succeeded despite the odds. Two of my former students, Khalid Maxie and Gabino Baez come to mind. I’ve written about them in the past. Both overcame considerable odds of poverty, gangs, and broken families to not only graduate high school, but go on to post-secondary education and beyond. But there are many others.

Sometimes all the underdog needs is a word of encouragement. Sometimes, just an opportunity. Sometimes, the words, “You can do this!” or sometimes, an arm around the shoulder and the message, “I’ve got your back.” It doesn’t take much effort on our part, not in comparison to the underdog. It doesn’t extend us much. But the effects of a word of encouragement, a kind word, our presence lasts longer than we might. Think of it as one more ripple in a pond forever extending outwards. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I finished my fifth work of thriller/suspense fiction, Caught in a Web and I’ll keep you posted as to when it will be published. While we wait, I am busy having fun with my sixth, Spiral Into Darkness, and I’m more than 66,000 words and 264 pages into it.

Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author                               

Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI/                         

If you like Thriller/Suspense fiction, check out my novels:

Available on Amazon for .99 the Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they don’t know one another, the lives of FBI Agent Kelliher and two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out. http://bit.ly/Taking-Lives-JLewis      

Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy:
Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved. http://bit.ly/Stolen-Lives-JLewis      

Shattered Lives, Book Two of the Lives Trilogy:
A 14 year old boy stands in the kitchen pointing a gun at his uncle. There are many reasons for him to pull the trigger. Mainly, he had started it all. http://bit.ly/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis      

Splintered Lives, Book Three of the Lives Trilogy:
A 14 year old boy is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. High up on an Arizona mesa, he faces three desperate and dangerous men in hopes of saving his father and his brothers. http://bit.ly/Splintered-Lives-J-Lewis

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Dot



I saw this posted on Facebook and it struck me as truth. It went like this . . .

On the first day of class, a professor went to an overhead projector and placed a piece of white paper on it. The paper also had a black dot. The students were to write or speak about what it was they observed. No other explanation or direction. Just to write or speak about what it was they observed.

I would like you to stop reading this post and try it for yourself. I’ll wait . . .

You can either do this exercise yourself or ask someone else to speak or write about what they observe.

Chances are you speak more about The Dot. You draw parallels to this. You come up with what The Dot might represent. But all in all, there is very little conversation, very little comment on the white part of the sheet of paper. Almost none, if any.

Hmmm . . .

Human nature, I guess. The way our minds work. We tend to look more closely at the speck, the smallest portion of the white sheet of paper, The Dot. The Dot consumes our thoughts, our energy, and our time.

I’m heading into my 41st year in education and I say that proudly. There is no other profession I desire to be a part of. There are no other professionals I’d rather rub elbows with. I love the kids. I love the challenges. I love the goofiness of youth (and my own, I dare say). I also know I’m on the backside of that mountain and the thought saddens me. I don’t fear it, no, not really. It’s just that I love what I do and with whom I do it with.

At the end of each year, I evaluate portions of my staff. These evaluations are based upon observations, conversations, phone calls- you name it. And each year, the portion of my staff I am responsible for come to my office for our conversation. And it doesn’t matter how gently I word something. It doesn’t matter how many superlatives I pack into the evaluation. I recognize that those who visit with me at the end of the year are anxious, if not scared.

And I am no less anxious and no less scared, because each year for forty years, and one more at the end of this year, I will have an evaluation. And no matter how many superlatives (hopefully there will be one or two) my supervisor packs into my evaluation, my teachers who see me, and I with my supervisor, share the same feeling.

We will focus on The Dot. That one comment or two that is less than superlative, less than positive, something for each of us to work on. The Dot. The smallest part, the speck on the white sheet of paper, and that will be their . . . and my . . . focus as they, and I, get up to leave the end of year conversation. Always The Dot. Always.

 We focus our thoughts, our energy, and invest our time and perhaps pay a portion of our soul to The Dot, the smallest part, the most insignificant portion of our lives.

The wrong someone did to us. The real or imagined affront. The careless word. The thoughtless action.

Sometimes The Dot represents something we did or said, something we didn’t do or didn’t say long ago. Time has passed. There have been so many other positive memories. There have been so many wonderful people who have entered, and sometimes left, our lives. Yet, we spend an inordinate amount of time on The Dot of long ago . . . or recently ago . . . and fail to recognize that we are not that person we once were. And neither is that person who might have wronged us.

We fail to realize that each morning we receive a gift. The gift of a Do Over (a former post). And we fail to realize that each evening we receive another gift. The gift of Reflection where we can examine what we’ve done and how we did it and resolve to try again. To do better.

So perhaps, it is better to only glance at The Dot and spend more time on the whole other portion. To recognize that we have done good, that we’ve done well, that we will do good. And recognize that mistakes happen because we’re only human. It’s in our DNA. And, what is a mistake exactly, but an opportunity to pick ourselves up, to strive to do better next time, and smile while we do it. I’d rather that than stress, and worry, and be anxious. Really. I think we all might rather that. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I finished my fifth work of thriller/suspense fiction, Caught in a Web and I’ll keep you posted as to when it will be published. While we wait, I am busy having fun with my sixth, Spiral Into Darkness, and I’m more than 59,000 words and 251 pages into it.

Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author                              

Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI/                        

If you like Thriller/Suspense fiction, check out my novels:

Available on Amazon for .99 the Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they don’t know one another, the lives of FBI Agent Kelliher and two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out. http://bit.ly/Taking-Lives-JLewis     

Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy:
Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved. http://bit.ly/Stolen-Lives-JLewis     

 Shattered Lives, Book Two of the Lives Trilogy:
A 14 year old boy stands in the kitchen pointing a gun at his uncle. There are many reasons for him to pull the trigger. Mainly, he had started it all. http://bit.ly/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis     

Splintered Lives, Book Three of the Lives Trilogy:
A 14 year old boy is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. High up on an Arizona mesa, he faces three desperate and dangerous men in hopes of saving his father and his brothers. http://bit.ly/Splintered-Lives-J-Lewis

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Trying To Understand



Those of you who read my writing know I have some pretty strong beliefs. These beliefs are based upon my core values and spring from how I was raised as well as from individuals who have been in my life over time. Some of these individuals have had an immediate impact on my life and on my heart and soul, while others impacted me in many small ways over time.

I think of these latter folks as I do a crock pot.

In the morning, we load the meat and other ingredients into the pot, turn it on and several hours later, we have a delicious meal.

I think each of us can point to one or two individuals who have impacted us in the same way. Not right away, but over time. Not necessarily in one big, grand way, but in several and perhaps many small ways until we look at ourselves in the mirror and come to the conclusion that we’ve changed. Hopefully, for the better.

I don’t understand, I can’t comprehend, and therefore I can’t explain what took place this past weekend in Charlottesville, VA, much less explain why it took place. Just can’t.

I’ve always believed in the innate goodness of mankind. I’ve always believed that each of us has a capacity for good. Treating others respectfully, kindly, gently and with love, I believe, is our first inclination as a human race.

In my writing, I’ve urged you- the reader- to see beyond your own situation and circumstance and make a positive difference in the lives of others. Each of us has that capacity and each of us has hundreds of opportunities in the course of a week in which to do so.

I’ve always believed that love and kindness can and will overcome hate and meanness. I honestly believe that with my whole heart, mind and soul. I believe our first inclination is to love, to bring peace, to be gentle, to be friendly, to be kind. Our first inclination and hopefully, our only inclination. I HAVE to believe that . . . we HAVE to believe that because if we don’t, the alternative is too horrible to consider.

So when I turned on the news, saw Facebook posts, and videos and Tweets, and hear speeches, I am left Trying To Understand.

At first, I was in shock and watched in disbelief. And then, I had questions . . .

How is it that such a large group can chant ugly slogans intended to intimidate and display hatred and inflict pain? How is it that men and women of all ages would join in and think that’s okay? How is it possible for a human being essentially made up of the same molecules, tissue and fluid as another feels and believes they are somehow superior to another based upon the color of one’s skin, one’s religion, one’s ethnicity?

Trying To Understand, but I just don’t get it. I just don’t.

And how is it that so many silently agree with them? Why isn’t there more outrage? Why is it condoned at the highest levels?

I mean, wars were fought against this belief. Brave men and women died fighting against the very action, the very words, the very beliefs espoused this past weekend in Charlottesville, VA and now, fifty, sixty, seventy years later, it’s suddenly okay? How is this possible? How?

Did we somehow forget D-Day, Pearl Harbor, Dunkirk, Normandy, Auschwitz, Buchenwald, the Warsaw Ghetto, Anne Frank, Martin Luther King, Malala Yousafzai, Mother Teresa and more currently, Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan? Did we somehow forget all the blood that was shed? All the lives that were lost? All the bodies that have been maimed and minds damaged? Did we somehow forget the Selma March, the I-Have-A-Dream speech, the little lady who refused to sit in the back of the bus, and the three civil rights workers murdered and buried in a dump?

Trying To Understand, but I just don’t get it. I just don’t.

I worry for my daughters, Hannah and Emily, and the students that will walk through our doors in two weeks. I worry about what kind of world we are leaving for them, knowing that I can’t be present 24-7 to protect them. I worry for their children and for children to come.

And what I find truly scary is that some of those same men and women who marched in Charlottesville, VA will go back to work in society: as bankers, as doctors and nurses, as loan officers, as teachers, as cops and soldiers, as bakers, and store owners. I find that truly scary because these same folks harbor the ugliness of last weekend and that their hearts, their minds and their souls have not changed to fit in with society. But like a smoldering fire ready to spark and burn and rage, they are there. Waiting. Plotting. Planning. And worst of all, hating and thinking of themselves as somehow superior. These same folks who attend church and pray to the same God I pray to. Kind of scary. Really scary. Something to think about . . .

Please, please, Live Your Life, and Make A Positive Difference!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Lessons From Stella



I wrote a post a while ago about our two dogs, Bailey and Stella. Bailey, our Golden Retriever, is up in age now and is the undisputed matriarch of our family. She was a sort of rescue dog. Shy, timid to the point where sudden movements or noise would send her cowering and shaking to a corner somewhere. Didn’t bark or make any noise for the first month or so. So gentle, though. Loving and while she barks at doorbells or when the garage door opens, she would rather lick you to death than bite you.

Stella, on the other hand . . .

We don’t know what breed she is exactly. Has a bit of Beagle in her, maybe some Lab, but she’s on the short, small side and feisty. Oh, is she feisty!

Some guy, at some point in her short history, must have been abusive. When we first got her from a rescue site, all I would get from her was a growl or a bark. I would enter the room and she would either bark or more likely growl, and then leave. Wherever I was, Stella wasn’t. I could offer her food and the only way she’d take it would be if I placed it on the ground. It’s been two years and Stella will still not let me put a leash on her. That’s problematic for a whole host of reasons!

It’s been a little over two years now and there have been some changes.

On a good day, Stella will take food from my hand. At night, if Kim, Emily or Hannah are around, she will actually let me pet her, but I have to do it slowly and gently, and she always has to have an eye on me. Always. The trust is fragile at best.

Lately, at about nine each night, Stella bounces in front of Kim for a nightly walk. After, she comes into the family room, catches my eye and begins to bark at me. Not at Kim. Not at Hannah. Not at Emily. At me.

But . . .

Her tail wags. She gets down in a “pounce-ready” position and if I don’t move, she continues to bark.

Bailey comes to my rescue and positions herself between the two of us, protectively. Kind of unsettling, if you think about it.

Many times, I’ll get off the couch and sit on the floor and begin petting Bailey. When I do, Stella comes around, growls a bit, maybe barks a little, but I get to pet her too.

When it’s time for bed, either Kim or I will say, “Let’s go to bed!” and Stella will scramble up the stairs to our bedroom and enter her cage and lay down. Generally, I lay down on the floor and I pet her, talk quietly to her, and I think, all is well. We’re getting there . . .

Only to wake up the following morning and Stella is right back to her cranky, frightened self and she greets me with a bark or a growl or both. So, we start over. And it’s been two years!

Lessons From Stella . . .

Stella is kind of like that one kid who sits in the back of a classroom. Belligerent, maybe a bit hostile. Maybe that kid who is quiet, who won’t raise a hand to volunteer an answer. That kid, who most certainly won’t ask a question.

Stella is kind of like that one kid who walks down the hallway and when greeted, might but probably won’t, acknowledge you. Maybe pretend not to hear you. Maybe even glare at you.

Stella is kind of like that one kid who won’t put away the cell when you ask the class to do so. Instead, escapes with it . . . from you, from others, from whatever frightens him or her, from whatever pain might be in his or her life.

Stella is kind of like that one kid who wants desperately to take that bit of food, that bit of knowledge, that bit of kindness from your hand, but is so afraid to do so because it might be withdrawn as it was in the past, or because the hand might hurt, or mostly, because it shows his or her vulnerability and perceived weakness.

Stella is kind of like that one kid who will warm up to you one day and not talk to you the next. Who is friendly and might even smile one minute and in the next, might disrespect and defy you.

Stella is kind of like that one kid . . .

And as easy as it would be to ignore and give up on Stella . . . or that one kid . . . we dare not, because in the end, I . . . we . . . might be all Stella or that one kid has. As easy as it would be to write that referral or to absolutely lose our temper and use all those educated, sarcastic, and hurtful words on him or her, or Stella, we can’t, because that is where Stella and that one kid came from and goes home to each afternoon, each night.

So, each morning, like I do with Stella . . . like we do with that one kid . . . we begin again. We start over. Like I do with Stella . . . like we do with that one kid . . . we start over in the hope that we can break through the facade, remove the mask, and have a real, honest relationship.

That’s the Lesson From Stella.

To never give up. To never give in. No matter how hard it might be, no matter how little time we might have, to let Stella . . . to let that one kid . . . know we’re there, we’re ready. That no matter what, we’ll be kind instead of mean. We’ll be gentle instead of hurtful. We’ll accept instead of reject. Each day. Each morning (and afternoon and evening). Each classroom (and family room). Stella, and that one kid. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I finished my fifth work of thriller/suspense fiction, Caught in a Web and I’ll keep you posted as to when it will be published. While we wait, I am busy having fun with my sixth, Spiral Into Darkness, and I’m more than 49,000 words into it.

Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author                             

Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI/                      

If you like Thriller/Suspense fiction, check out my novels:

Available on Amazon for .99 the Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they don’t know one another, the lives of FBI Agent Kelliher and two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out. http://bit.ly/Taking-Lives-JLewis    

Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy:
Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved. http://bit.ly/Stolen-Lives-JLewis    

 Shattered Lives, Book Two of the Lives Trilogy:
A 14 year old boy stands in the kitchen pointing a gun at his uncle. There are many reasons for him to pull the trigger. Mainly, he had started it all. http://bit.ly/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis    

Splintered Lives, Book Three of the Lives Trilogy:
A 14 year old boy is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. High up on an Arizona mesa, he faces three desperate and dangerous men in hopes of saving his father and his brothers. http://bit.ly/Splintered-Lives-J-Lewis