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.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Some Not So Final Thoughts

Last week, we laid to rest our son, Wil.  It was, and is, difficult.  As I reflect on it, I wanted to share with you Some Not So Final Thoughts.


When I read the newspaper or watch the TV news and when a story comes on about a gunshot victim or people dying in a plane crash, of course I’m saddened.  No one likes to read or hear about death, especially to the young, certainly not children.  However, there has not been the “personal” connection until my son, Wil, died in a homicide while taking a break and walking to a restaurant for noodles.  Shouldn’t have happened to him, and it should not happen to others.  But now it is difficult to read the newspaper or watch the TV news because those stories are all the more real to me, to Kim, and to Hannah and Emily.  Too real.


When it was my turn to speak at the service, I didn’t say all I wanted to say . . . all I needed to say.  I did the best I could, and I think Wil was okay with that.  Yet . . .


I talked about his struggle learning the English language.  For a new learner, it takes from seven to ten years to become fluent.  Wil worked hard at it and there were some funny moments.  In Wil’s ears, birds were “burps” and clouds were “ballooms.”  Yes, I spelled it correctly, at least how Wil pronounced it.   There was a cartoon that Wil liked and its theme song and lyric went: “looting and polluting, it’s up to you!”  What Wil sang as he danced around the family room was: “oony ah balloony estass to you!”  But it wasn’t all on Wil.


One evening, I wanted to tell Wil that I was a little upset at him for not working hard on his homework.  My Spanish was and is awful, and I said, “Yo soy un poco mojado” but when he looked at me in wonder, I ‘corrected’ myself and said, “Yo soy un poco morado.”  He laughed at me and I looked up what I said and found out that I told him I was “wet and purple.”


Those of you who read my posts regularly know that I use three phrases most, if not all, of the time and I use each phrase deliberately.


The first is: “Something to think about . . .”


I believe what we read, what we hear, and what we see should be considered and thought about.  It should be reflected on.  Obviously it is a choice whether one does so, but all of life has a lesson, some big, some small, and most can be applied to our lives.  Reflection is important in the growing process.  What did we learn?  How does this apply?  How might this change me?  What can I do differently?  What should I keep doing?  What must I stop doing?  All great questions.  Evening works best for my reflection, but so does morning.  We have a gift in each Morning (a previous post)- a ‘do over’.  How great is that?  We’re not bound by the past.  We’re not doomed to repeating it.  We can grow from it, learn from it, and each Morning, we get to begin again.  But it all begins with “Something to think about . . .”


The second is: “Live Your Life . . .”


Your Life!  Not someone else’s.  Certainly not someone’s idea of what Your Life should be.  It is yours to live!  Wil didn’t necessarily do things the way I had wanted him to.  Wil made his own way.  Sometimes he struggled until he got it right.  Sometimes he sought out my advice and went with it, but other times he sought it and didn’t use it.  That’s okay.  It worked for him, because it was Wil’s life, just like Your Life is yours!  When you get in your car and drive to a destination, chances are there are several, if not many, ways to get there.  Some might take you longer.  Some might take only a short time.  Yet, you arrive!  You always do!  Live Your Life . . .  I have your back on that!


The third is: “Make A Difference!”


One can move through life without feeling, thinking and one can merely exist.  One can move through life and use others, trample on them to get to their goal, their prize, their result.  Or one can lift up, one can support, one can help along and encourage.  And I believe in so doing, each of us is helped in perhaps greater measure.  It makes the journey easier.  The pain we sometimes have becomes, if not less, at least a little more bearable because it is shared.  Our pain is, on some level, understood.  Each day, each minute, we have a choice to make a positive impact on others.  Judging by the comments shared with us on the In Memory of Wil Lewis page on Facebook and the comments shared with us at the visitation and the luncheon that followed the memorial service, Wil made a positive impact on many.  And the beauty of it was that perhaps Wil was unaware he had done so.  Wil just Lived His Life and in so doing, Made A Difference!


That’s all I really ask of you.  Each of you.  Each day, each moment.  Just Live Your Life and Make A Difference!  Not too much to ask, is it? 


In Apollo 13, there is a scene when the three astronauts are in their little capsule.  They aren’t sure if they will survive the reentry into the atmosphere.  They aren’t sure if they will make a safe and soft landing.  Their hands are in the hands of some unknown folks thousands of miles away.  I don’t know the historical accuracy of the scene, but the character played by Tom Hanks turns to his partners and says, “Gentlemen, it has been an honor and a privilege.”


Wil, it has been an honor and a privilege to be your dad.  It has been an honor and a privilege for you to be my son.  A real honor and a real privilege.  I regret that I wasn’t walking along the sidewalk with you July 12th.  I regret that I didn’t have my arm around your shoulders and I regret that I didn’t tell you one more time how very proud I was . . . am . . . of you.  I will live with that.  But I will also live with the fact that you called us the day before, on July 11th to wish us a happy anniversary.  We laughed because you weren’t sure of the date and we laughed because you had a bit of trouble remembering dates.  The laughter was good, is always good.


Yes, it has been an honor and a privilege, Wil.  Always.  You had a positive impact on many and you probably didn’t even know you had.  A life well lived.  Very well lived.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Our Family, To You

There has been such an overwhelming outpouring of support from so many, that on behalf of my family, I want to say, “Thank You!”  Though each experience is unique, those of you who have suffered through something like this, a loss of a loved one, especially under senseless and tragic circumstances, understand what Kim, Hannah, Emily and I, along with Wil’s wife, Maria, are going through.  The support, the expressions of sympathy and empathy, and the faith you’ve shared are appreciated.  I sincerely mean that.

Wil has a unique story and had a unique journey. 

At the age of five, at least on two occasions that we know of, Wil was taken to an open-air market in Guatemala and abandoned by his birth mother.  Yes, at the age of five.  But each time, Wil found his way back home.  Clearly unwanted by his birth mother for some unfathomable reason, Wil had scars from cigarette burns, had boiling water poured onto his back, and had a scar on the crown of his left foot because it was stepped on by someone with a stiletto heel.  The reports from the adoption agency stated that his birth mother was an alcoholic, drug abusing, prostitute.   One night Wil overheard a lawyer speaking to his birth mother about how she might earn some money if she placed one or more of her children up for adoption.  Wil volunteered.  Yes, seriously.  He volunteered.

Wil was supposed to arrive in time for Kim’s and my wedding, but paperwork moves slowly, and our government and then the Guatemalan government put up a hurdle or two, so he didn’t make it in time.  A year later on November 11th, Kim gave birth to Hannah.  One month and one day later on December 12th, I flew to Guatemala to get Wil to bring him home.  So there Kim and I were suddenly with two children: a one month old and a seven year old, neither speaking English, and our Spanish was really bad.  So we became tri-lingual of sorts: English, Spanish, and Charades.  A lot of charades, but it worked for us.

Wil overcame a language barrier.  He had no formal education before coming to us and was illiterate in his native Spanish.  He couldn’t write or read, but that never stopped him. 

When we spoke to him in Spanish, he would try to answer in English.  We tried to encourage him to keep his Spanish, but he stated later in life that it reminded him too much of the past.  He wanted to put it behind him.

Persistent.  Very persistent.

Wil overcame a learning disability.  What took other kids a short time to do, Wil spent hours doing. 

I remember one story from his special education case carrier.  One day in his resource class, there were kids not working and just screwing around as some students might do.  The teacher was working with another student at the time and had asked the couple of kids to stop and get to work.  They didn’t, so Wil took it into his own hands.  From what the teacher told us, Wil lost his temper and told those students about his background, that he had to work for everything he received and that these couple of students were wasting his and the teacher’s time. He told them to be quiet and get busy or leave the room, actually standing up as he told them this.  The students stopped what they were doing and got to work.  From that point on, if those students got out of hand, Wil would stop what he was doing, stare at them, and they would get to work.

Earlier this week, I received a message from one of Wil’s English teachers, Cindy.  She relayed the story of Wil’s report on the novel, Catcher In The Rye.  Wil didn’t particularly care for the book, and liked the main character, Holden Caulfield, even less.  Wil referred to him as a “whiner.”  Hmmm . . . from Wil’s perspective, I can see where he was coming from.

You know, it isn’t easy being the ‘Principal’s Kid’.  To a greater or lesser degree, Wil, Hannah, and Emily have it somewhat harder than some.  In some eyes, anything one of them might earn, it was because they were the ‘Principal’s Kid’.  Hannah was actually told once by a teacher that she “can’t get by on her cutesy smile, because her daddy wasn’t going to be around forever . . .” Nice, huh?  Emily was told by some kids at school that she is a starter on the varsity soccer team because she is the ‘Principal’s Kid’.  Just great, huh?

To Wil’s, Hannah’s, and Emily’s credit, they have never ever played the ‘Principal’s Kid’ card.  What they earned, they did it on their own, and in their own unique way.

Wil, very much so.  He struggled.  But Wil persisted and overcame.  He set a wonderful example for both Hannah and Emily, which is why they are and forever will be, close.  Always!

Wil overcame a language barrier and graduated from high school.  He graduated from college.  The week he was shot and killed, Wil was offered a full-time job and was so excited about it.

On July 11th, Kim and I celebrated our twenty-second wedding anniversary.  Wil called to wish us a happy anniversary, and we could tell he was so excited about his new job.

Then one day later, on the afternoon of July 12th, Wil was shot and killed.  As I wrote last week, senseless.  Tragic.  Heartbreaking.

But I would like to leave you with this, because it is important for me, for Wil, and for my family that I do so:

Wil might not be of this earth any longer, but he is still with us and always will be.  Wil’s life is like a pebble one throws into water:  the ripples extend outward and beyond causing other ripples.  I have faith to believe that Wil is with my God, with my dad and my mom, with my two sisters: Donna and Joanne, with Kim's sister, Deanne, with four of his cousins: Jackie, Jared, Sue and Jared.

Mostly, Wil lives in my heart.  I still have conversations with him.  I know Kim, Hannah and Emily do, too.  I’m sure his wife, Maria, does.  Mostly, we love him dearly.  Always will.  Always.

Wil’s life was too large, too big, for it to end and for him to be gone.  His accomplishments too meaningful.  Wil accomplished much in his twenty-eight years, and I believe he would have accomplished even more had this tragedy not occurred.

As I stated in my last post, please use this tragedy, this loss, as a reminder to live in the moment.  Wil certainly did.  Use this tragedy to remind yourself that you cannot, must not, take life for granted.  Use this tragedy to remind yourself that you must, absolutely must, let those who are near and dear to you, those who are important to you, that you love them, that they are indeed important to you.  You must do this and not put it off any longer.  It has to be done daily, often during each day.

And lastly, from Our Family, To You, thank you!  Sincerely, thank you.

And please, Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

With Sadness

Late last night, or early this morning, my wife and I received a phone call informing us that our son, Wil, was shot and killed while standing at a bus stop waiting for the bus to take him home.  Senseless. No rhyme. No reason. Another individual walks up and shoots our son.

Police think it was a case of mistaken identity. The shooter fled on foot. Police eventually found the shooter's car. They are still investigating.

Numb. Not really comprehending it. Certainly can't find any meaning in it. None.

It's a call no parent should ever receive.  Ever.

Wil was 28 years old. Married less than two years. This last week, he just received good news on a new full time job. Now gone. Gone.

I will close at this point with the caution that you cannot, must not take life for granted.  Not ever. Hug those who are near and dear. Never let a day or minute go by without telling those close to you that you love them, that they mean something to you.

Hug and love your kids, your wife or husband.

Above all, Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Joe, Kim, Hannah and Emily.  And Wil and his young wife, Maria.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Light Behind The Clouds

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.


We’ve run into a patch of stormy weather here lately.  The day would 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!