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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Roots



Growing up on the river, we had many trees along the water’s edge, along with a hedgerow. There were four or so willow trees that bordered our yard with our neighbor’s yard. I remember them being tall and round and no way were they climbable. No way!

Not only were their trunks tall and round, but their Roots, long and thick reached out both above and below the ground. Playing there, sometimes we’d trip and fall, but we’d get back up and keep on playing whatever game it was at the time.

I had read somewhere that Roots of trees have approximately the same reach below (or sometimes above) ground as a tree’s foliage. Judging by the width and towering height of those trees by the river, I would say their Roots were long and deep.

Zak Brown has a song titled, “Roots.” Not surprisingly, the song talks about growing up in a small town surrounded by family and friends and familiar things. Trucks and fried chicken. Kids running barefoot. Chores. A beer or two. A lot of songs like that in country music. Honestly, I don’t tire of them. Each a little different both in tune and perspective.

One lyric strikes a chord in me each time I hear it: “. . . I wouldn't change a thing; It made the man I am today . . .”

Kim, Emily and I just returned from a small eleven day vacation to Wisconsin, and I can honestly say it was all about Roots.

We visited with Kim’s sister, Brenda and her husband, Mark. We traveled to spend two nights with my brother, Jim and his wife, Laurie. This was especially important to me because Jim had open heart surgery and I don’t nearly get to spend enough time with him. He looked great. He had his normal wry humor and was his old funny and sarcastic self. I miss him.

We traveled to The Dells. Anyone from a tri-state area knows The Dells. A great place to buy Carmel Apples and other small gifts and build upon memories. We visited the college Kim and I graduated from and found that it got bigger. Neither of us recognized some of the buildings.

Next stop, the cottage in Northern Wisconsin. It, too, had changed. It was always one of our favorite places to spend time. A bonfire and conversation filled with laughter and reminiscence. Rides in the boat and the ATV. It was a place our son, Wil, enjoyed, which was why we spent the 11th and 12th there.

From there, we spent two nights with Kim’s parents, who I am as close to as if they were my own. We visited one of my other brothers, Jack and his wife. A nice afternoon and dinner with them. And on our way to spend our final day and evening with dear friends, we stopped by the gravesite of my mom and dad. Buried side by side. A fairly unremarkable stone for each. Kind of plain, really. The way they had wanted it.

And as always, time ran out and we had to come back home. Yet, we still have our memories and our Roots have been revisited and renewed. Strengthened, somehow, even in some small way.
And I can hear Zak singing in the background as I write this, “. . . I wouldn't change a thing:
It made the man I am today . . .” Perhaps your Roots do the same for you. 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.

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

Saturday, July 8, 2017

It's For Wil



On July 12 it will be three years since our son, Wil, was shot and killed as he innocently walked down a street in Chicago. I’m not going to rehash it all. If you are curious and want to know the situation and circumstances, I’ve written several posts: “Justice Weeps” and “Our Own Terrible Horrible Day” are the two most recent.

As I’ve written in previous posts, my family and I don’t want pity. We recognize July 12 in our own way, quietly and without much fanfare. It’s the way Wil would have wanted it.

But I do have a favor to ask . . .

Wil was a spontaneous guy. He was fun-loving and good-hearted. Certainly he made his mistakes along the way, just like each of us. We found out at the visitation and at his service how he affected others’ lives in a positive way.

So here is what I would like you to do . . .

It is simple, really. On July 12, I ask you to do some act of random kindness for someone. The person can be known or unknown to you. For examples: while in a line at a fast food restaurant, you could pay for the meal for the guy behind you. When asked why, simply say, “It’s For Wil.” You can add however much of his story as you like or nothing at all. Truly up to you.

Buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks for someone. Buy a donut at Dunkin Donuts for someone. Buy a bouquet of flowers and hand them out one by one to random people or give someone the whole bunch. Whip up a batch of brownies for a neighbor. Text a friend who hasn’t heard from you in a while or send someone an email who hasn’t heard from you. And please, each time, simply say, “It’s For Wil.”

Or not. Don’t have to say anything at all. But do something, some act of random kindness on behalf of Wil.

There are folks who read this column from the USA, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and India along with other countries in the world. This column is read by approximately 120 people a day, sometimes more and sometimes less. Can you imagine what might happen if all of you and all of those who read Simple Thoughts do something kind for someone randomly on July 12? Can you imagine what the outpouring of the gift of love and kindness might do for all those lives we might touch?

And if you care to, stick a note in the comment section of the post. Give me your first name and your city and country and let me know what you did. I’d love to hear how it turned out for you.

May your gift of kindness touch a life in a positive way. May your gift of kindness touch your life in a positive way. And on behalf of my family, I thank you for this consideration. For Wil. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference! God Bless!

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.

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:
Six men escaped and are out for revenge. The boys, recently freed from captivity, are in danger and so are their families, but they don’t know it. The FBI has no clues, no leads, and nothing to go on and because of that, cannot protect them. http://bit.ly/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis

Splintered Lives, Book Three of the Lives Trilogy:
It began in Arizona with death and it ends in Arizona in death. A 14 year old boy has a price on his head, but he and his family don’t know it. Their family vacation turns into a trip to hell. Out gunned and outnumbered, can this boy protect his father and brothers? Without knowing who these men are? Or how many there are? Or when they might come for him? http://bit.ly/Splintered-Lives-J-Lewis 

Friday, June 30, 2017

A Little More Homework



While Leo Buscaglia was alive, he told a humorous story about his childhood at the dinner table. Each night, he and his three brothers were expected to share something they had learned that day.

He recalls going to the encyclopedia just before going to the table, opening the book randomly and finding the population of Nepal. Joyous, his father told Leo to get the encyclopedia and the family had a discussion about Nepal, the people, the altitude, and, well, all things Nepal.

I don’t do the story justice, but the video of him telling the story still brings me a smile. What he and his older siblings thought was a waste of time was a memory Buscaglia carried with him late into adulthood. The idea was that there is nothing too small to be learned. And anything can be learned and turned into joy if one allows it to happen.

This past week, my school district brought in John Antonetti, author of “17,000 Classroom Visits Can’t Be Wrong” among other books, and who calls himself, “a learner.” Over 500 of us worked on ways to reach kids, teach kids, and help kids to think. There were no magic formulas. He didn’t wave a wand like Harry Potter and do magic.

Well . . .

Actually, there was magic.

There were teachers and school administrators and district administrators, some older and quite experienced, others newer to the classroom and less experienced. No matter, he gave us a spark. Perhaps more than a spark. In some of us, perhaps many of us, he helped kindle a raging wild fire.  

He helped us see, once again, why we entered the profession in the first place. He helped us see that kids really need us, or rather, we need the kids. Honestly!

The final day, John told us the story of Kevin. A poor kid whose mother was dying of cancer. The day following the day he and Kevin connected in a magical moment, he never came back to the school where John taught. His mother had died over the holiday weekend and he and his brother were split up between relatives and John never saw him again.

Until about twenty years later.

Kevin recognized John. At first John had no idea who he was. I have to admit that happens to me. I mean, I’ve been in education for forty years and that’s a lot of kids, so I can understand John not recognizing a kid. I get that.

But Kevin recognized John. Kevin was a kid who had a disability, but was later given the designation of gifted. That hit both my wife, Kim, and me. Our son was similarly classified. Wil had a learning disability- reading and math, but was also gifted- art. It was art, particularly photography, where Wil thrived.

Kevin told John that he had become a mechanic- a lead mechanic for a major company we all know. And Kevin thanked John for helping him get there. You see, there were days when John would bring random things, dump them on a desk, and tell kids to make something from them. Kevin explained that it was exactly what mechanics do. And Kevin was thankful that John helped him discover that Kevin could do that.

Again, I don’t do the story justice. I can tell you it was moving. Kim had to leave because the story had certain parallels to our son, Wil and his story. As John told Kevin’s story, she had thought about Wil. I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. I’m sure Kim and I weren’t the only ones in that auditorium with tears and lumps.

Two things happened . . .

The first was that John asked each of us in that auditorium to picture a student, any student, and write that student a letter how we will try to make a difference in his or her life this next school year. We spent about six or seven minutes writing a letter which was then placed in an envelope to be delivered to us later in August.

I picked Jonathon, a sophomore kid who I had come to know. A kid with a smile. A quiet kid from a large family. A good kid skating in the land of B grades and C grades. Nothing remarkable, really. Just a good kid. But I see potential in him. My challenge is to help him realize it.

The second was that John sang us a song. Didn’t know he could sing. Nice voice, easy to listen to. The song, and I have to say I will probably get the title wrong, is “A Little Homework To Do.”

A Little Homework To Do. Each of us. All of us.

You see, the minute we stop learning, we stop living. As teachers and as educators, the minute we believe we have nothing left to learn, we fail kids. We end up failing ourselves.

So yes, John, I do believe that I have A Little More Homework To Do. I know I do. Even after forty years, I have a lot to learn. And John, I believe as you do, that we come full circle: The Teacher Is The Learner, and The Student Is The Teacher. I have a lot More Homework To Do because I have a lot more to learn. Perhaps each of us have a lot More Homework To Do because each of us has a lot more to learn. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

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. I am actually working on my sixth, Spiral Into Darkness and I’m having fun with 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:
Six men escaped and are out for revenge. The boys, recently freed from captivity, are in danger and so are their families, but they don’t know it. The FBI has no clues, no leads, and nothing to go on and because of that, cannot protect them. http://bit.ly/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis

Splintered Lives, Book Three of the Lives Trilogy:
It began in Arizona with death and it ends in Arizona in death. A 14 year old boy has a price on his head, but he and his family don’t know it. Their family vacation turns into a trip to hell. Out gunned and outnumbered, can this boy protect his father and brothers? Without knowing who these men are? Or how many there are? Or when they might come for him? http://bit.ly/Splintered-Lives-J-Lewis