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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 /

Friday, March 9, 2018

At The Mercy Of



This past weekend, the wind blew. And blew. And Blew. As it did, folks lost shingles and siding and a whole lot of people lost power. We were one of those people and it lasted for about thirty-six hours.

In some respects, it felt like Kim and I were camping. Yes, it was a really nice “camper” (it being our house), but still, it got mighty cold. We layered up. Kim had her Netflix downloaded on her device and as long as it was charged, she was pretty much good to go. I wrote and read. Took a nap or two.

Because we were limited as to what we could eat, we went out . . . along with half of the county we live in. The following day, we went to a movie. It wasn’t great, but at least it was warm and popcorn is always good, right?

Got me thinking . . .

There are times when we plan something, big or small, and for one reason or another it doesn’t work or come together. Sometimes we’re At The Mercy Of timing or Karma or kismet or luck. Goonies and gremlins and goblins. Whatever. There are times when Mother Nature does her thing and we lose all control because Mother Nature does what Mother Nature does.

Plans, no matter how tightly we package them, no matter how we try to plan for every possible scenario, sometimes fall apart because we can’t control everything. And we shouldn’t expect to.

Remember when I said that “people lost power?”

Sometimes we don’t have any power even though we think we do.

That’s an important statement: sometimes we don’t have any power even though we think we do.

We can’t control weather. We can’t control time. We can’t control people.

What we can control, and perhaps the only thing we can control, is how we deal with it. What we can control is how we react to it.

On the surface, it doesn’t seem like a lot, does it?

But . . .

It actually is quite a bit. Think for a moment of yourself in your car driving along at a nice clip and you encounter a slow driver. Can’t get around him. Or ever been on a highway and you’re caught behind a truck trying to pass another truck? Both trucks end up going the same speed for what seems like miles and the parade builds up behind you. We end up At The Mercy Of those two trucks.

Or do we?

Yes, for what seems like an eternity, we are forced to slow down and get in line. But consider for a second that instead of a road rage moment, we relax. We take a deep breath. Because the reality is that we can’t control the truck. We can’t control the driver. We can’t control the driving conditions.

We can only control ourselves. We can choose to remain in power. Yes, sometimes it’s uncomfortable and we would rather slam on the horn or yell or flick someone off. Been there and done that. I end up At The Mercy Of myself. I lose control. I lose my focus. I lose my temper, my patience, my mind.

Wouldn’t it be better to be in control and remain in control even though all around you a mess is happening? Wouldn’t it be better for us to focus, relax, breathe and regain composure? I think when we recognize that the only control we have in life is over ourselves, we’ll be a lot happier. We’ll be at peace. I would rather be at my own mercy than At The Mercy Of someone or something else. Wouldn’t you? Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

My fifth work of thriller/suspense fiction, Caught in a Web, 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 /