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Friday, December 11, 2015

In Harm's Way



Growing up in the Midwest, I remember the first snowfall and the first real accumulation of snow. Out would come the snow pants, the heavy woolen socks, the stocking hat pulled snuggily over the ears. Then we’d don the boots- with buckles, no less- pull on the heavy warm jacket and mittens, and out the door we’d go. Growing up next to a river, there would be the necessary cautions to “stay off the ice because it isn’t thick enough yet.”

A snowflake on your tongue. Snowball fights. Snow forts.  Igloos and tunnels and snow angels.

After every last bit of energy was spent and after we were more than soaking wet, with cheeks red and lips sometimes cracked, we’d trudge up the back stoop, strip off all the outer gear and hang it up to dry.

Then there was Coco with marshmallows, maybe a graham cracker or two, sometimes with peanut butter.

I’m a lot older now and to be honest, I’m not all that enamored with snow or the cold anymore. That’s the reason we left Wisconsin.  I believe that unless the temperature matches my age, I shouldn’t have to go outside. But I also know that changes in weather, sometimes chilly and sometimes down right cold, happen, so I live with it.  Barely.

Like my parents did so many years ago, and not just with boots and mittens and stocking hats and heavy socks, and like parents and teachers and mentors today, we try to protect our kids from the ice and the cold.  We try to protect our kids from a lot more than that.

We build up our kids, and we help them avoid the potholes and pitfalls that lay in wait. Heck, we know that they’re there. Chances are, we tripped and stumbled and fell because of one or two of them.

Each of us in our own way and as best we can try to strengthen our kids, get them ready for the big ol’ world outside the comfy confines of our homes . . . their homes.  Some are better at it than others.  But I believe each of us does the best we can.

It’s never easy.  Parenting, like teaching, is a tough and rugged contact sport.  WWF has nothing on us!  Nothing.  When it comes to our kids, any kids, I think there isn’t one of us who wouldn’t take a kick to the head before we’d let anyone kick our kids.  I think each of us would put ourselves In Harm’s Way before something would happen to our kids.

And when something does happen to our kids, there is anger and a desire for swift retribution.  What is that old saying about not messing with the cub if you don’t want mama bear after you? 

And then we come to our senses, barely, and we gather up and hold and protect and reassure.  We build back up and reinforce so that the next time . . .

And there always will be a next time.  No matter how we prepare, no matter how we might wish it away, there will always be a next time.

So . . .

Knowing that we can’t protect our kids . . . ourselves . . . for or from every eventuality, we can take solace in the fact that there are guardian angels among us.  Those folks who look out for us and who come to our aid when we need it, when we least expect it, when there is no one else.  There are those guardian angels among us who suddenly and quietly appear by our side, who are with us step by step, and who might not say a word, but will, by their silence and a gentle hand and a willing ear, let us know that we are not alone.

Are you a guardian angel when there is a need?  Or do you leave that to others? Being a guardian angel takes a commitment and it takes courage and it is sometimes messy.  Especially in this season of giving, something to think about . . .

To My Readers:
From An Enthusiastic Reader:
“These are some of the most amazing books I have ever read. I'm working on the last one now and have been waiting ever so impatiently for it to come out. I started with the prequel and the other ones were out already, with the exception of the last one, which is now. From that book, I went straight to downloading the rest of them and read them back to back. I couldn't put it down. If you are someone who likes to read I highly recommend these books!”

Book Three, Splintered Lives:
A 14 year old boy has a price on his head, but he and his family don’t know it. Their 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, how many there are, or when they might come for him? Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives, is now available in ebook and paperback on Amazon, free on Kindle Unlimited. http://www.amazon.com/Splintered-Lives-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B017RFXY9Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1447079283&sr=1-1&keywords=Splintered+Lives%2C+Joseph+Lewis  

Book One, Stolen Lives:
Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents has 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead!

Book Two, Shattered Lives:
Six men escaped and are out for revenge. The boys, recently freed from captivity, are in danger and so are their families. The FBI has no clues, no leads, and nothing to go on and because of that, cannot protect them.

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 live in separate parts of the country, the lives of FBI Kelliher, 11 year old Brett McGovern, and 11 year old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The 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 futures grow dark and dreadful as each search for a way out.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MG2JAWE?ie=UTF8&at=aw-android-pc-us-20&force-full-site=1&ref_=aw_bottom_links 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Kaleidoscope



One of my favorite things to do and one of the things I looked forward to as a kid was the annual summer trip with my parents, usually just my dad, to the Washington County Fair. Now, it’s not the biggest fair in the world, but when you’re a kid, a red snow cone, a corn dog, some cotton candy, and a Ferris Wheel, life is good.  Real good.  Heck, I would even put up with going into the animal barns to satisfy my dad as long as he’d take us.

Dad would give us a couple of bucks and we’d try our luck throwing a softball at three bottles and if we’d knock them down, we’d get a small prize.  The catch was that to get one of the big stuffed animals hanging from inside the canopy, we’d have to knock down the three bottles a couple more times.  Of course we’d try, and my dad would stand back, fold his arms and smile, knowing that it would be next to impossible to do.  In retrospect, I never saw more than one or two big stuffed animals clutched in the arms of any of the fair goers, young, old or in between.  No, I, and they, would usually just take home the small prize.

Many times, the small prize was a Kaleidoscope.

Made out of plastic. Generally a bright color. Rarely bigger than the palm of your hand. Made cheaply. Certainly not made to last. But I liked them just the same.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I understood that the “pictures” in the Kaleidoscope were formed by broken bits of paper.  You’d turn the Kaleidoscope a small turn and the little broken bits would form a geometrical formation.  You’d turn it another small turn, and the little broken bits would form yet a different formation. And another and another.

One after the other. One pretty design, followed by another pretty design.  All from a simple turn of the fingers and wrist and all because the little broken bits worked just right.

Much later in life, I saw some amazingly beautiful Kaleidoscopes made out of brass. Golden or silver and much more heavy and sturdy than the little plastic ones we picked up at the county fair. But the principle was the same.  Little broken bits of many colors would shape up and turn into a beautiful design with just the twist of one’s fingers.

I learned something from the Kaleidoscope.

No matter how torn the little bits, no matter how broken the little bits, each worked together to form a beautiful design or picture with very little effort. It only took the desire to use one’s fingers and a slight turn of the wrist to make it happen. And happen again, and again, with each turn, with each twist.

We . . . all of us . . . are much like the Kaleidoscope.

We come to work each day, move into and out of each other’s lives with broken hearts, damaged dreams, sometimes with torn spirits. We work with people, we work with kids, who have equally broken hearts, damaged dreams, and with sometimes torn spirits.  Each of us.  Every day.  Day after day.

But like the Kaleidoscope, each of us, individually, and collectively, can be and are beautiful. With just the turn of the fingers and a turn of the wrist, with very little effort on our part, the broken, the damaged, the torn can be beautiful.  Because within our humble frame, we are beautiful in spite of what others might say.

So as we enter this very important season of giving and sharing, remember that the humble plastic of our beings houses sometimes broken bits that become beautiful. Even those of us who have shiny and pretty shells, have within us, broken and damaged and torn parts.  But each of us can, with very little effort, help turn us . . . and each other . . . into the beautiful designs we were meant to be, and more importantly, most assuredly, yes, most assuredly, that which we are.  Something to think about . . .

To My Readers:
In time for the Holidays and Holiday Shopping . . .
From An Enthusiastic Reader:
“These are some of the most amazing books I have ever read. I'm working on the last one now and have been waiting ever so impatiently for it to come out lol I started with the prequel and the other ones were out already, with the exception of the last one, which is now. From that book I went straight to downloading the rest of them and read them back to back. I couldn't put it down. If you are someone who likes to read I highly recommend these books!”

Book Three, Splintered Lives:
A 14 year old boy has a price on his head, but he and his family don’t know it. Their 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? Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives, is now available in ebook and paperback on Amazon, free on Kindle Unlimited. http://www.amazon.com/Splintered-Lives-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B017RFXY9Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1447079283&sr=1-1&keywords=Splintered+Lives%2C+Joseph+Lewis  

And if you need to catch up on the series, the previous books of the Lives Trilogy are available:

Book One, Stolen Lives:
Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents has 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead!

Book Two, Shattered Lives:
Six men escaped and are out for revenge. The boys, recently freed from captivity, are in danger and so are their families. The FBI has no clues, no leads, and nothing to go on and because of that, cannot protect them.

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 live in separate parts of the country, the lives of FBI Kelliher, 11 year old Brett McGovern, and 11 year old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The 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 futures grow dark and dreadful as each search for a way out.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Appreciate The Large And The Small



Last night I made a pot of chili. It’s one of my favorite dishes, and my family likes it, too. Generally, it’s spicy and on the hot side, which is just right for Hannah and me, kinda sorta all right for Emily, and too hot for Kim. But honestly, I don’t know how else to make it.

My idea of cooking is to throw stuff in the pot. I never measure any of the ingredients, but rather, just dump. My tendency towards various peppers and spices gets me in trouble with Kim. Sorry about that.

But the best part of the meal, any meal really, is the conversation and the laughter that takes place around the table. A lot of laughter. Even after the meal has been eaten, we sit around amongst the dirty dishes, the used glasses and silverware, and share stories and laugh.

I have to tell you that our youngest, Emily, is kind of a split personality. Don’t be fooled by her! She presents herself as reserved and quiet, actually rather serious. A deep thinker and concentrated observer of the Large And The Small that takes place around her. But, she is the comedian of the family. She takes everything in and spills it out with a catchy comment that makes us burst out laughing. She and Hannah can resemble Laurel and Hardy at times, much to Kim’s and my delight.

And while the conversation and laughter around the dinner table doesn’t seem like much, it has become one of my favorite things in life. Much like as adults, sitting around the living room exchanging stories and jokes and catching up with brothers and sisters, or as a kid, listening to the conversations that took place amongst the older group. All the “Remember when’s” and the “How about the time when . . .” All of that.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to Appreciate The Large And The Small in my life. Mostly The Small.

I love sunrises and sunsets. I love walking in the school cafeteria at lunch listening to the conversations of the kids. Sometimes I join in, other times, I listen as I stroll by. I enjoy music. All kinds, really, except for the type of jazz that has an improbable melody or doesn’t know when to end. I love food and that’s probably why I look the way I do. I like pictures and paintings of quiet forests, of trails and of roads that seem to disappear that make me wonder what lies around the bend. I like the fluffy cotton ball clouds that float in a blue sky. I like rugged mountain scenes forested in green or snow capped.

I like books that take me away to unknown places with characters that become real to me. I like movies that keep me guessing and on the edge of my seat.

I like the peace and quiet of early mornings, sitting alone in the family room doing, well, nothing.

And as I get older and walk along the downward slope of the mountain, I’ve come to Appreciate those individuals who walked into my life and made a difference, who caused me to laugh, who made me think. I’ve come to Appreciate those individuals who have encouraged me to continue, to keep moving forward. I’ve come to Appreciate those individuals who have lent me a hand to lift me up time and time again. I’ve come to Appreciate those individuals who gave me a shoulder to lean on, an ear for listening, and most of all, their presence when I needed to be with and around someone.

Seems like each of us has something to be thankful for. Seems like each of us can find something to Appreciate, Large And Small. We just have to look- not so much with our eyes as much as with our heart. Because I believe it is with the heart that we come to Appreciate The Large And The Small that make up our lives. Something to think about . . .

To My Readers:

My new book, the third and final book of The Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives, is now available on Amazon, free with Kindle Unlimited. The paperback version should be coming shortly.  The synopsis is as follows:

It began on the Navajo Indian Reservation when a fourteen year old boy, George Tokay, witnessed and reported the murder of a Caucasian boy his own age. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents solved that crime, which led to the freedom of thirty boys who were abducted off safe suburban streets and held in captivity, some for more than two years. The FBI thought the boys were safe and so did their parents. After all, arrest warrants were served and members of the human trafficking ring were arrested. That is, except for three dangerous men with absolutely nothing to lose.

These three men arrange for a handsome reward if fourteen year old Brett, one of the boys who had been held captive, is killed. Brett has no idea that he, his younger brother, and his friend, another former captive, are targets. But more than anyone else, these three men vow revenge on George, whom they blame for forcing them to run and go into hiding. What was to be a fun-filled vacation with his newly adopted family, turns into a nightmare and ends where it started, back on the Navajo Indian Reservation high up on a mesa held sacred by George and his grandfather.

Outnumbered and out gunned, George is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, but can he protect his father and his brothers from these dangerous men before that happens? Can he save them without knowing who these men are or where they might be? Or when they might attack? Can George trust his friends whom he reaches out to for help? Is he prepared for betrayal that leads to his heartbreak and possible death?

Splintered Lives can be found at:

Friday, November 6, 2015

Brave And Tough



I don’t consider myself a particularly brave person.  I don’t consider myself to be a particularly tough person.  I think there have been situations and circumstances in my life where I might have performed bravely.  But those are situational, not the norm.

I remember a time back years ago as a counselor in California.  There was a shooting at lunch time on our high school campus.  Fortunately, no one died, though there were injuries.  And, the shooter was eventually caught and brought to justice.  But I remember talking to another staff member when we both heard the gunshots.  We looked at each other and broke into a run . . . towards the shooting, towards the sound of the gunshots. 

It wasn’t planned.  It was just reactive.  Both of us were concerned about the safety of the students and the safety of the staff.  Neither of us thought about our own safety, nor did anyone else who had responded.  As I said, it was in reaction to what we both knew we heard.

I think of those three brave men on the French train.  These young men, two U.S. Marines and a Brit likely saved dozens of lives when a Moroccan man opened fire aboard a train from Belgium to Paris.  I think of 9-11 and Flight 93.  Because of the actions of the 40 passengers and crew aboard that plane, the attack on the U.S. Capitol was thwarted. In so doing, they lost their lives to save others.  In both cases, I think they were pretty brave and pretty tough.

I wrote in one of my posts quite some time ago about a young man I knew, Khalid.  I was his counselor and I never knew the struggles he had until he had graduated: living in a home where he wasn’t wanted; sleeping on the floor night after night all through high school; not necessarily receiving the support he so deserved from his father and step-mother as he went through school.  Yet, Khalid graduated and attended college on a football scholarship.  He became a counselor and is now an administrator.  He’s married to a beautiful young lady and together have two beautiful kids.

That takes courage to move throughout the day, each day, each week, month and year to achieve in spite of all the obstacles in his path.  Pretty brave.  Pretty darn tough.

I think of another student, Beth, who was an honor student.  Her family was homeless.  She slept in hotels when her family could afford one, otherwise it was a car or a shelter.  At times depending upon where it was when she went to bed, she would wear long sleeved shirts and slacks to bed with rubber bands on the cuffs to keep cockroaches from getting in her clothes.  She would study by flashlight when the electricity was cut off, and as I said, she was an honor student.  And each day in spite of all she went through, she would come to school and smile and work.

Like Khalid, it took courage to move throughout the day, each day, each week, month and year to achieve in spite of all the obstacles in her path.  Pretty brave.  Pretty darn tough.

Both are tougher, and both are braver than I’ll ever be.  Both are tougher, and both are braver than most anyone I know.

I think of the great philosophers, Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robbin.  Christopher said to Winnie, “Promise me you’ll always remember that you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

What a nice philosophy to impart to our children!  What a really nice philosophy to impart to each other! 

I think kids need that reminder from time to time.  I think each of us needs that reminder from time to time.  Sometimes kids, and each of us, are faced with what seem like insurmountable obstacles in our paths that prevent us from moving forward.  Sometimes these obstacles are of our own creation.  Sometimes these obstacles are created for us by others or by the situation or circumstance we find ourselves in.  So a reminder that we are “braver than we believe, stronger than we seem, and smarter than we think” is always good, always welcome.  And, perhaps we might offer a hand to lift up, a shoulder to lean on, and a smile along with a word of encouragement.  Always welcome.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
At last Splintered Lives, Book Three of The Lives Trilogy debuts on Amazon on Monday, November 9 on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited, and shortly thereafter in paperback.  The synopsis is as follows:
It began on the Navajo Indian Reservation when a fourteen year old boy, George Tokay, witnessed and reported the murder of a Caucasian boy his own age. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents solved that crime, which led to the freedom of thirty boys who were abducted off safe suburban streets and held in captivity, some for more than two years. The FBI thought the boys were safe and so did their parents. After all, arrest warrants were served and members of the human trafficking ring were arrested. That is, except for three dangerous men with absolutely nothing to lose.
These three men vow revenge on George, whom they blame for forcing them to run and go into hiding. What was to be a fun-filled vacation with his newly adopted family, turns into a nightmare and ends where it started, back on the Navajo Indian Reservation high up on a mesa held sacred by George and his grandfather.
Outnumbered and out gunned, George is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect his father and his brothers. Can he save them without knowing who these men are or where they might be? Or when they might attack? Can George trust his friends whom he reaches out to for help? Is he prepared for betrayal that leads to his heartbreak and possible death?


You can find Book Two, Shattered Lives, at: http://www.amazon.com/Shattered-Lives-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00UZRP828/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1427118727&sr=1-1&keywords=Shattered+Lives%2C+Joseph+Lewis