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Friday, April 13, 2018

Metamorphosis


Spring has arrived . . . at least we think so, anyway. Mother Nature hasn’t quite made up her mind yet, but I figure it’s bound to happen sooner or later, right? Hopefully?

Birds. Flowers. Trees budding. Mowing the lawn. Mulch.

And Bugs!

Not a real fan am I. I know it’s a necessary evil. My niece, Nadine who is an entomologist, would argue that most bugs aren’t evil at all. Okay, I’ll give her that, but both of us can agree that some are downright distasteful if not destructive. Carpenter ants. Fleas. Ticks. Termites. Wasps. Flies. And on and on.

Some bugs are downright ugly, if not creepy.

Think about maggots . . . or not. White slimy wormy things. Nothing really cute about them. Kind of, well, gross! I think caterpillars are not only ugly but a bit creepy. They aren’t in the cute category. They’re fuzzy and have a bazillion legs. Again, just . . . gross!

But the interesting thing about maggots and caterpillars is that both of them begin as something and end up something else. Maggots are the larva of flies. In both cases, a nuisance, a pest and don’t serve a real purpose other than to bug us . . . pun intended. Caterpillars begin ugly and creepy, but end up as something quite beautiful . . . butterflies (moths, too, but we’ll focus on butterflies).

The process is Metamorphosis, which is a biological process by which an animal physically develops after birth or hatching, involving a conspicuous and relatively abrupt change in the animal's body structure through cell growth and differentiation. In other words, from one thing into another thing. (I can copy and paste as well as anyone.)

Maggots are ugly to begin with and end up as a nuisance and a pest. Caterpillars are ugly to begin with and end up delicate and beautiful.

I think sometimes each of us undergoes a kind of Metamorphosis. Perhaps, some of us should undergo a kind of Metamorphosis.

I think we’ve all known individuals who start out as something quite different from the individuals they are now. And it goes both ways: from not so desirable to desirable and from desirable to not so desirable. Much of it depends upon life events: illness; death; some life circumstance.

In my own case, I think my family and I- individually and as a family- changed quite a bit with the death of my son, Wil. For me, I don’t take things for granted as perhaps I once did. I view time and moments as precious commodities. Oddly, I believe I’ve become more hopeful and my faith has deepened. Not that we were ever far apart physically or emotionally, I think our family is even closer than it once was.

People can change. Each of us might experience our own personal Metamorphosis.

But my question to you is not if we change or even how we change or what the cause was or is for our own personal Metamorphosis. I want you to consider something quite different than the obvious path I could take you down.

The question(s) is this: when someone changes, especially from bad to good or undesirable to desirable- however you want to phrase it- how long do you hold onto the older version of that person? How long do you refuse to recognize the difference, the change, the Metamorphosis that has taken place in that individual? When exactly does that picture of that person change focus for you?

It seems to me that there are times we refuse to recognize that individuals can, do and should change. We keep that mental picture, that memory stuffed in the back of our mind . . . our heart much like we stuff an old photo into our wallet and we hang onto that image until, well, forever. We never really recognize that an individual underwent a personal Metamorphosis caused by one thing or another, both good and bad, and now, that person is changed. His or her thinking. His or her feeling. His or her values and beliefs and loves.

And perhaps the individual who was once desirable has, for one reason or another, become undesirable, or once was good and is now bad. Perhaps we focus too long and too much on what that person is now without realizing that once upon a time, he or she was once someone completely different- and if changed, perhaps that same individual can change back. Because change is never permanent. By very definition, change is dynamic, is active and not passive. And we can change too. Perhaps we should change and need to change. Perhaps. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I had the opportunity to be interviewed in advance of my new book, Caught in a Web, launching April 26, by Fiona Mcvie from Ireland. She asked some really interesting questions and I enjoyed myself. If you are interested, you can read it at https://wp.me/p3uv2y-7Km

And, I received the nicest review from Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer for Midwest Review:

If you are interested in getting a copy of Caught in a Web, in the thriller/suspense genre, it is now available for preorder at http://bit.ly/2GtdsXL . If you purchase your book prior to the publication date of April 26, 2018, you may use the promo code: PREORDER2018 to receive a 10% discount. I hope you check it out.

For those of you in the Fredericksburg, VA area, I will be selling and signing, Caught in a Web, April 28 Porter Library in Stafford from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
May 5 England Run Library in Stafford/Fredericksburg from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
May 12 Salem Church Library in Spotsy/Fredericksburg from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor


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

Friday, April 6, 2018

Walls


As a kid growing up out in the country pre-cellphone, pre-internet and all that, we had to rely on ourselves for fun . . . and mischief. Mostly fun, though.

I remember when it snowed we built forts and have snowball fights. My brother, Jim, who grew up to be an artist and an architect, built the best forts. Instead using snowballs the size of basketballs like my younger brother, Jeff, and I used, Jimmy would build up his wall with unpacked snow. It was impossible to knock over, unlike Jeff’s or my Walls that could be knocked over with a large ice chunk. Of course, Jeff and I would scream that it was unfair, but Jimmy would only laugh and volley ice chunk after ice chunk until our forts were only piles of, well, snow.

Walls have been around for ages, haven’t they?

There’s the Great Wall of China that was built to keep out the barbarians. Still stands today. Quite the architectural fete. I wonder if Jimmy was around to help supervise its erection. Nah, Jim is old, but not that old.

In the medieval ages, kings and lords and nobles not only had Walls, but a palace and kingdom to go with it! The Walls came complete with a moat. The idea was that the serfs or peasants would work out in the fields, give some of their produce to the king or lord, and when “the bad guys” came, the peasants would flee to the kingdom and behind the Walls for protection. Slick system.

And Walls are used not only against invaders and such, sometimes Mother Nature. When rivers rise, sandbags are used to help protect homes and businesses. Sometimes effectively, sometimes much like the snow forts my younger brother and I made back then.

Yes, Walls can be used for protection. Throughout history, it happened time and again for one reason or another. But man is industrious. Build a Wall, we find another way, a different way. Sometimes under, sometimes over, sometimes around, sometimes through. And eventually, the Wall ceases to be effective. Sometimes we look at it and think, “Why?”

Sometimes we erect our own Walls, don’t we?

To keep out those who might hurt or harm us. To keep out those who might hold up a mirror to our soul, our heart, and say, “Take a long look!” Sometimes . . . most of the time, we don’t want to take a look all that closely at our words, our thoughts, our actions.

And the funny thing about Walls, as much as they keep people and things out, they also keep things in. Feelings. Words that go unspoken. Something to hide behind so we don’t have to admit or face that which we fear the most or that which we don’t want to hear.

Perhaps it’s time to consider that by building a Wall, we hurt others. Sometimes by building a Wall, those who need us most can’t reach us, can’t help us.

And perhaps, we need to consider that by building a Wall, we hurt ourselves. Sometimes by building a wall, we prevent the very help we seek, the comfort that we long for, that which we need. Ultimately, by building a Wall, we prevent love and caring and comfort from ever reaching us.

Paul Simon wrote a song, I Am A Rock that contained the lyrics:

            I've built walls
A fortress, steep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship
Friendship causes pain.
It's laughter and it's loving I disdain.
I am a rock
I am an island

But who are we kidding? Certainly no one who cares about us. Certainly no one who dares to see the beauty in us. Certainly no one who braves being pushed away because of concern and compassion.

So let us consider that maybe, perhaps, quite possibly, it is time to remove the Wall that hides our heart and our soul. Perhaps we need to consider tearing it down never to be built again. Yes, there is the danger of someone taking advantage, the danger of someone hurting, some unwanted invader like in the old days.

But . . .

There is always the possibility of finding someone out there special who makes us feel whole, who helps us discover who we are and what we’re worth. Perhaps consider tearing down the Wall we built and allow those interested and curious to invest their time, their energy and their love in us, for us. Perhaps. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I had the opportunity to be interviewed in advance of my new book, Caught in a Web, launching April 26, by Fiona Mcvie from Ireland. She asked some really interesting questions and I enjoyed myself. If you are interested, you can read it at https://wp.me/p3uv2y-7Km

And, I received the nicest review from Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer for Midwest Review:

Caught in a Web is a detective piece revolving around drugs, gangs, and deception; and considers the investigations and actions of sheriff detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor, and Paul Eiselmann, who find themselves in over their heads.

It should be noted that the story opens with violence against teens. Detective story enthusiasts who are queasy about the prospect of drugs, teens, and death might wish to look elsewhere, because no punches are pulled in the making of Caught in a Web. That said, the descriptions are in keeping with the serious events and in no way are over-dramatized or over-embellished.

As the bodies of middle school and high school kids who have overdosed mount, the race is on to quash a violent gang from El Salvador and, specifically, gang leader Ricardo Fuentes, who is sent to find out what gang is cutting in on their territory. He also harbors a motive for personal revenge that involves locating and killing fifteen-year-old George Tokay, who murdered his cousin.

Having multiple subplots proffers a level of complexity not usually seen in detective stories. Characters often question if they are doing the right thing, are often caught between cops and bad guys, and teens explore their emotions and relationships against the backdrop of threats and murders.

As the investigators review relationships, affairs, and threats, they find themselves unraveling an ever-increasing web of deception as readers are carried into a thrilling underworld of gang violence and teen involvements which gradually lead to a resolution where characters may fudge on honesty, but tie up loose ends.

Characters are many, but are well-drawn; the action offers just the right blend of tension and intrigue; and detective story enthusiasts will especially relish the level of emotional inquiry which makes the characters both human and believable.

The result is an involving detective piece that probes the worlds of teens and gang members with an equal attention to precise, staccato details that flow smoothly into a story that creates a satisfying conclusion to all conundrums.

If you are interested in getting a copy of Caught in a Web, in the thriller/suspense genre, it is now available for preorder at http://bit.ly/2GtdsXL  . If you purchase your book prior to the publication date of April 26, 2018, you may use the promo code: PREORDER2018 to receive a 10% discount. I hope you check it out.

Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor


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

Friday, March 23, 2018

On Giving


One of my favorite books of all time is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It was first published in 1964 and like many writers, he had trouble getting it published. I’ve given this book away as graduation presents because I think the message, or rather messages, is so powerful. I find myself referring back to it often and this morning in particular.

The story is about an apple tree and a boy. They develop a relationship and while the tree is very "giving”, the boy takes: as a teenager, then as a man, and finally, as an elderly man.

At first the boy plays with the tree, climbing the trunk and swinging from its branches. He even carves "Me + T (Tree)" into the bark and eats the apples. Then like most of us, kids in particular, the boy grows older and spends less time with the tree and tends to visit it only when he wants something. As the boy gets older, the tree continues to give: money (from her apples), a house (from her branches), and a boat (from her trunk). And it should be noted that at each stage of the boy’s life, "the Tree was happy".

However as you progress towards the end of the book, resentment develops on the part of the boy and on the part of the tree. At the very end, only a stump remains. The boy returns as a tired old man. The tree tells him she is sad because she cannot provide him shade, apples, or anything else like it was able to in the past. The boy (now the old man) tells the tree that all he wants is "a quiet place to sit and rest." So the tree gives once more, a final time, and "the tree was happy".

At its simplest, The Giving Tree is about giving and taking because if one gives, another takes. You see, in order for someone to give, someone else has to receive it (take it). Can’t work anyway else, right?

And if we give, we can do so with a heart full of love and compassion and caring and . . . Or, we can do so reluctantly or expecting something in return, which then muddies the giving. The reasons become tainted and the receiver (taker) can become resentful. This is especially so if there are strings attached to the giving.

And if the taker is less than grateful and does not express gratitude to the giver, then the giver becomes less inclined to give in the future, especially to the taker who is less than loving in response to the giver.

So what does all of this mean? What does all of this have to do with you and with me?

As a parent, as a teacher, even as a human being with any sort of heart at all, we give! That’s what we do! It’s in our job description and I would suggest that we became parents or teachers, even developed as a fully functioning human being, because it is in our nature to give. As I said, it’s something we do!

And each of us from time to time takes. Gifts. Suggestions. Orders. Reprimands. Obviously, we enjoy some, while the others . . . not so much.

Many times the giving isn’t “a something” like an object, like a present. But rather, the give of love, of kindness, of care, of concern. Sometimes it is a touch, a smile, a wink. And how we receive it (take it) means so much to the giver. And as a giver, sometimes we realize that in a moment of vulnerability, of hurt, the receiver isn’t all that ready to receive it properly, but in the course of time, in the course of a softening of the heart, or as my mom would say, “When the dust settles,” there will be the proper receiving of the gift from the giver.

So don’t give up! Don’t despair.

In time, just like the little boy who grew into the old man, he finally recognized and realized the value of the tree. It took time. There was some resentment on the part of the tree. But in the end, like an old friend in the passing of time, both the giver and the taker, can and will remain friends. Bound to happen, I guess. Because we’ve all been there. Each of us at one time or another. Each of us. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I had the opportunity to be interviewed in advance of my new book, Caught in a Web, launching April 26, by Fiona Mcvie from Ireland. She asked some really interesting questions and I enjoyed myself. If you are interested, you can read it at https://wp.me/p3uv2y-7Km

If you are interested in getting a copy of Caught in a Web, in the thriller/suspense genre, it is now available for preorder at http://bit.ly/2GtdsXL . If you purchase your book prior to the publication date of April 26, 2018, you may use the promo code: PREORDER2018 to receive a 10% discount. I hope you check it out.

Here is what it is about:

The bodies of high school and middle school kids are found dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. The drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors and the Milwaukee Metro area is controlled by MS-13, a violent gang originating from El Salvador. Ricardo Fuentes is sent from Chicago to Waukesha to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay, who had killed his cousin the previous summer.

Detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else, especially George or members of his family. The three detectives discover the ring has its roots in a high school among the students and staff.

Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Friday, March 16, 2018

All The More Real



Back in the late 60’s and very early 70’s, my generation protested the Vietnam War. Sit-ins, walk outs, marches and rallies, all of it happened over radio and TV. Perhaps it was television that brought it all home to us.

I remember watching the six o’clock news at dinner and war footage would be presented. We’d see soldiers in bloody bandages. Sometimes there would be injured soldiers carried by stretcher with an IV drip inserted. Even more rare were scenes of body bags. After a while those scenes are cut out altogether.

When I turned eighteen in November of my senior year, we were assigned a draft number. Mine was 25, the same as my birth date. That year, the draft went all the way into the 200’s or so. My number 25 meant, ‘Pack your bags, Buddy!’ Fortunately, I ended up 4F for allergies and asthma, so I never had to serve. I had one or two acquaintances move to Canada. Several more died in combat. My brother, Jim, served in the Air Force, did a year’s hitch (as they called it) and fortunately for us, he came home in one piece.

This past Wednesday, the anniversary of the Stoneman-Douglas High School shooting, we observed a remembrance and memorial for the seventeen victims who died due to gun violence. About fifty kids planned it, what they wanted to do and how. Besides banners and wearing Stoneman-Douglas school colors, there was a PowerPoint scroll and every minute of the seventeen minutes we observed, a name, the age and a short bio on each of the victims was read over the PA.

Several things happened. It was reported that, for the most part, there was silence throughout the building. Kids were intent on watching, listening and feeling. Kids and staff members were emotionally invested and moved. There were tears. Of the seventeen kids who read the names, there were some who had to be consoled and reassured by the others waiting in line for their part because more than a few had broken down. And the staff felt it.

There were no chants or protests. Only four kids walked out of the building and they chose to sit on a bench just outside the door and they did so during the one minute of silence at 10:00 a.m.

But it was the comments kids and staff members made after that brought it home for me. Most talked about the ages of the kids: fourteen- and fifteen-year-old kids. The two kids who died shielding others. The three adults who sacrificed themselves in order to save kids.

What made it All The More Real were the pictures of the victims- kids and adults- linked with their names, their ages and the little information we had about them.

And the new reality for the families of those victims, what will make it All The More Real for them will be the empty chair at Thanksgiving and Christmas, the empty chair at breakfast and dinner, the non-celebration of a birthday or anniversary, the empty bed at night. The house and home feeling quieter somehow.

What will make it All The More Real for those families will be that there will be no more “I love you!” and no more embraces. Gone.

Gone before, in some cases- most cases- an opportunity to live out dreams, to experience wonder and experience surprise and joy. Gone.

Our kids chose to give their memorial to the seventeen victims at the end of the day because, in their words, all of us . . . you and I . . . came to school and get to leave at the end of the day, while those seventeen victims came to school and never got to leave, to go back home, to live. All The More Real, isn’t it? Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I had the opportunity to be interviewed in advance of my new book, Caught in a Web, launching April 26, by Fiona Mcvie from Ireland. She asked some really interesting questions and I enjoyed myself. If you are interested, you can read it at https://wp.me/p3uv2y-7Km

If you are interested in getting a copy of Caught in a Web, in the thriller/suspense genre, it is now available for preorder at http://bit.ly/2GtdsXL . If you purchase your book prior to the publication date of April 26, 2018, you may use the promo code: PREORDER2018 to receive a 10% discount. I hope you check it out.

Here is what it is about:

The bodies of high school and middle school kids are found dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. The drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors and the Milwaukee Metro area is controlled by MS-13, a violent gang originating from El Salvador. Ricardo Fuentes is sent from Chicago to Waukesha to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay, who had killed his cousin the previous summer.

Detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else, especially George or members of his family. The three detectives discover the ring has its roots in a high school among the students and staff.

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 /