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Friday, January 30, 2015

Love Of Life, Of Learning



Back in the summer between seventh and eighth grade, my mom, dad, little brother and I traveled out west to the Bad Lands, and further west to Yellowstone National Park and then north to Glacier National Park.  We had a Winnebago travel trailer we hitched up to the car and alternated camping with spending some nights in motels because my mom didn’t care for camping.  It was a great trip.  Saw a lot.  Learned a lot.

At Yellowstone, one of the stops was Old Faithful where I learned it wasn’t as faithful as its name.  It went off on an irregular pattern, so I guess because it did spout off irregularly, it was rather faithful.  Perhaps a better name might have been Old Mostly Faithful or Old Kinda Irregularly Faithful.  I became curious as to why it spouted in the first place, so my dad and I purchased some pamphlets and books and talked to the park rangers.

The following fall, the seventh and eighth grade science classes at my school competed in a science fair and for it, my dad and I recreated Old Faithful using a coffee pot.  It was a pretty cool design and thankfully, my dad was a designing engineer so he helped me with some of the mechanical parts of it.  Mostly I did the project with his guidance.  It was great working with him and I think he had as much fun as I did.

Looking back at it and at other events in my life, I think one of the greatest gifts my parents gave me was a Love Of Learning.  Kind of a curiosity of why and how and who.  I’ve been fortunate to have carried that passion with me throughout life and I work to satisfy that “itch” whenever I get the opportunity.

Love Of Learning.  The curiosity of why and how and who.

I think that as parents, as adults, and as educators, one of the greatest gifts we can give to kids is the Love Of Learning.  The gift of wonder about the world in which they live and love and play.  The curiosity of why things take place, of how things work or don’t, and of who- lots to learn about who.

It is more than the memorization of facts, although at times, the memorization of facts can be important. But isn’t it better to manipulate those facts into constructs, and work those constructs into problems to solve?  Isn’t it more important to question a belief and perhaps learn that the belief that had been held was faulty?

An example is an activity that takes place in two classes- AP English Language.  In one activity, students are given a passage to read.  After reading the passage, one activity would be to decide individually, then as a group, which of the multiple choice questions was true, and perhaps, more true.  Students have to rationalize.  They have to convince their classmates that their argument, their answer is better than one held by someone else.  They listen respectfully, and then they discuss and argue thoughtfully.  Only after decisions have been made does the teacher get involved and give what was the right answer and at that point, students might still discuss and argue their point of view. 

My daughter in college takes a basic math class in preparation for teaching at the elementary level.  For her tests, not only does she have to answer the problem correctly, but she then has to write a narrative of how she arrived at the answer and give a step by step explanation of how she might teach that problem to her students.

Love Of Learning, Of Life.

As adults and as teachers, we can give our children the answers.  We can construct tests and have our kids answer them and move through them fairly thoughtlessly.  And after the test, the information is forgotten because it didn’t have any meaning beyond that test.  Or, we can have them do activities that push and pull on their thinking, move their heart and hands as well as their head.

It’s sort of like parents telling one of their kids to do something and when the kid asks, “Why?” the parent says, “Because I said so!”  The child might acquiesce to the demand.  The child might follow the rule.  But other than that the adult is the boss, what has the child learned or gained?

I contend that by providing meaningful activities and problems of life to children, not only do we teach them a Love Of Learning, we also teach them a Love Of Life.  Because in order to live, truly live, we- each of us, young and old alike- have to ask why and how and who.  We have to seek answers, not only the right and correct answers, but answers that can be equally right and correct and fit us as individuals.  And that ain’t easy!  But in the end, it is as rewarding for the parent, the adult and the teacher as it is for the child.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
Thanks for checking out and following my blog.  I appreciate it and hope you find it thought-provoking and meaningful.  I have to admit that among my many posts, I have favorites, and I hope you do also.  Please feel free to share them with your friends and family, and point them in my direction.

Also, thank you for taking the time to check out my two works of fiction, Taking Lives and Stolen Lives.  Because they are thriller fiction, they are very different from my blog, but to me, equally satisfying and while disturbing, I hope they are thought-provoking for you in a scary sort of way because being in education for 38 years, I have made a daily commitment of trying to educate kids and keep them safe.

There have been several positive reviews of Taking Lives: “This is one book that will stay in your mind long after you've finished reading it.” and “This book keeps the readers intrigued. The characters seem so real, Can't wait for the next one to come out.”  It can be found at: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MG2JAWE?ie=UTF8&at=aw-android-pc-us-20&force-full-site=1&ref_=aw_bottom_links

There have been several positive reviews of Stolen Lives: “Joseph Lewis has created a cast of characters that you grow to care about. Their story is filled with twists and turns that keep you reading. When the book ends you will be left anticipating the next one! This was a story I could not put down!” and “I am really glad I happened to see this Trilogy while looking through my Kindle unlimited series. Great strong characters, especially George and Brett. Looking forward to reading more from this author.”   It can be found at: http://www.amazon.com/Stolen-Lives-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00PKKN6W4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415908221&sr=1-1&keywords=Stolen+Lives%2C+Joseph+Lewis

JL

Friday, January 23, 2015

Ask, Seek, Knock



Ever go through Target or Walmart or a grocery store and watch a battle ensue between a parent and a child over an “I want . . .”?  There might be some reasoning that takes place. There might be an explanation as to why he/she can’t have . . . There might be some ignoring.  And sometimes, inevitably, there might be tears and a tantrum.

Way back when Hannah was three or four, she and Kim were grocery shopping and at some point in one of the aisles, Hannah asked for something, Kim said no, and Hannah threw a tantrum.  Kim’s response, which is pretty typical for her, was that she looked at Hannah, began to laugh, and said, “What are you doing?” and then walked away.  The result?  Tears stopped, tantrum stopped, and from that point forward, Hannah learned that she can ask and at times it will be yes, and at other times it will be no, and that’s the end of it.  Can’t say that would do it for other kids and parents, but it worked for us.

At Wil’s memorial service, Hannah gave a eulogy and she talked about three things she had learned from Wil.  The first was that if you want something a whole lot, or if you want to go somewhere special, you would clean the house and do some “extra” chores to “butter up” Kim and/or me.  And if the work was too much, the second thing she learned was to enlist the help of his sisters, Hannah and Emily, by bribing them with ice cream.  Now, Kim and I weren’t privy to Wil’s “plan” but we did suspect that a fourteen or fifteen year old kid doesn’t clean the house out of the goodness of his heart just because he felt like it.  Yes, we did know something was up, but we played along and sometimes it was a yes and at other times it was a no.  And, the house got cleaned too!

Ask, Seek, Knock.

Those three words have come to mean a lot to me throughout my life.  They come from a Bible verse, Matthew 7:7.  Whether or not you ‘believe’, that particular verse brings much comfort and a whole lot of hope, and I find myself at many times in the course of a week, even a day, reflecting upon it.

Those three words, Ask, Seek, Knock, are action verbs.  They certainly aren’t passive, not by any means.  In fact, they almost sound like commands.  Each is a different action and each has a different meaning.

Kids Ask parents and adults for things all the time.  Sometimes they want an answer to something that is puzzling them.  Sometimes they want reassurance.  And sometimes, the answer isn’t quite what he or she might want to hear, but there is an answer nonetheless.  Adults Ask other adults for this or that, and sometimes it is a yes and sometimes it is a no.  And sometimes, like kids, adults Ask for reassurance from those who can give it.

There are other times when we go searching for something.  We might look in the wrong place, at the wrong time, but we Seek.  It is active.  We pursue it.  Sometimes we might find what it is we are looking for, but at other times, we don’t because sometimes, what we seek is elusive, isn’t there, or not exactly where we are searching for it.

And then there are times when we buck up and Knock.  Now to me, the only way we can Knock is to leave our turf, our own comfort zone.  To Knock means that I meet someone else on his or her own turf, not my own.  At that point, we are invited in, but at other times, we might be turned away.  After we Knock, we can Ask, we can Seek, and like what I had stated previously, the answer at times might be yes, while at other times it might be no, and we might find what we’re searching for, but at other times we might not.

But to Ask, Seek, or Knock means that WE must DO.  WE must ACT.  The onus is on us.  WE are the DOER.  It is not done to us. 

And there is some level of satisfaction in that.  We have the power, the control over our own actions, our own words, over our own wants and needs.  We are acting, not passively existing.  Fearful at times?  You bet!  Frustrated at times?  Absolutely!  But if we never Ask, we won’t ever have an answer.  If we never Seek, we will never find.  And if we don’t Knock, that door will never be opened.  Not ever.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
I know I sound like a broken record, but from the very bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for choosing to not only read my posts on my blog, but I want to thank the many of you who took a chance on an unknown, rookie writer and read my two novels, Taking Lives and Stolen Lives.  Currently on one Amazon list, and there are many, Taking Lives sits at #3 and Stolen Lives sits at #4.  The reviews have been wonderful and I thank you for taking the time to read, rate and review each.  For those of you who like thriller fiction, my books can be found on Amazon.  There links are as follows:



Thanks,
jl

  

Friday, January 9, 2015

Cattle, Sheep, and Shepherd



While I might have grown up in the country next to a river for much of my youth, and while I lived, taught, and coached for five years in Wyoming and Nebraska, I am a city slicker at heart and by nature.  Picture Billy Crystal without being the comedian and you’ve pegged me, though I have to admit I’ve done my share of really stupid, boneheaded stuff along the way that would qualify as rather comedic.

For example, I inadvertently started a stampede that wiped out a lot of electric fence and scattered a herd of cattle for a mile or so.  My employers were not happy, but their kids got a kick out of it.  I single-handedly killed a field of corn, but part of that is the employer’s fault.  You see, I had never, ever driven a tractor in my life, and one day, they wanted a field plowed.  They set me on a tractor, showed me how to drive it, and away I went . . . along with many rows of corn because I had difficulty driving forward while looking back over my shoulder.  In any case, the field was a mess.

But in the three summers I worked for that family, they taught me about cattle and sheep.

Cattle, like other animals, are not led.  They are herded from the sides and from behind.  Slowly.  Stick a bull in front, point it in the right direction, and the cattle follow as long as a rider rides on each side and another one or two ride drag (bringing up the rear).  Riding drag really is a drag.  It’s dusty and dirty.  Guess where they put me?

Sheep, like some animals on the other hand, are led.  Sheep by nature aren’t really all that smart.  They follow their appetite- literally.  Head down, munching away on grass, they will traipse all over a hillside or field as they eat, not watching where they’re headed, which is why one or two can be easily lost.

Which brings us to the Shepherd.

A solitary job.  A lonely job.  It begins early in the morning and can run all day and into the night.  Sometimes, a full twenty-four hours or longer.  A Shepherd can be about as attractive as riding drag on a cattle drive.  Not a lot of folks clamoring for either job.

But a Shepherd is valued nonetheless.  The Shepherd’s job is to protect from natural predators, such as coyotes or wolves, and unnatural predators, such as a rustler.  The Shepherd’s job is to keep track of the sheep and make sure one or two don’t wander off or stray too far away.

Which leads me to this week’s thought . . .

I think there is value in all three roles: Cattle, Sheep, and Shepherd.  All three roles have a purpose.  At times, each day, sometimes at different times of the day, I think each of us find ourselves in one of these roles.

Like cattle, some are content to move along with the herd, to follow and trust that whomever is in front knows where he or she is headed.  There is guidance, of course, from the side or behind, but the herd moves along at a leisurely pace and it arrives at a destination, hopefully pleasant, where it they will be taken care of.

Like sheep, some are content to be led.  Some have the need to be protected.  Some are rather skittish and it takes time before there is trust, respect, and knowledge that whomever is watching over them has their best interests at heart.

And like the Shepherd, there are some who want to protect, to nurture, to watch out for flock.  There is risk involved in being the Shepherd, because it can be and often is, lonely. 

So I think we can take solace in the fact that at times, it’s okay to follow.  There is peace.  It’s relaxing and we’re moving along with the rest, trusting that we’re all safe and together.  And I think we can take solace in the fact that at times, it’s okay to be led.  There is comfort knowing that someone is watching over us, protecting us, has our best interests at heart.  And, I think that at times, we can take solace in the fact that, like the Shepherd, we watch over, and protect, and comfort, and care for one another.  I think that’s our nature, our purpose.  Perhaps.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I received some wonderful news from my publisher.  My book, Taking Lives, the prequel to my Lives Trilogy, ended up #84 for the year 2014 on UBAWA’s List of Top 100!  Thank you for taking a chance on it and giving it a read.  Taking Lives introduces me to you, and introduces you to the trilogy.  It is a taste, a beginning, and it doesn’t have a very satisfying conclusion- because I didn’t intend for it to have a satisfying conclusion.  That is where the first book of the trilogy, Stolen Lives begins.  It begins two years after the last scene in Taking Lives and brings you to a resolution.  I hope you give both a chance and give them a read.  Thank you to those of you who have already.



Thanks,
jl