Thursday, March 17, 2016

Two Pieces Of Chocolate



In my writing, I spend quite a bit of time on the need for giving back, on the need for making a positive difference in the lives of others thereby making our own lives better and more meaningful. Constant themes in my writing are lending a helping hand because we’re all in this together . . . you and I . . . all of us. I speak of hope and instilling that hope in the lives of those around us, especially kids because that generation needs to feel and experience hope in order to bring about change and help make this world better.

In my fiction writing, The Lives Trilogy, a constant theme is survival, of hope, of love and of support, of belonging and rising above those roadblocks that are found in the way. I think that’s why the readers have singled out George and Brett as favorites because time and again, despite what life gave them, they rose above, they survived, and they found hope and love and helped others along the way.

That leads me to Two Pieces Of Chocolate.

Francine Christophe was eight years old when she and her mother were forced to go to Bergen-Belsen with many other Jews. As she explained, children were allowed to take something with them to camp. Not much, mind you, but something. Some chose a bit of rice or flour. Francine’s mother chose Two Pieces Of Chocolate and as her mother explained to her, they would be eaten only when Francine wasn’t feeling well or when she had a tough day.

Now I’m thinking, ‘Was there any good day at a Nazi death camp?’ Evidently, there was.

You see, there was a woman at the camp who was pregnant. She was so malnourished that she didn’t look pregnant. To look at her, one couldn’t tell. But the day came and this woman, with the help of Francine’s mother, gave birth to a baby girl. Perhaps a little joy in an otherwise ugly and dark place.

Francine’s mother came to her and asked Francine how she was doing. Francine answered fine, okay. Francine’s mother asked her if she could give the Two Pieces Of Chocolate to the new mother explaining, “She might die otherwise.” Eight year old Francine gave her mother permission to do so. At eight years old!

Flash forward many, many years . . .

Francine is now an elderly woman. She is one of the speakers at a symposium on surviving the death camp and what it took to do so. And how doctors, lawyers, therapists might help those who survive these god-awful events come to peace and survive emotionally.

A young woman, a doctor, gets up and goes to the podium. She begins by saying that she has something for Francine, and holds out a Piece Of Chocolate. You see, she was the baby born at Bergen-Belsen.

The entire story is inspiring and captivating and worth the couple of minutes it takes to view it. It can be found at:

This is yet another example of giving and not expecting any reward or return. This is yet another example of making a positive difference in the life of another.

I’ve written many times about growing up next to a river. As kids, we’d through rocks or stones into it to see who could toss it the furthest. We’d watch the ripples as they spread out and touch the shore. One after another, almost continuous.

You see, I am convinced that like the stone tossed in the river, the positive things we say or do cause ripples in the universe and they touch lives. These ripples can make a difference in the lives of others . . . positively. The kind word we speak. The smile we give. The hand we extend. Our presence and support in another’s life in a moment of doubt or despair.

Sometimes we might never know how that ripple affected the life of another. But sometimes, perhaps, maybe, we might get a return on that investment in time, just as Francine did so many years later. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!


To My Readers:
Catch up with the lives of Brett and George in the Lives Trilogy and Prequel found at:

Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives http://tinyurl.com/Taking-Lives-J-Lewis

Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy http://tinyurl.com/Stolen-Lives-J-Lewis

Shattered Lives, Book Two of the Lives Trilogy http://tinyurl.com/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis

Splintered Lives, Book Three of the Lives Trilogy http://tinyurl.com/Splintered-Lives-J-Lewis

Thanks,
JL

Friday, March 11, 2016

I Dare You!



One of my favorite movies of all-time, and I have to say I have several movies that fall into that category, is Christmas Story. You know the one they play at Christmas over and over on TNT or TBS. Ralphie. His dream of getting a Red Ryder BB Gun, even though he’s warned multiple times that he could shoot his eye out.

One of my favorite scenes is Ralphie trying on the pink bunny suit his aunt made for him. His father and his little brother laugh at him and the conversation goes:
           
Mr. Parker: He looks like a deranged Easter Bunny.
Mother: He does not!
Mr. Parker: He does too, he looks like a pink nightmare!

Even writing this causes me to smile.

There is another scene in the movie that I alternately smile and laugh at, but also cringe at. You know the one, right? The “stick your tongue on the flagpole” scene and the I Dare You! No wait, it’s bigger and badder than that. It’s the dreaded Double-Dog-Dare and the killer, Triple-Dog-Dare!

Flick: Are you kidding? Stick my tongue to that stupid pole? That's dumb!
Schwartz: That's 'cause you know it'll stick!
Flick: You're full of it!
Schwartz: Oh yeah?
Flick: Yeah!
Schwartz: Well I double-DOG-dare ya!
Ralphie as Adult: [narrating] NOW it was serious. A double-dog-dare. What else was there but a "triple dare you"? And then, the coup de grace of all dares, the sinister triple-dog-dare.
Schwartz: I TRIPLE-dog-dare ya!
Ralphie as Adult: [narrating] Schwartz created a slight breach of etiquette by skipping the triple dare and going right for the throat!

And who among us doesn’t know at least one kid who didn’t put his mouth on metal during the icy cold days of winter? Those of us in or from the north surely do. My mind flashes to Barb on the monkey bars during recess, to Bob on the merry-go-round. There are others.

Yeah, the I Dare You!

Can be funny. Can be sad. Will for sure bring back some memories good and bad for each of us.

But . . . I want to take you in a different direction on the I Dare You!

When was the last time you broke out of your routine? When was the last time you changed up, even a little? When was the last time you pushed and pulled yourself out of your comfort zone?

Jonas Salk is quoted as saying, “Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.”  And Nikos Kazantzakis said, “A person needs a little madness, or else they never dare cut the rope and be free.”

We rarely think of an I Dare You! when it comes to us . . . you and I . . . pushing ourselves a little or a lot. There is life beyond the ordinary. There is life beyond the routine. There is a whole world out and beyond the walls we erect for ourselves. And out there beyond the walls we erect for ourselves can change the ordinary to the extraordinary, the spectacular . . . if only we give it a shot. If only we give ourselves a little nudge. A little push.

So my challenge to you today is to give yourself just one small I Dare You! Just a small one. Try it out. It doesn’t have to grand or great or glorious. Just think of something you’ve never, ever done before, but always wanted to try. Give yourself the opportunity to open a door to something new, something different. “. . . Cut the rope and be free.” I Triple-Dog-Dare ya! Something to think 
about . . .

To My Readers:

I received two very nice 5 Star Reviews for Splintered Lives, Book Three of the Lives Trilogy!

“This book was well-written just like the other two before. The characters and dialogue go hand in hand and it was easy to immerse yourself in their journey as the story unveiled. The plot twists and connections among the characters in this novel make you feel emotional connections to them as well. A great conclusion to the story and the trilogy. I suggest you read this when you have a chunk of time on your hands because otherwise, you will be anxious, looking for a chance to finish it.”

“Love, love, loved it! I almost read it in one day but fell asleep! It was my favorite I believe. Love the characters, the story line, action, drama, humor, sadness, it was awesome! Thanks for a very enlightening series!”

Book Three, Splintered Lives:
A 14 year old boy has a price on his head, but he and his family don’t know it. Their vacation turns into a trip to hell. Out gunned and outnumbered, can this boy protect his father and brothers? Without knowing who these men are? Or how many there are? Or when they might come for him?

Look for the whole series on Amazon:
Taking Lives, the Prequel
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they live in separate parts of the country, the lives of FBI Kelliher, 11 year old Brett McGovern, and 11 year old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their futures grow dark as each search for a way out.

Book One, Stolen Lives:
Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved.

Book Two, Shattered Lives:
Six men escaped and are out for revenge. The boys, recently freed from captivity, are in danger and so are their families, but they don’t know it. The FBI has no clues, no leads, and nothing to go on and because of that, cannot protect them.

Thanks,
JL

Friday, February 26, 2016

Not Making The Cut



We just went through tryouts for our spring sports teams. For most of the teams, yesterday was the day coaches delivered the news that a kid made it . . . or didn’t.

It’s a day of highs and lows. It’s great for the kid who makes the team. He or she gets a uniform, a name in the program, and if he or she is one of the elite, gets his or her name read over the PA system. But it’s a tough day for both the coach and the kid. I don’t think I’ve ever met a coach who enjoyed saying to a kid, “You didn’t make it.”

I spent ten years as a coach. Eight at the high school level and two at the collegiate level. I’ve had my share of conversations with kids over the years, telling them that they were good kids, but not quite good enough to make it. It’s a conversation the coach doesn’t want to have and I know from experience, it’s a conversation the kid doesn’t want to have. No matter what words I used (knowing that sometimes I get fouled up and what comes out of my mouth isn’t at all what I intended), the message is pretty clear: not good enough. And in the kid’s mind, he or she might only hear the first two words: not good.

When I was a junior in high school, I got cut from basketball. Looking back on it, I can understand why. As a coach, I would have cut me as a sophomore. I had no left hand, a prerequisite for someone of my short stature. I was only a fair shot. I was pretty good at defense. But when you combine that skill set, there was no way I should have played beyond my freshman year.

Still, at that time, it stung. It hurt. I mean, my friends made the team and instead of being on the court with them, I’m sitting in the stands watching them.

I was a pretty good football player, and the basketball coach was one of the assistant football coaches. When he cut me, he told me that if I tried to run between two trees, I’d hit them both on the way through. I don’t think it was a compliment.

But a funny thing happened at the end of that conversation . . .

He said he needed someone to coach the eighth grade team. Not help out. Actually coach. He told me I knew the game. He said I could see it the way it should be played. He said that he thought I would be a pretty good coach someday.

That was my second experience coaching. My first actually came in my eighth grade year. Father Jim was the sixth grade coach and he asked me if I wanted to help. Hey, why not, right? There were times when something pulled him away from practice and he left me to run it for him. I liked it but didn’t see myself as a coach way back then. After all, I was a player, right?

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that possibilities and opportunities come at you unexpectedly. They pop up everywhere. Some we seek out and others are presented to us.

Had I made the team as a junior and then as a senior, Coach Crowe might never have had that conversation with me, and most assuredly, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to coach a team as a junior in high school. It wasn’t something I was looking for. I wanted to play. I wanted to be with my friends. But as it turned out, I was better suited for coaching than playing.

While it is never easy when we’re down or disappointed and hurting, I think we need to remember that in each disappointment, there might be a possibility, an opportunity. The hurt we feel might give way to something better, way better. That possibility will present itself in its own time, in its own way and sometimes . . . maybe most of the time, unexpectedly. We just have to be open to the possibility, the opportunity. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
I received two five star (five out of five) review for both Taking Lives, the Prequel to the Lives Trilogy, and for Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy. 

The reviewer wrote for Taking Lives: “Couldn’t put the book down. Great story can't wait to read the next one.”

The reviewer wrote for Stolen Lives: “Waiting on the next. I thought the prequel was good, but this is another one. Once you start, you can't put it down.”

You can find all four of my books
Taking Lives, Stolen Lives, Shattered Lives and Splintered Lives at:
#Mystery #Thriller #Suspense #Crime #Fiction #Kidnapping #Murder

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Bailey And Stella


Bailey And Stella

 

When we moved to Virginia eight years ago, we decided to get a dog. It wasn’t a sudden idea. No, not at all. It came to us gradually and with some reluctance.

 

We’re partial to Golden Retrievers, liking their intelligence and their gentle nature. Actually, it was Hannah and Emily who did the hunting for us. We’d wake up in the morning and find pictures of various dogs on the refrigerator door or on a cupboard or in the pantry. Clever of them. Funny, really.

 

We gave in.

 

Bailey was from the beach area and was a rescue dog. We met the owner halfway, near Richmond. The owner turned out to be only a caretaker. The actual owners were in the military and were heading back overseas somewhere.

 

We took a look at Bailey and saw that she had suffered. We could count her ribs. If we made a sudden move, even just to pet her, she’d shy away. Kim and I took a look at Bailey and came to the same conclusion. We gave Bailey about two weeks before she’d die. She was that bad.

 

She kept to herself and would stare out the window in the living room. She never barked for months. We didn’t even know if she could bark.

 

No matter how hard the girls tried, no matter how hard Kim or I tried, Bailey wouldn’t warm up to us . . . for a long time. She was afraid. She couldn’t trust anyone. It was heartbreaking, really.

 

And then slowly over time, Bailey came out of her shell. We think back on it and can’t come up with a ‘when’ or a ‘how’ it happened, but . . . She joined us in the family room. As best she could, she would play with us. She was affectionate, gentle. She still has her moments, though. Loud noises and sudden moves still cause her to flinch and shy away, but she has come such a long way. A long, long way.

 

Bailey is now a part of us and a part of our family. But it took time. A frustratingly long time, and a heck of a lot of patience. There were times I felt like giving up, but I’m so glad I didn’t.

 

Fast forward . . .

 

Next year, Hannah will be going to grad school to finish up her degree in elementary ed and she’ll be living in an apartment by herself. Kim and I felt she needed a companion, so we gave Hannah permission to do a search for a dog. She found Stella.

 

Stella is part lab, part retriever. She was a stray and brought to a shelter. We put in our application and they checked references and last week, we went to pick up Stella.

 

Small, skinny, scared. So very scared. Like Bailey used to be, we can count Stella’s ribs. There have been some ‘accidents’ and some snarling, but all in all, just in one week, there has been so much improvement. Stella is like a different dog. A long, long way to go, but Stella is coming around just like Bailey did.

 

Bailey And Stella . . .

 

I’ve been in education for many years, just like many members of my family. I’ve been a ‘person’ longer than I’ve been an educator. A whole lot longer.

 

Along the way, I’ve met many, many Bailey’s and I’ve met many, many Stella’s.

 

Kids, parents, fellow teachers and administrators, friends . . . some more like Bailey And Stella than not.

 

And along the way, I’ve felt like giving up on them, just as, I’m sure, they might have felt like giving up on me. Each of us . . . all of us . . . share some of the same characteristics as Bailey And Stella. Afraid. Scared. Beaten and abused. Not knowing who to trust . . . if we can trust, ever trust.

 

One of the themes I hit over and over again in my posts is the idea of helping one another, of making the choice to improve the lives of others and in so doing, improving our own lives. The theme of making a positive difference in the lives of those around us.

 

At times, it isn’t easy. We feel like giving up and giving in. We feel like walking away and walking out. But perhaps, like Bailey And Stella, at some point, because of something we do or something say, the many afraid, the many scared, the many lost and the many lonely do come around. They do come around. They will come around. So, just like with Bailey And Stella, we can’t give up. We just can’t. Something to think about . . .

 

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

 

To My Readers:

If you like reading fiction, thriller/mystery/suspense, you might want to try my Lives Trilogy and the prequel. I’ve received very nice reviews. You can find them on Amazon.com in both ebook and paperback, and free with Kindle Unlimited. There links and the book descriptions are below for your convenience:

 

Book One, Stolen Lives:

Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents has 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! There are no leads and no clues. Worse, Kelliher suspects that someone on his team might be involved.


 

Book Two, Shattered Lives:

After all the arrest warrants were issued and many of the men involved in the human trafficking ring were arrested, six men escaped, went into hiding and are out for revenge. The boys, recently freed from captivity, are in danger and so are their families. The FBI has no clues, no leads, and nothing to go on and because of that, cannot protect them. A dangerous situation for the kids and their families.


 

Book Three, Splintered Lives:

It began in Arizona with death. It ends in Arizona with death. A 14 year old boy has a price on his head, but he and his family don’t know it. Their vacation turns into a trip to hell. Out gunned and outnumbered, can this boy protect his father and brothers? Without knowing who these men are? Or how many there are? Or when and where they might come for him?


 

Prequel, Taking Lives:

The bodies of six boys are found in remote areas in different states with startling similar characteristics. FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his team from the Crimes Against Children Unit investigate and discover a curious pattern that his superiors refuse to believe. Unfortunately for Pete, there are no other leads and no evidence to verify his theory. A 12 year old Navajo boy in Arizona, and a 12 year old boy in Indianapolis, unaware of each other, unknowingly hold the key to these disappearances and deaths.