Sunday, June 26, 2016

Gathering At The Feeder



I’ve always liked birds.

When I was single, I had a bird cage and had a male and a female finch. Eventually, they laid eggs and I had a little family on my hands. They would bounce and fly and flit around the cage. They were quite shy, so I couldn’t make any sudden moves or make a lot of noise, but we got along well.

Kim doesn’t like birds and doesn’t want me to have any in the house. With two dogs, I don’t think it would work very well, either.

A couple of years ago, I set up two bird feeders in the backyard. I placed them on either side of the yard, one next to a white flowering crape myrtle and the other next to a pink flowering crape myrtle. Between the two feeders are two small, young red maples, and between them, four knock out roses and a butterfly bush.

Build it, and they will come. They sure did!

At any time of day or early evening, we see any number of different colored finches and some canaries, the smallest of our visitors. The largest visitors we see are cardinals, blue jays, and mourning doves. Quite the variety, really.

We even had something much larger at some point during the night, probably a squirrel or raccoon because we found one of the feeders on the ground with the top open. Was kind of messy. I just picked it up, filled it, and placed it back on the stanchion.

The birds don’t seem to mind Bailey, our Golden Retriever, and she doesn’t seem to mind or notice them. They peaceably coexist. Stella, on the other hand, is a much different story. She shows up and they fly away and wait for her to come back into the house before they visit the feeders.

I either sit on the deck and watch them or watch them from a window in our family room. I find it peaceful and relaxing.

One of the things I notice is the level of cooperation amongst the birds. One day, one of the bigger birds, a blue jay, shook the feeder causing some of the seed to fall on the ground. He ate from the ground while the smaller birds ate from the feeder itself. At other times, the smaller birds will leave as the larger ones arrive and eat. Eventually they leave, and the smaller birds return.   

Everyone gets their fill and I keep them filled with seed.

Got me thinking . . .

I think people, all of us, can learn a lesson or two from birds.
Unlike birds who are unconcerned about the type of bird feeding next to it, humans seem overly concerned, especially now days. Yes, I understand current events. I do understand the worry about safety and well-being. I want my family safe when they travel to a different city or even go to a nightclub or a movie. So, yes, I get that.

But it seems to me that there is perhaps too much scrutiny over skin color, the type of dress and head covering. There are issues of who is or isn’t allowed to come to our country, even though we call ourselves, “The Land of the Free” and have a monument in a New York Harbor celebrating our immigrant heritage.

Perhaps I have a na├»ve, over-simplistic view of coexistence, a Pollyanna-ish view of how folks should get along, need to get along. So I understand if you want to give me a smile, a pat on the head and a sympathetic shake of the head. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could be similar in how we treat each other as birds treat each other? A level of cooperation? A peaceful coexistence? Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

Please feel free to connect with me at

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor



If you like to read thriller/mystery, check out:
Book One of the Lives Trilogy, 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 of the Lives Trilogy, 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.

Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
The FBI knows a 14 year old boy has a price on his head, but he and his family don’t. With no leads and with nothing to go on, the FBI gambles and sets up the boy and his family as bait in order to catch three dangerous and desperate men with absolutely nothing to lose.

The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
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 don’t know one another, 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 lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out.
http://tinyurl.com/Taking-Lives-J-Lewis 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Humble And Kind



Humble And Kind

I sang this song to the seniors, the class of 2016, at our commencement. For those of you who don’t know, rather than give a speech or a principal’s address, I select a song that “fits” that particular class and I sing it to them. I use musicians who are graduates, but sometimes use former grads or grads to be. It’s something I’ve done for the last twelve or thirteen years. The song is kept a secret, which can be hard at times, especially this year, since my daughter, Emily, was one of the graduates. But I was able to keep it from her, too.

I picked the song, Humble And Kind, currently on the radio and sung by Tim McGraw, because more so than other graduates, they embody both qualities.

Our Valedictorian not only graduated from high school, but he also graduated with an Associate Degree from our local community college. He is an all-state golfer and an all-state jazz musician. By any measure, he is bright. But what I like most about him is that he is Humble. I’ve never heard him brag. I’ve never seen him lord it over anyone else. He goes about life with a smile on his face and a ready laugh.

Oh, and about a month ago, he and his family woke up in the middle of the night because their house caught on fire and burnt to the ground. They lost most everything. For several days, they were in a hotel. People rallied around them. Our school rallied around them. Clothes, keepsakes, family treasures, all gone. But he didn’t complain. He kept his smile and he kept his spirit. Humble!

A teacher told me a story about one of the seniors. She had come in to see him inquiring about her final grade for the course. The teacher had told her that she had earned a B+. She began to cry, but smiled through it. She told the teacher, “This is for my mom! She never graduated from high school.” Humble!

I rarely get political in my posts and this is on purpose. It’s not a lack of interest or concern, but only because that I see my opinion as only my opinion, not worth any more or less than yours.

I think there is too much arrogance in our world today. There is too much meanness as a result of that arrogance, and I haven’t decided whether or not that breeds ignorance or if ignorance breeds the meanness. But one just has to look at the current political campaign for president. A whole lot of arrogance, meanness and ignorance. ’Nuff said about that.

In my introduction to the song, I apologized to the grads because I felt our generation didn’t do enough to negate the arrogance, the meanness and the ignorance. I challenged them to make a difference, to bring about the change we failed to make.

I also told them to not mistake being Kind or being Humble as a sign of weakness. I believe it takes so much more strength to be Kind And Humble than it does to be arrogant, mean and ignorant. I see arrogance, meanness and ignorance as signs of weakness.

When I sang that song, I couldn’t make eye contact with the kids. From what I’m told, there were tears. From what I’m told, the thousands of parents and grandparents, family and friends were silent, eerily so. Guys, I’m no Tim McGraw- far from it. I did the best I could, honest! I’ve known some of these kids since they were in fifth grade. Many have been over at my house for sleepovers and movie nights. With my daughter, Emily, sitting in the front row, I dared not look in that direction. I only faltered once, towards the end, but I made it through.

I got into education way, way back because I like and enjoy kids. I learn so much more from them than I think I’ll ever teach them. Really! And I know that they know a thing or two about being Kind and being Humble. I think we can learn a lot from them. God help us if we don’t. And worse, God help us if we don’t walk with them down that path called Humble And Kind. God help us if none of us take that path. Something to think about . . .
Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
You can follow me:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor



If you like to read thriller/mystery, check out:
Book One of the Lives Trilogy, 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 of the Lives Trilogy, 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.

Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
The FBI knows a 14 year old boy has a price on his head, but he and his family don’t. With no leads and with nothing to go on, the FBI gambles and sets up the boy and his family as bait in order to catch three dangerous and desperate men with absolutely nothing to lose.

The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
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 don’t know one another, 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 lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Holding On To Stress



Once upon a time, I presented workshops on Stress and how to manage it. At the time, I was winding down my teaching career and entering into the counseling portion of my life. My stress workshops were an outgrowth of my teaching at a technical college on business and leadership, and I have to say I miss teaching still today. I miss counseling even more.

To a degree, each of us faces stress. For instance, a batter in baseball approaches the plate and there is a certain amount of stress he feels, should feel, as he faces the pitcher. After all, his team and his manager expect him to get on base. Now, add a runner or two on base, add an out or two, and add in the scoreboard indicating that the batter’s team is behind by one run in the bottom of the ninth. The stress is amplified quite a bit from one scenario to the other.

I may have written this once in the past, but folks, I’m not a very good basketball player. Yes, I could coach the game, but I give credit to the players much more so than any coaching I did. I had wonderful, coachable players, and I think I was more of a motivator than anything else. But I remember as an eighth grader standing at the free throw line in the closing minutes of a very close game. A nail-biter, as they might say. Pressure was on. I felt stress. I still feel it today, many years later. I missed. It clanked off the rim and fell into the wrong team’s hands. I couldn’t tell you if we won or lost that game, I truly don’t remember, but I can tell you the result of that free throw.

As I said, each of us feels stress. Some of it we place on ourselves, while some of it is given to us. Some stress is healthy: a baseball player, a NASCAR driver, someone headed into a room for an interview for a job or promotion. That kind of stress comes and goes and sharpens our senses and our reflexes while it is present, and then we can relax and move on.

But then there is a different kind of stress.

Recently, I found a very short video on Facebook. A psychologist had a glass of water, and some of the students wondered if she would ask the question, “Is the glass half-full or half-empty.” She didn’t.

Rather, she asked, “How heavy do you think this glass of water is?” There were guesses ranging from several grams to many grams. What she said was that, “The weight of the glass doesn’t really matter. It’s how long I hold it that matters.”

She went on to explain that if she held it for a minute or two, there wouldn’t be any problem. If she held it for an hour, her hand and arm might cramp up. If she held it for a day, her arm would feel like it was paralyzed. The weight of the glass didn’t matter, but the length of time she held it did.

She stated that stress and anxiety are like a glass of water. If we hold on to it for a short time, nothing happens. If we hold on to it for a long time, we start to cramp up- emotionally, perhaps physically. And if we hold on to it all day, we feel paralyzed and are unable to think or to act.

It isn’t healthy for us to Hold On To Stress. It hurts us and it hurts our relationships with others. We begin to question ourselves, our actions, our decisions. Self-doubt creeps in where once there was none.

It’s best to let it go. Seek out a trusted friend, an ear to listen, a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on. And where possible, we can be that trusted friend, the ear for listening, a hand for holding, and the shoulder for leaning. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I was asked to write a guest post for the blog, Thriller-Writer by Eric Gates. I chose to write on character development and if interested, it can be found at: http://bit.ly/1XwLVZ1

I’ve been asked where readers can find me, so I’m letting you know that I can be found on:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor



Feel free to stop by, give a like or a follow, and add a comment. Thanks!
jl

Friday, May 13, 2016

Growing Older



I’m getting old!

No surprise, I guess. I look in the mirror and wonder, ‘Where did my hair grow?’ My wife reminds me that it grows everywhere except the top of my head. God’s irony, His little joke, I suppose. His, and my wife’s, sense of humor.

One of the Sackett movies, maybe The Quick And The Dead, but I can’t remember which one, had a scene where a young buck tried to pick a fight with an older grisly-looking cowboy while the old guy tried to eat his dinner. The old guy didn’t say anything. Didn’t even look at the young buck. He kept eating his steak and drinking his beer. The old guy’s younger buddy who sat at the same table looked up at the young guy and said something like, “See the lines on his face? That’s experience! That’s his years of putting up with young peacocks like you! They represent miles traveled and mountains climbed and rivers crossed, and he’s still standing. Now leave him be and go away!” When the young buck hesitated, the younger friend repeated, “I said, ‘Leave him be!’” And eventually, the young buck went back to the bar and turned his back on the old guy.

I know I didn’t capture that scene as well as it was written in Louis L’Amour’s book or in the movie, but I remember the scene well.

Yes, I’m old and getting older. My kids are getting older. Hannah graduates from college in December. Emily’s a senior and graduates in about three weeks. Kim and I celebrate twenty-four years together this coming July.

I have my wrinkles and what hair I do have is gray. I move a bit slower, not that I ever moved particularly fast.

Where did the time go?

Funny thing about age. One might look older, but one might feel not so much older. Not so much!

My older brother, Jack, has always said that age is a state of mind. One’s body might fail, but one’s mind and heart and soul doesn’t – unless you allow it to do so.

We can’t necessarily control how our bodies change. We can exercise and diet, but the body will do what it’s going to do. Period.

However, I think we can control our heart and our soul. We don’t have to give into the idea that we’re old. We don’t have to necessarily “act our age!” We can still laugh and act silly and sing off-key. We can still attack life and all that it offers. Perhaps not necessarily attack life, but we certainly can embrace it. All of it.

We can choose to seek new adventures as well as revisit older ones. We can take care of what we do have, and give back to those around us. We can face change . . . and age . . . bravely, fiercely. And when we look in the mirror and see that our hair, those of us who have some, has turned gray. We will see that there might be a few more lines on our face. But we can choose to face that reflection and smile, knowing that each of us, you and I, rode miles, and climbed mountains, and crossed rivers, and know deep within that there are still many more miles and mountains and rivers to come our way. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
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:
Arrest warrants were issued, but six dangerous 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.

Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
It began in Arizona and it ends in Arizona- in 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 they might come for him, for them?  

The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
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 hundreds of miles apart, the lives of 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 and are on a collision course with death.