Friday, January 18, 2013


I remember as a kid going into a House of Mirrors and laughing at the various distortions reflected back at me.  Oh how I wish I had the mirror that makes me look taller and thinner!  Wish I had one of those for myself.  And I’d certainly like the one that splits me in two- I can see a need for that one some days as busy as I am.

I wonder when you gaze at a mirror while brushing your teeth, fixing your hair or straightening your tie, who is it that reflects back at you?  Is it a distortion such as in the House of Mirrors?  Is it someone you want and aspire to be?  Is it someone you’re disappointed in?  Someone you’d rather not be at all? Are there times when you don’t want to even look in the mirror, ashamed at what you did, what you said, how you acted, what you have become?

I’ve always felt that the words one speaks, the words one writes, and the tone of those words, along with the actions that correspond (or not?) to those words are the measures of the person’s heart and soul.  At times, I catch myself not speaking or acting or writing as the person I want to be, the person I aspire to be and it shames me.  At times, I mouth words that I don’t believe, write words that I don’t believe, and act in a way that, well, isn’t me.  So, I strive to make amends and to do better next time.  I set my best foot forward, start over and try again.

No one is perfect.  I get that.  But I believe that we need to be true to the person who reflects back at us in the mirror, true to the words we speak and write and true to the tone with which those words are spoken and written.  I think we need to be true to how we act.  There needs to be congruence between words, tone and actions.  If not, we’re just distortions.  If we work on congruence, then I think we can be proud of who we see reflecting back at us.

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Your Vision

DeWitt Jones, Photographer for National Geographic, tells the story his father once told him about two stone cutters.  A man posed the question to one: “What are you doing?”  One stone cutter said, “Cutting stone.”  He posed the question to the other and the other answered, “I’m building a cathedral.”  Two men, same job doing the same work.  Two different viewpoints.  Two different Visions.

I have to admit that I am and have always been a ‘glass is almost full’ kind of guy.  Not ‘half full’ but really, ‘almost full’.  Growing up, Pollyanna was one of my favorite movies.  I never watched Winnie The Pooh until we had our first child, Hannah, but as I watched along with her, I found myself chuckling at Eeyore.  What a depressing Vision of life he had!  Yet, each of us know at least one or two Eeyores, and I’m willing to bet that at times, we’ve been one too.  Sort of like Typhoid Mary, an Eeyore can bring down just about anyone.

Perhaps we need to consider if we are like Eeyore and looking for and expecting the bad to occur in life and only willing to see and express the negative.  Or, are we more like Pollyanna and looking for and expecting the good in life and in others and expressing the positive.  Either way, we would be like Typhoid Mary spreading either negativity and sadness or positivity and joy.  You choose!

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Drop In The Ocean

I take very seriously the statement attributed to Mother Theresa: “It has been said that what we do is only a drop in the ocean.  I say, without that one drop, the ocean would be less.”  This statement has had a profound impact on me, my life, and my attitude about education, about teaching and about learning, about being a parent, mentor and role model.  To me, it explains why I write what I do and why I entered the field of education.  It serves as a great source hope and inspiration for me.

You see, I was a child who was saved by a teacher.  Saved in every sense of the word: emotionally, socially, spiritually, and academically.  Previous to fourth grade, I was considered a slow learner, a kid with a stutter, a kid who was poor, a kid who just couldn’t or didn’t pay attention—after all, I was “Just another Lewis kid.”  I was the second youngest in a family of ten and all of us went through the same grade school.  You couldn’t escape the reputation of the brother or sister who went before.

But then I was lucky enough to land in Mrs. Nancy Mehring’s fourth grade classroom.  She saw something beyond all of that.  She saw a boy with a smile.  She saw a boy who was rather shy and who only needed a chance. 

She began to call on me, asked me my opinion on class issues and asked me to settle disputes among my peers.  She cared about me as a person and to her, I wasn’t just “another Lewis kid.”  In short, she showed an interest in me and took it upon herself to not let me fall through the cracks.  In time, I no longer stuttered, I suddenly had friends, and my grades rose from Ds and Cs to As and Bs.  I became interested in school and, more importantly, in learning. 

I am a living testament to the power of one caring adult, in this case, a teacher.  I am a testament to the power one teacher can have just because she took the time, made an effort and took an interest in me beyond math, beyond spelling and beyond reading and writing.

We have the power to change and transform lives.  All of us!  This is our responsibility each day and every day we come into contact with our kids, with anyone.  I am evidence of that.  This is what Mrs. Mehring did for me.  Mrs. Mehring changed and transformed my life.  And, it began with her.  It was her attitude, her caring, her empathy, and her understanding of the fact that she can and did make a difference in the kids she came into contact with.  She made a difference with me.

I believe we have an obligation to make a difference in kids’ lives, in each other’s lives.  We have a responsibility to make a difference in kids’ lives.  We have the power to touch lives and make a difference.  To me, it is our duty and our responsibility to touch lives and make a difference.  We can fill an ocean with drops of water.  One drop might not seem like a lot, but as Mother Theresa stated, “Without that one drop, the ocean would be less.” 

Live Your Life, And Make A Difference!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Lighthouses (republished)

Readers:  Because we are beginning "school season" again, I wanted to republish this post because it speaks to all of us who work with, and care about, kids.  May each of you have the strength to carry on. JL

I lived in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin for five years.  That little city is surrounded by water: the Bay of Green Bay on one side and Lake Michigan on the other.  The Door County Peninsula where Sturgeon Bay sits is home to several lighthouses up and down both sides guiding and warning ships and boats as they approach shoreline.

I’ve always been fascinated with lighthouses.  Some are big, tall and famous, while others are little and nondescript.  Some are in good shape, while others seem to be in disrepair.  I imagine a ship captain welcomes that light in times of storm as his ship is buffeted by wind and wave.  I think the captain is relieved to see that light shining when his ship is surrounded by fog.

There have been many lighthouses in my life as a child and as an adult.  I think of Mrs. Nancy Mehring, my fourth grade teacher.  You see, I was a stutterer, timid and shy.  I lacked confidence in myself, was a horrible student who didn’t apply himself, who didn’t concentrate and either couldn’t or didn’t pay attention.  She saw through all of that and tapped into some potential that no one else had before her.  Like a lighthouse, she saved me in a time of fog where I couldn’t see, couldn’t find direction and saved me from drifting endlessly.  Instead of crashing onto a rocky shoreline, she guided me to calm waters.  

 I think of my sixth grade teacher, Sr. Josephe’ Marie Flynn, who furthered the love of learning in me and gave me my love of writing.  Without her, I might not have ever discovered I could write.  I might not have ever used this creative tool to reach and teach others, to entertain.

A lighthouse.  It guides and warns.  It comforts in a storm.  It gives direction in fog.  It doesn’t need to be famous, big or tall.  It can be little and nondescript.

I wonder what might happen if each of us becomes a lighthouse for even just one other person.  We might change that individual’s life as Mrs. Mehring and Sr. Josephe’ did for me.  We might change our own lives in the process.  Just imagine the possibility.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Thursday, January 3, 2013


The New Year seems to bring a flurry of resolutions: lose weight, stop smoking, get out of debt, get more active.  Ever wonder why we wait until the New Year to change?  Isn't each day an opportunity to change, to recreate?  I stopped New Year’s resolutions quite some time ago.  I couldn’t seem to stick with them, perhaps because the resolution was too vague and not focused enough, or maybe because the resolution was too lofty and not incremental enough.  In any case, what I set out to do with the best of intentions, ended sometimes gradually, sometimes with a thud, and almost always without success. 

Instead of changing something I was or wasn’t doing, I decided to change how I thought.  Henri-Frédéric Amiel wrote, “All appears to change when we change.”  I tend to believe that.  I believe that our attitude shapes our response to situations, to events and to people who come and go in our lives. Our frame of reference shapes our response.  Sometimes our frame of reference is automatic, conditioned by time and the repetitiveness of the situations we find ourselves in, sometimes the monotony of the circumstances we place ourselves in.  Because of a past experience with someone, our response to them is automatic without a second thought, without hesitation and without giving him or her a chance.  Perhaps if we took a deep breath, if we paused and gave that someone a chance, our response, and more importantly, the response we’d like to get might change for the better. 

But ultimately, it is dependent upon us: our attitude, our willingness to step out of the box we’ve created for ourselves, and perhaps the box we’ve created for others, and try to do and think differently. Change is sometimes difficult, sometimes unwelcome, and might mean that we think and do something we haven’t thought of or done before.  However, I challenge you to try it: you might like it, and more importantly, like the result.  Start tomorrow- don't wait until New Years!
Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Giving and Receiving

There were ten of us children growing up in a house in the country next to a river.  We shared one bathroom until my dad had an addition built.  I know we weren't wealthy by today's standards, perhaps not by any standards.  I grew up with a lot of hand-me-downs, as did my other brothers and sisters.  I also remember my mom and dad doing without in order to provide for us.

Each Christmas, we'd line up on the stairs in our pajamas oldest at the top to the youngest at the bottom.  Dad would light up the tree and yell for us to come and see "what Santa brought".  There was laughter and joy and excitement.

At some point as the years passed and when I began to shop for my mom and dad and for my brothers and sisters that I became more interested in what I was going to give to them than in what I was going to receive from them.  While I didn't have much money in my pocket, I wanted to make it count, to mean something.  This feeling of receiving more joy in the giving than in the receiving really hit home when my wife and I had our own children.  Their joy, their excitement means more to me than anything I receive from them.  I know that if I could give them the sun, the moon and the stars, I would.  But I can't.

What I can give them is love.  I can give them my time.  I cam give them a hug and kiss when needed, along with a ear for listening.  I can give them me.  Perhaps the gift and giving of ourselves is really the best gift of all because it seems the more we give, the more we have and are blessed with in return.

Live your life and make a difference!