Friday, August 29, 2014

Not A Spectator Sport

Steve Gleason was a safety for the New Orleans Saints for eight seasons and was most known for the block of a punt against the Atlanta Falcons.  This game happened to be the first home game after Hurricane Katrina and many have used that blocked punt as a symbol of the recovery efforts and rise of the city of New Orleans after the devastation that took place when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. 

While that block was important, to me, it is nothing compared to what Gleason has been able to accomplish since then.

You see, in 2011, Gleason revealed he had ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  He has a young son and Gleason has been recording messages to his son so that when Rivers grows up, he will know his dad.  Gleason has also taken patients on climbing expeditions and other adventures, directed a documentary, spoke at the United Nations and landed money to pay for technology for other patients.

The point is that Gleason didn’t stop living because he was faced with a disease that will eventually take his life.  And because of his refusal to keep on living, he might be the epitome of the slogan that Life Is Not A Spectator Sport.

I’m pretty sure we can think of one or two individuals who merely go through the motions and exist rather than live.  They’re perhaps comfortable with their life.  Perhaps, they might be, to a degree, satisfied with their life.  They might feel they have a job, make a living, have a house, a car, and pay bills on time.  Satisfied, because what else might they need?

But are they truly, really alive, or are they spectators in this great sport called life?  Are they just watching others live and laugh and love as one might do when one sits on a couch and watches a soap opera?

Life is meant to be lived.  It is meant to be loved.  It is meant to be held sacred and embraced and given to others like the Olympic Torch that is passed on from one to another until it lights the Olympic flame.

In the many cards that my family has received since my son’s death, there was a poem by Helen Steiner Rice that I would like to share with you.  Perhaps you have read it once or twice already and that’s okay.  It’s a good reminder for all of us.  It goes like this:

            “Time is not measured by the years that you live
            But by the deeds that you do and the joy that you give-
            And each day as it comes brings a chance to each one
            To love to the fullest, leaving nothing undone
            That would brighten the life or lighten the load
            Of some weary traveler lost on Life’s Road-
            So what does it matter how long we may live
            If as long as we live unselfishly give.”

What a gift each of us can be, should be, to others!  To help bring meaning to another’s life.  To bring a sense of caring, of concern, of compassion and passion itself.  We do those things for another and we are truly immersed in life ourselves.  We become active participants instead of spectators. 

And it isn’t the length of life that counts, but the quality of the life that is lived as we walk this earth with one another.

One last thought . . .

Gleason could have packed it in.  Others have and do in similar situations.  We’ve seen it.  And while those others might do so, there are yet others who go on to do other things, big things, great things with their lives no matter the length of time that is lived.

They live life as it should be lived.  Giving.  Loving.  Sharing.  Mentoring.  Raising up.  Helping.

My question to you this day is, who are you going to be: a Spectator or a Participant?  It is a choice and in that choice, you can and often do influence others to make a similar choice.  My contention is that Life Is Not A Spectator Sport.  It needs to be lived- each day, each moment of each day, and every moment of every day.  Something to think about it . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I Swear I Lived

Yesterday, Kim and I traveled ten hours by car.  We took a different route than we normally drive when heading back to the Midwest, but we weren’t heading back to Wisconsin.  Instead, we drove to Indianapolis.


Along the way, we encountered the Eastern Mountains of varying heights and beautiful valleys both wooded and rocky.  The mountains gave way to farm country of rolling hills that turned flat as if a benevolent giant had run a hot iron over the land to straighten it out.  The city-scape changed from country to small dots on a map, and finally to large urban areas.


The day began in fog and then turned cloudy.  We had a patch of five minutes when rain made it impossible to see as we drove, no matter what speed I had the wipers on.  Eventually, blue sky peeked out tentatively from behind clouds and today as I write this, the sky is mostly blue with bright sun.


Sort of like life, really.


This past year I attended four funerals.  My nephew in October; my mom in April; my son just last month, and today, one of my best friends, Tom.  All were at different ages: Jared was in his early twenties and still a college student; my mom was 99; my son was only 28 and getting ready to begin a new job, his dream job; and Tom was 60.  Each year, he celebrated his birthday just twelve days before I did.  Each of them experienced a different death, but the end result was the same.  They were gone.


Yet . . .


In each case, however, Jared, Mom, Wil and Tom can each proudly say, “I Swear I Lived.”


Those words come from a song written and sung by the group, One Republic, titled “I Lived.”


Each commencement, instead of a ‘principal’s address’ I pick out a song with lyrics that seem to fit the graduating class and I sing it to them.  This past year, I chose the song, “I Lived” because it fit them. 


The chorus contains the lyrics:

“I owned every second that this world could give

            I saw so many places, the things that I did

            Yeah with every broken bone

            I swear I lived!”


I think it describes a life well-lived.  Certainly a life lived by Jared and Wil, though their lives were cut far too short.  My mom lived a long, long life, and Tom, well, 60 years might seem long, but being that same age myself, it seems kind of short to me.  Really, really short and I hope I get to live a lot longer than . . .


But I also hope that when the time comes, I can stand before the Lord and say, “I owned every second that this world could give; I saw so many places, the things that I did, yeah, with every broken bone, I swear I lived!”  And I believe the Lord will look upon me and nod.


But . . .


If I add the following, “And along the way, I tried not to hurt others, but if I did, I did so unintentionally.  I tried to make amends, to do better each and every time.  And, I tried very hard to lift up, to raise up, to lend a hand and extend a word of encouragement.”  I believe that if I can add those words, the Lord will not only give me a nod, but He will smile and extend His arms to give me a warm embrace. 


So to each of you who take the time to read this, I hope you follow Jared’s, my mom’s, Wil’s and Tom’s lead and say, “I Swear I Lived!”  I so hope you do.  And along the way, take the time to lift up, to raise up, to lend a hand and extend a word of encouragement.  And, try not to hurt others along the way, but if you do, make amends.  Please.  Something to think about . . .


Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!


To my readers:

Thanks so much for checking out my debut novel, Taking Lives.  It is now available in both eBook and paperback.  I’ll be happy to sign a copy for you.  I would be most appreciative if after reading it, you could go to the Amazon site and write a review.  It helps me and it might help another reader searching for a good read.  Thank you for taking a chance on a rookie writer! Joe 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Blank Page

Last October, one of my nephews commented that he reads my blog and that he liked it.  Then he asked, “How do you come up with this stuff?  Do you just think about stuff and it comes out?”


I didn’t really have an answer to that question, and to be honest, I still don’t. 


The closest approximation for an answer is that things come to me.  A Blank Page sits in front of me and a thought occurs and I write it down.  I edit like crazy.  I rewrite and I polish.  And still there are times when after I hit the “publish” button, I look back and say to myself, “I could have said it better.  I could have said it this way instead.”


But it all starts with A Blank Page.


As I said, a thought occurs and I write it down.  Might be from something I had heard along the way.  Many times it comes from something I had read.  I do much of my first and second drafts in my head.  I call it prewriting.  Some might call it thinking.  However it occurs, it percolates and rattles around until it’s time to write and fill up that Blank Page.


There are some pages that are better than others.  Some pages resonate better with the reader.  That’s okay, because the purpose of any writing is to entertain, to make one pause, to make one consider and think.  Hopefully, to help someone look at life and live life a bit differently, a bit more positively. 


I think it comes down to this . . .


We’re all faced with A Blank Page from time to time, and perhaps, more times than we recognize, than we realize. 


A friend’s son just got married.  One of Emily’s friends heads off to college today.  Hannah heads back to school on Tuesday.  Teachers and students fill classrooms shortly, while some already have.  Several of my teachers don’t head back to the classroom because they entered retirement.  Em has her first soccer tourney of the year today.  Hannah’s last work day at the pool was last evening.  Several of my writer friends have a book launch coming up.  There are so many other beginnings and starts.


All Blank Pages.  Ready for the first words to be written.  Our words.  Your words.


Each morning is A Blank Page fresh and clean and waiting for your first words.  Each morning is A Blank Page waiting for you to act, to react, to write, to speak, to do.  A fresh beginning.  A new start.


What’s nice about A Blank Page is that it can be edited, changed, rewritten. 


Life, all of life, can be edited, changed and rewritten.  We’re not stuck.  Really we’re not.  Just hit the back space.  Each of us has that opportunity each morning, each day, and many times during the day.  Just hit the back space and edit and rewrite.


I think the key to any Blank Page is to not waste the opportunity as it presents itself.


Sometimes an opportunity, the right opportunity, the best opportunity only comes about once.  Don’t waste it, especially when it comes to those who you love, who are near to you, who need your presence, your touch, your ear.  Those who sometimes need your silence.  Faced with your Blank Page, what will you do with it?  Hmmm?  Up to you . . . to waste or not.  Your words.  Your story.  Your life.  Something to think about . . .


Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!


Fellow Readers:

Thank you for taking a shot and spending 99 cents on my debut novel, Taking Lives.  I appreciate it.  I might be biased, but I like the story and I like the characters.  Sorry about the ending.  Okay, not really (he says with a grin).  It sorta, kinda had to happen that way.  You’ll just have to continue the journey as it unfolds to find out what happens next.

But thank you for taking that shot and spending 99 cents.  And if you would, those of you who have read it, please leave a review on the Amazon website.  It might help others to take a chance on Taking Lives, too. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Picking Up The Pieces

When Kim and I and the girls were packing up to move from Wisconsin to Virginia, we had boxes upon boxes in our garage.  All were labeled so we could find things easily when we arrived and began unpacking.  At some point, one of the piles must have gotten too high or perhaps it leaned a little too far and got off balance and it toppled over with a crash.  We knew something had shattered because we had heard it as we sat inside the house.  It was loud and ugly.


Sure enough, one of the boxes had fallen over and the label said, ‘Fragile’.  Heartsick, we opened it up and one of the antique plates Kim had received from her grandmother had shattered.  Just too many pieces to fix. 




So Kim and I Picked Up The Pieces and threw them away.  We repacked the box, taped it up, and restacked it making sure that there were no other leaning towers.


I had written a post titled Tattered And Torn and in it, I explained that once you have something broken, it really will never be the same.  Someone might hurt you, and that someone might apologize, and even if or when the apology is accepted, the relationship might not ever be the same.


My family and I, along with many, many others are busy Picking Up The Pieces.  I think we will be doing this for a long, long time.  I’m thinking that we’ll probably be Picking Up The Pieces closer to forever.


A dear friend of mine described the feeling she had when her son was taken.  She said that there is a hole that can’t be filled, won’t be filled and that her family will never be fully whole.  Seems to describe the Lewis Family exactly.


I’ve been asked to comment on gun laws.  I’ve been asked to comment on gang violence.  I’ve been asked to describe what I’m feeling.  I absolutely will not now or ever talk about gun laws or gang violence.  No way.  However, I can and will talk about how I feel.


I feel as though a piece of me has been ripped away and tossed aside.  I watch my two daughters struggle and cry.  I watch them in their silence, their stillness and I know and feel their anger.  Both long to talk to Wil, to spend time with him.  One has begun a journal each time she wants to talk to him.  Both, perhaps Emily more so, are anxious about the first day of school.  I know how that feels. 


I watch and listen to Kim and know that perhaps a mother suffers in her own unspeakable, inexplicable way.  We comfort each other as best we can, in our own way.


There are times when there is silence.  A whole lot of silence.  Sometimes comfortable, sometimes not so much.


But each of us, Kim, and Hannah, and Emily, and I know that we must Pick Up The Pieces as best we can and move on, move forward.  There will be emptiness.  There will forever be a hole that no one and nothing can fill.  There will be times when each of us break down and disappear physically, mentally and emotionally.


But in the long run, we Pick Up The Pieces and recognize that life is to be lived.  Wil would have wanted it this way.  He would have wanted us to move forward, to move on, to get along with it. So in his honor, I will live life as best I can by moving forward, by finding laughter in little things and in big things, to rediscover the wonder and beauty that life holds for us each day, and in each minute of each day. 


I recognize that I’ve stated and restated this again and again, especially of late, but I feel it is worth the repetition: we need to love those who are near to us, those close to us, and even those far away from us.  We need to make sure they know they are loved and needed and wanted.  We need to seize and live in the moment.  We can never, ever put off for another day the mention of “I love you!” because that moment might never happen.  Pick Up The Pieces and move forward.  Please.  Right now.  Something to think about . . .


Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!


To my readers:

If you’re looking for a fun fiction read, an intense fiction read, please check out my debut novel Taking Lives on Amazon for only 99 cents.  It is the prequel to my trilogy and it has received four reviews out of four of a Five Star Rating.  It can be found at:



Saturday, August 2, 2014

From The Heart

From The Heart


My sister, Betty, gave me a dark black or gray stone with a smiley face on it a long time ago.  When she gave it to me, she said that when I would look at it, I would smile and think of her.  This was years ago and you know what, I still look at the stone, think of her and smile.


This past June, a very caring teacher gave me a stone from Medjugorje.  She received it from her mother, who had passed away.  Legend, and belief, has it that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, appeared there.  She wanted me to have the stone because I was going through a tough patch.


Simple gestures From The Heart.


Cause a smile.  Cause happy thoughts.  Might help one relax.  Might help one pause and consider.  Regroup.


In Luke 6:45 it is written: “A good person produces good from the good treasure of the heart.” Emerson wrote, “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.”


I think the two writers were saying the same thing and I believe there is great wisdom in their words.


At the visitation for my son, Wil, my family and I were standing in a line greeting many, many friends and relatives and co-workers who came to pay their respects.  One of Wil’s best friends came up to us and stood before us.  He was unable to speak, but instead, wept silently, and eventually hugged each of us.  And even though there were no words exchanged – none whatsoever- his tears, his embrace, said all there needed to be said. 


Actions do speak louder than words.  They really do.


One of my heroes, Mother Theresa, wrote:  “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”


Again, no words needed.  A simple action, a meaningful action, an action that can have a great impact, because it conveys so much.  Same as a hug, an embrace.  A gentle touch.  Same as just sitting and listening intently to not only what is being said, but what is left unsaid.  I don’t know that there is enough of that.  I know that I have been guilty of not listening enough, of not speaking with or From The Heart enough.


I believe that one’s heart trumps one’s mouth.  Each of us has been around someone who “says” the right things, but their “actions” betray their lack of sincerity.  What comes from the heart, what originates in the heart is genuine. 


Everything we do has the power to change one’s life.  We never know who might be touched or impacted by our actions.  And the beauty is that not only are their lives changed, our lives become changed too.  We always get back what we sow.   My hope, my prayer, is that whatever you give, in whatever measure big or small, comes From The Heart.  Your Heart.  Something to think about . . .


Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!


A note to my readers:

Besides this blog, I read and write thriller fiction.  On August 5th, my novel, Taking Lives, debuts as an eBook on Amazon and then in paperback shortly thereafter.  Taking Lives is the prequel to my trilogy, and it introduces me to readers, and readers to my trilogy.  There is a sneak peek of the first book of the trilogy, Stolen Lives, at the end of Taking Lives.  I hope you buy a copy and check it out.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.