Friday, October 31, 2014

A Shot Glass, Barry Gibb, Hermione's Purse

I’m a vitamin taker.  In addition to a multi-vitamin, I take several others that I believe are good for me to take.  Yes, the multi-vitamin has the same ones I take in addition to it, but I feel better knowing that I’m taking a little extra.  Rightly or wrongly, for solid or perhaps faulty reasons, I just feel better knowing that what I’m taking will help me in some way or fashion.

A friend in the medical field told me once a long time ago that I might be wasting my time and money.  He described the multi-vitamin as a shot glass (yes, I had to smile at the analogy myself).  He said that your body only needs what can be filled in the shot glass.  If you choose to take anything in addition to what the shot glass can hold, then it spills over the top, onto the table and onto the floor.  It is wasted. 

I smiled and nodded and I ignore his advice because, well, just because I feel better taking my extra vitamins.  I’m pretty healthy, so my reasoning is that my extras might be working for me.

Hold the thought about the shot glass overflowing for a minute . . .

I have been a fan of the Bee Gees and Barry Gibb since middle school.  I loved their harmony and the way they adapted to the different musical landscape as time progressed.  Many years ago, Barry Gibb described the intense pleasure he gets when he is on stage.  He described the euphoria, the exuberance, the joy of connecting with the audience, of giving his all.  He stated that when the concert is concluded, he is spent.  Done.  Finished.  Wiped out.  He had given his all, his best, and the end of any concert left him exhausted.

Barry Gibb after a concert . . .

Some of you might know that I write thriller fiction and that I have one book currently available on Amazon titled, Taking Lives.  It is a prequel to my trilogy and is meant to introduce me to readers, and readers to my trilogy.  Stolen Lives, the first book in my trilogy, comes out November 10th and I can’t wait.  I know that many of you who have read Taking Lives can’t wait either because, purposely, I left you hanging.  I’ve received plenty of email, text messages, phone calls, and visits at my door threatening me with bodily harm- playfully, I hope- that I left them, you, hanging.  You wanted more and I didn’t deliver it . . . on purpose . . . until you read Stolen Lives and the rest of the trilogy, though I promise that each book of the trilogy is more tidy at the finish than Taking Lives is.

A Shot Glass, Barry Gibb, and my novel Taking Lives.

A shot glass eventually runs out of room.  It can only take so much and eventually spills out and makes a mess.  The amount it can hold is a finite amount.

Barry Gibb, like many artists and athletes, “leaves it on the floor” or in his case, “on the stage.”  He has no more to give because he gives it all to the audience.  He only has so much to give, but he willingly and happily gives it.

In Stolen Lives, there is a conversation between two of my characters, one of whom is central to Taking Lives and the trilogy.  One character tells him that love isn’t like a cake.  You don’t cut it up into pieces and distribute it until it is gone.  He states that “love is sort of magical, in that the more you give away, the more you seem to have.  You never seem to run out.”

Think of love as Hermione’s Purse.  You know, the one from the Harry Potter books and movies.  She put everything in there.  Everything.  It had room for a tent, for books, and for potions.  Heck, I bet Ron’s Magical Car was in there somewhere. 

Hermione’s Purse isn’t like the shot glass because it contained everything imaginable, even some things unimaginable and never ran out of space.  Hermione’s Purse isn’t like Barry Gibb and other artists and athletes who only have so much to give and when they give it all . . . and they do . . . they are left spent, tired, exhausted, but full of joy because they had given it all.

Love is like Hermione’s Purse.  The more love you have, the more you give away.  The more love you give away, the more you have.  It is never ending, nonstop.  And what a joy it is when we give love away.  It is a joy because love always comes back to us tenfold.  Always.  Just like Hermione’s Purse.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Unring The Bell

Attending a Catholic elementary school and being the son of old school and very conservative Catholic parents, like my brothers before me, I became an altar boy.  Little choice, really.  More of an expectation.  As a seventh and eighth grader, I was selected by Sr. Gwendolyn as the head altar boy.  Not much of a title.  Not much of any frills either, at least that I can remember.  Mostly, I was to set an example, organize who did what before the major liturgical celebrations and ceremonies, but as I recall, Sr. G and Father Konezney did that anyway.  So in retrospect, it was a title without any clear expectation and certainly not any privilege.

Back in the old days, there were three times we rang bells during the mass.  One set of bells covered the actual consecration before and after, while we rang another set as the host or chalice was raised up.  It had a higher pitch than the other.  It went low, high, then low.  Two altar boys rang the bells.

During one mass, I’m not sure what I was thinking or if I was thinking at all, but I rang the high pitch bell first.  No big deal I guess, but when I tried to correct my mistake, I rang it again when the host was raised up along with the other bell rung by the other altar boy.  It didn’t go low, high, low, but instead when high, low-high together, and then low.  One heck of a lot of bells going off at the wrong time.  And, as the head altar boy, I was to know better.

Now I have to tell you, Father Konezney had a temper, but mostly, he had a wry wit and a sarcastic bent that most everyone found funny.  Sr. Gwendolyn, on the other hand, seemed to have a bad temper about most everything that only got worse when things went wrong.  About ten times worse.

I was the server who helped at communion.  Again back in the old days, the altar boy held a gold plate under the communicant’s chin in case the host fell.  I followed Fr. K to the distribution line and as I stood next to him he muttered something to the effect, “A lot of bells, Mr. Lewis.  Kind of pretty.  Weird, but pretty.”

Now I have to tell you, I relaxed a little, but only a little, because in the congregation that day was Sr. G.  I was not looking forward to any conversation with her at all.  After all, I was the head altar boy and I had to set a good example and I should have known better.

After we cleaned up from the service that morning, after the cassocks were hung up and everything put away, I found Sr. G waiting for me on the sidewalk between the church and the rectory.  The other altar boy who was walking with me stopped in his tracks, turned around and left me to face the consequences alone.  But just about the time Sr. G raised a finger to begin her diatribe, Fr. K came out of the church and said, “Well hello, Sister.  Beautiful day, isn’t it?”  She nodded and agreed with him.  Then he stood next to me, placed his arm around my shoulder and then placed me in a very mild headlock and said, “I told Mr. Lewis here that the bells were a nice change pace today, don’t you think so?”  Sr. G just stared at him, but lowered her pointed finger.  “It was a mistake, and I’m sure he won’t do it again, but I kind of liked the sound, didn’t you?”  Sr. G remained silent.  Then Fr. K released my head but his arm remained on my shoulders and he said, “Joe, why don’t you see if you can get some guys together this afternoon and I’ll open the gym and we’ll play some basketball.”

Sr. G nodded at us, glared at me, and left.  Fr. K smiled after her, turned to me and said, “Joe, mistakes happen all the time.  Little ones.  Big ones.  Things happen.  Best we can do is learn from them, right?”  I responded with a, “Yes, Father.”  He laughed and said, “Once a bell is rung, you can’t unring it.  Just move on.  Learn and move on.”  He patted me on the shoulders and walked away.

Unring The Bell.

You can’t.  It happened.  It happens.  Best we can do is learn from it and move on no matter what it is. 

I think many of us ring bells at the wrong time.  Some of us ring the wrong bells at the wrong time.  It happens every so often and for some of us, it happens quite often.  Like Fr. K said though, we can’t ever Unring The Bell.  Best to learn and move on.  And by the way, a bunch of us went to the gym that afternoon and played basketball and had a great time.  And as I recall, leaving the gym after locking up, Fr. K gave me another headlock and asked if I was okay.  Yeah, I was more than okay.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Wil To Make

The day started out sunny and fairly pleasant, but by the early afternoon, it was cloudy, cold and windy.  By the time we arrived, it was rainy.


A group of my son’s friends, his wife Maria, and the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design put on an exhibit and silent auction of art work to raise money for a scholarship in Wil’s name called, Wil To Make.


Art was hung on the walls, including some pieces Wil had taken.  T-shirts were purchased and passed out, along with buttons that carried the scholarship name.  Kim, Hannah, Emily, and I wandered around looking at all the donated art.  The pieces had the artist’s name and a brief paragraph explaining why they had donated the piece. 


Music played in the background.  Before long, there were so many people.  An eclectic group.  All ages.  All races.  Friends.  Family.  Some of my former students, some from my teaching days, some from my principal days.  They shared stories about Wil, his high school days, his college days, his life as a professional.  Heartwarming, enduring, sincere.  Comforting.


There were pictures of Wil that showed his joy, his passion.  We thought of bidding on several of them.  We settled on one by Mikah, who went to school with Wil.  A beautiful picture of Wil superimposed on a sunset taken in Door County, Wisconsin, where we had lived once upon a time and where Wil went to middle and part of high school.  A beautiful picture and we were fortunate enough to have the winning bid.


It was a bit later in the evening when Hannah pointed out the very last photo and told me to read the caption.


I had seen it.  I had looked at.  It didn’t catch my eye like some of the other pieces.  I’m more of a landscape guy.  This particular framed photo was an urban scene.  A street scene.  A young man with a very descriptive expletive on his back.  His jeans sagged way below his waist.  Interesting.


The title of the piece as ‘3:19’.  Hannah urged me to read the paragraph, so I did.


The photo was taken by my son using his phone’s camera just three minutes before Wil was shot and killed.  To our knowledge, it was the last photo taken by my son. 


I know you have heard the expression that one’s “heart sunk” or one’s “breath was taken away” and while those might be time-worn cliché’s, that’s exactly what happened to me.  I wanted to look away.  I needed to look away.  But at the same time, I couldn’t.  Even after I had walked away to a different part of the gallery, my eyes kept coming back to it.  I could not NOT look at it.  I just couldn’t.


I suppose I could sit here and give in to the urge to talk about the tragedy, the senselessness, the sadness.  However, I haven’t done it so far and I have no intention of doing so now.




Instead, I want to focus on the fact that up until my son was shot and killed, he was doing exactly what he loved to do, what he felt he needed to do.   He was following his passion.


You know, we should all be so lucky to end this temporary life in this way.  By doing what we love to do, need to do.  By fulfilling our passion whatever positive thing that might be.


One last photograph.


I have written many times about how we need to live in the moment, how we need to live each moment, each and every day.  And, what better way to do this than to live what you love to do! Wil did this up until the very end.  He lived.  I can see him smiling, perhaps laughing quietly, at the young man in front of him, the subject of his photo.  Knowing Wil, he’d laugh out loud.  So I choose to picture Wil laughing out loud as he walked down the street.  And laughter is always good.  Always good.  And so is living each and every moment, each and every day, and making a positive difference as we do so.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Light Behind The Clouds (reposted)

Light Behind The Clouds 

I'm reposting this today because I really needed to . . .

When I lived in Southern California, the blue sky was never really blue.  As one looked up, there seemed to be an orange-colored tint to the sky.  It was because the pollution, the smog layer, that dulled the brilliance of the blue.  I remember a quip by Fritz Coleman, a weatherman on one of the local stations that like other parts of the United States, Southern California had air that could be chewed.  What set Southern California apart from the rest was that it had a nice mesquite flavor to it.

When Kim and the kids and I would fly home to Wisconsin, the plane would take off and rise above that smog layer and when we looked down, we could see the orange layer.  But above and behind that orange layer, was a brilliant blue sky. 

The same happened when the plane took off and rose above a particularly heavy cloud layer.  Gray and gloomy one minute, but sunny the next.  Light Behind The Clouds.

Every now and then we run into a patch of stormy weather.  The day might begin sunny, perhaps with a few clouds, but by late afternoon or evening, the sky would become overcast, and boast a dark bruised sky, that would eventually burst with a sudden, sometimes pounding downpour.

Sort of like life.

Happy one minute.  Everything going your way.  Things falling into place nicely.  And then in the next moment, and sometimes without warning . . .

It is human nature to get pulled in and to succumb to the dark and the gloomy, the foreboding and formidable.  We’ve all been there.  Perhaps there are those reading this who are still there.

But I might remind you, perhaps not so eloquently, that there is always Light Behind The Clouds.  Always.

Just as when a plane takes off, it rises above the smog layer and one can see the brilliance of the blue.  Just as when a plane takes off, it rises above the clouds and one can see the sun, the Light Behind The Clouds.

And, storms don’t last.  They run their course.  The clouds burst, rain pours forth, and then there is sun.

During those dark days when all seems gloomy and ugly, when all seems painful and lost, when there doesn’t seem to be any direction or help forthcoming, remember . . .

There is always Light Behind The Clouds.  Always.  Always.  And until then, let the rain refresh you.  Or as Fritz might say, enjoy the mesquite flavor.  Smile.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference! 

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Code Of Silence

Ever get on an elevator with strangers, people you don’t know?  Maybe one or two, maybe a larger group?  Sometimes you might be taking the ride up or down with one or two folks you know, but the rest of the carriage has other folks you don’t know.

There is this Code Of Silence that most everyone follows.  Can’t find it written anywhere.  I don’t believe anyone ever cautioned me to be quiet or to not speak in an elevator.  It just seems to be something that one does, or in this case, doesn’t do.  A Code of Silence. 

If someone does speak, it is done quietly and in a low voice.  One can’t talk loudly in an elevator because, well, it might be too loud.  But one cannot speak in a whisper, because the feeling might be if you whisper in an elevator, other passengers might be uncomfortable because they aren’t sure what you’re saying or what you’re whispering about.  Seems inappropriate to whisper in an elevator somehow.

So, the passengers in an elevator mostly remain quiet, still, and motionless.  Perhaps most eyes are front and center, a bit lifted to stare at the lighted number above the door waiting for their turn.  And when the elevator stops on the appropriate floor, the doors open up and the passengers leave.  Sometimes one by one, sometimes in groups, to go on about their business. 

And often when the doors open and when passengers disembark there is talk and laughter, perhaps relief.  The brief lull ended.  The moment of silence observed.  And then all move on with life.

A Code Of Silence.

There are times when each of us should observe A Code Of Silence.  I believe it is necessary and appropriate to do so.  How else can we cope with the race we run, the maze of life we explore, the pace we must keep up with?

How else but with A Code Of Silence can we stop and think and reflect on what we’ve done . . . are doing . . . on where we’ve been . . . where we’re going?

For me, mornings have always been that time for me.  I lie in bed somewhat, but mostly awake, and think.  I ponder.  Sometimes I’m out of bed and sitting in the family room by myself in the not quite daylight.  Television off.  Newspaper untouched.  No music, no sound other than perhaps the air conditioner turning on and off or an ice cube or two dropping into the bucket in the freezer.  Kim is out running or at the Y swimming.  Emily is still sleeping.  Hannah is off at college.  Our dog, Bailey, lounging on her couch in the other room.  And I sit on the couch with my feet up enjoying the stillness, the silence.  It is relaxing for me.  It helps me recharge.  It helps me refresh.  It helps me.  It helps.

I have a brother-in-law who walks in the woods.  For as long as I can remember, Jim would take long walks.  Hike.  Explore.  He’s always been a hunter and fisherman, but often, he’d just take a walk.  To enjoy the stillness, the quiet, the peace.  The beauty that is of his world, but not of his world.  My wife, Kim, runs in the dark, early in the predawn of day.  Her time to think, to recharge.  She calls it her “cup of coffee.”  Sometimes after I’ve sat and thought and reflected, I wonder why Emily isn’t up, so I wander back upstairs, knock on her door, and find her sitting in bed reading.  No music.  No TV.  No computer.  Just a book in her hands and a smile on her face.  Maybe one she has read once or twice already, sometimes a new book by a new author.  Content with life.  At peace.

Perhaps each of us can make it a point to keep A Code Of Silence with ourselves at some point each day.  I believe that just as water and air and sunlight are necessary for our well-being, so is silence.  The peace of it.  The quiet of it.  The focus of it.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
Thank you so much for taking a chance on a rookie writer and for making Taking Lives, my debut novel a success.  For those of you who haven’t given it a shot, it can be found at:

Great News . . . .
Taking Lives is the prequel to my trilogy.  The first book of the trilogy, Stolen Lives, will be out and available in November.  I don’t have a release date yet, but as soon as I find out, I will let you know.  And again, thank you for taking a chance on a rookie.  JL