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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 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Medals And Glory



Our kids grew up playing youth sports. Swimming and soccer, mostly, though each tried other sports along the way.

Wil tried track and cross country and was really good at both. He had that rare ability to not only go long distance but also to run with speed. He also tried basketball and wrestling. But for him, the only sport that took root was soccer.

As a youngster, Hannah did gymnastics and seemed a natural. She also tried field hockey for a year and was pretty good. I think her ability to run and her knowledge of soccer helped. She also played basketball and I thought she did well. But for her, swimming and soccer were her sports, but she had to give up swimming after a shoulder injury. As a young adult, she now goes to a kickboxing gym for conditioning.

Emily, like her sister, was into swimming and soccer. At some point in middle school, she made the decision to only play soccer and it has paid off since she plays for her collegiate team. But she also tried martial arts, softball and basketball.

And you can imagine the ribbons, medals and trophies that have accumulated over the years. When they weren’t thrown away- not by Kim or me, but by them- they collected dust and added to clutter. Of course they kept some of the more memorable ones.

I’m an avid Packer and football fan. While I coached basketball in high school and college, I was a terrible basketball player. My players would make fun of me, and rightfully so. The only sport I was half-way decent at was football. I liked the contact, but at five-foot-eight and being not terribly fast or quick, high school football for me was my Mount Everest. A lot of players better than I was. Way better.

At times I’m equal parts amused and frustrated at polls and rankings of athletes. ESPN has a Top 100 listing of football players. National polls of football teams and basketball teams usually get it wrong and teams bounce up and down like yo-yos.

We bestow on athletes Most Valuable, Comeback Player of the Year, Best Offensive Player, Best Defensive Player, and on and on. Medals and trophies, money and cars, all given out to the alleged best among the elite.

It’s frustrating to me, but also interesting to me. Weird, I guess.

Honestly, I prefer the stories of Packer players riding little kids’ bikes to and from the practice field, building both memories and relationships as they do. I prefer stories of athletes who at one time lived on the streets or out of a car, who survived and overcame gangs and drugs, to not only make a team but become beloved by fans and players. I prefer stories of athletes finishing college while playing the sport they loved because they have a vision of a future beyond the sport.

I prefer stories of athletes and teams adopting terminally ill kids, inviting them to practice and into the locker room. I prefer stories of athletes visiting sick children in hospitals or their homes in order to somehow, in some way, make a burden lighter.

I prefer stories of athletes . . . and others . . . giving of themselves quietly and out of the spotlight in order to touch the lives of others, in order to make a difference in a life.

I’ve always believed that Medals And Glory need to be given to athletes . . . and others . . . who make a positive difference in the lives of others. Let us give them a ranking and national acclaim.

Yet, I have a feeling they’d be embarrassed and would run from the spotlight faster than Usain Bolt in a 100 meter dash. Because for them, they give without the expectation of being recognized. They give without the expectation of an award or acclaim.

That’s why my heroes are folks like the elderly nun from Calcutta serving the poor or the former president who humbled himself and allowed a little boy to rub his head, or that same former president giving knuckle-bump a custodian. My heroes include a former president who, in his poor health, builds houses for Habitat for Humanity. Each of them Do, because they see a need. They Do, because it is the right thing to do. They Do, and perhaps, so should we. 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