Category Archives: Life Lessons

THE BULLYING OF “NERD” WILLIAMS

Sometimes life places us in situations to challenge and teach us valuable lessons about the real world. My name is Clyde “Clutch” Lawson, and I have experienced such challenges in my life. I’m sharing this story for the youth of today so they may benefit and learn from the things that happened to me. Those who are of a more “mature” age will probably relate to most of what I have to say; you may have had similar experiences in your life.

It all started when I was a junior in high school. I was a three-sport-super star back in the day and my fellow classmates nicknamed me “Clutch” because of my athletic prowess. I seemed to be the player who was always involved in key moments on the field or court. Articles appearing in the sports section of local and statewide newspapers were constantly mentioning my name in their write-ups, and touted “Clutch” Lawson as the hero of the team. The tag of five-star athlete started surfacing and college recruiters were in hot pursuit. My 6’4” 220-pound physique must have excited the college coaches just a bit.

All the hype was actually embarrassing because I was really a shy-quiet-humble kid who just loved playing sports. I happened to excel in the sports I played—God had truly blessed me with some remarkable physical skills. First, and foremost though, I was a team player. I felt my teammates should have been sharing the spotlight with me. They certainly deserved it as their efforts made me look good on many occasions. Unfortunately, the media attention was out of my control. All I ever wanted to do was play ball—any kind. I loved competing and having the opportunity to use my God-given talents to help the TEAM win.

Bob “Nerd” Williams was one of four-hundred junior classmates at Greenburg High School, so named for the small South Carolina town of Greenburg. Nerd was a good nickname for Bob because that’s what everyone in our class thought he was. His thick-black-frame glasses and the pocket-protector in his shirt were the culprits that led to us calling him Nerd. Add to that, Nerd was a small-framed kid, standing about 5’6” tall and weighing no more than a whopping 120 pounds.

To say Nerd was not very athletic would be stating the obvious. He struggled to keep pace in our physical education (PE) classes no matter what we were playing. When we picked sides for teams, Nerd was always the last one selected, and I was usually one of the first. I could sense Nerd’s pain as he stood alone waiting for one of the captains to call his name. I had never been in his position, but I sensed his pain. To put it bluntly, we were bullying him.

I finally came to my senses one day in PE class. I was one of the captains that day and my first selection was Nerd. His face lit up as if I had selected him to be on an Olympic basketball team. All the other boys gasped and started laughing about my selection. They started making snide comments about Nerd and then began chanting “Loser! Loser! Loser! Clutch picked a loser!”

I saw Nerd’s shoulders slump and his smile vanished as if the hand of worthlessness had slapped him for no good reason. The volley of insults hurt him deeply. Without hesitating, I shouted, “Knock it off guys! Let’s play some basketball. We’ll soon find out who the big losers are. Let’s take it to ‘em Bob! We can do this!”

In that moment, all my athletic successes in life seemed insignificant to me. I realized the true emotional pain that others suffer in a world where winning and being the best in athletics were more important than an individual’s worth or character. From that point forward, my compassion for others began to change. God may have blessed me with athletic talents, but He also blessed people like Bob with special intellectual talents also.

Well, Bob and I didn’t win the basketball game that day, but I learned a lot about myself. I took a stand against bullying, and in a small way, made a difference in the life of a fellow student. I did it not to seek glory, but because it was the right thing to do. For that, I am grateful because I experienced something more important than winning a silly basketball game—I found a new friend.

Bob and I went our separate ways after graduating, and as is often the case, we had little contact in the years that followed. He attended an Ivy League school and I went on to play college and professional baseball. When I retired, I started travelling around the country giving motivational speeches at high schools and universities. Many of my speeches recounted the story of that special day I stood up for Bob many years ago. I couldn’t help but smile each time I mentioned it as I remembered how happy Bob was to hear me call his name first that day.

I was in the middle of a speech at a high school in Maryland when I felt a sharp pain in my chest and collapsed on stage. The alert staff called 911 and an ambulance transported me to the local hospital. I obviously don’t remember anything that happened after I collapsed, but I do remember waking up in the intensive care unit the following day.

I was pretty much out of it when I heard a voice saying, “Wake up, Clutch. Clutch, open your eyes.”

Standing beside my bed was Dr. Bob “Nerd” Williams with a big smile on his face—the cardiologist who had saved my life the day before.

I thank God every day for placing someone like “Nerd” in my life. I now fully understand that as we go through life, what we do for others while seeking nothing in return are some of the best things we can ever do. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what’s right because it may save your life one day many years later.

STOP THE BULLYING!

Blessings to all,

Tom Tatum – Author – 2017

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

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ANGEL AND THE SILVER DOLLAR

There are times in life when we find ourselves in situations that we can’t explain while it is happening. I experienced such a moment when I was a young boy. It wasn’t life threatening, but it was certainly surreal. It was a special moment—one I can still visualize it as if it happened yesterday. However, it occurred fifty-six years ago.

So, what brings about such moments as this? Well, it’s simple when we understand that sometimes in life there are forces far more powerful than ourselves helping us accomplish feats that are beyond our abilities. Allow me to explain the moment I experienced.

When I was a youngster, I was very shy. I never liked being the center of attention—NEVER! I just wanted to do my own thing without any fanfare from others.

At age eleven, I had the honor of being one of fourteen players selected for the 1960 Orangeburg Little League All-Star baseball team. That in itself was a major milestone for me because there were many talented twelve-year olds who also played during the regular season. I was very fortunate to have some of the coaches recognize my ability to play baseball. However, unknown to them, their confidence in me set in motion the unusual event that was about to unfold.

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What I didn’t know at the time was that this was going to be a defining moment in my life—both athletically and spiritually.

I was the starting centerfielder in the first Little League All-Star game in Barnwell, SC. To say starting the game surprised me would be an understatement. Anyway, I took the field with butterflies flying around in my stomach to the point I felt as if I was going to hurl my lunch before the game started, but, thank goodness, I didn’t.

The game had gone great for our team and we had a one-run lead in the bottom of the last inning. Then, momentum swung to the other team and they had men on second and third base with one out. I stood in centerfield with a lump in my throat and prayed, “Lord, please don’t let the batter hit the ball to me.” That’s not exactly what an “all-star” player should be thinking at such a time.

Unfortunately, for me, God didn’t respond to my innocent-childlike prayer the way I had hoped He would. On the very next pitch, the batter hit a hard line-drive straight toward me—the most difficult trajectory and direction for an outfielder to catch the ball.

I ran toward the ball and caught it just above my shoelaces for out number two. The runner on third base tagged up and headed toward home plate. If he scored, it would tie the game. If my throw was off-target, the runner on second base could also score and we would lose the game. Without hesitation, I reared back and fired the ball toward the catcher. It was a perfect strike, and the runner was out by two strides. It was a double play, and the game was over. We won the game!

I couldn’t believe my eyes! I had never thrown a runner out at home plate from centerfield in my life. The fans went wild and cheered louder than I had ever heard before. As I ran off the field, my teammates gathered around me and celebrated the moment—the victory and the throw! Though there were not thousands of fans in the stands that night, it sure sounded like it to me. To say the least, I was happy for what happened, but I also wanted to hide.

I was shocked by what I had just accomplished. The moment was truly surreal. I thought, “Did I really do that? Was I dreaming? How did that ball leave my hand and hit the catcher’s mitt for a perfect strike from centerfield?”

That’s when I paused and said, “Lord, You didn’t answer my prayer the way I wanted, but thank You for blessing me with an angel to guide my throw to home plate.”

After the game, the father of our pitcher came over to me and congratulated me for my unbelievable throw. He said, “That was a great throw, Tatum! An awesome play like that deserves a reward. This is for you.” That’s when he placed a silver dollar in my hand—the only money I ever received for playing baseball.

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I’m sure you can imagine the joy I felt that night, but I knew I didn’t make that throw on my own. An angel assisted me on the field that night, and yet, I received a silver-dollar reward for “our” effort.

It is the special moments in life that make you smile, and this moment has put a smile on my face for over fifty years. Have I ever told my grandchildren this story? Sure, I have! Many times, and I smile every time I tell the story. In fact, I’m smiling right now!

Here’s the amazing finale to the story. I tried throwing a ball in similar situations at practice more than a hundred times and never made that play again. Without any pressure of a real-game situation, I couldn’t repeat the “magical” throw.

I’m sure the Lord has more important concerns than helping a young boy throw a ball to home plate, but I also know I could never have made that throw on my own. Then again, what if…

Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but for God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

So, what do you think happened that night? Did I suddenly have powers far beyond my abilities or did an angel assist me? No one could be that lucky.

I’m sure you have also had similar moments in your life. Would you care to share one of your special moments when you accomplished something beyond your capabilities?

Blessings to you and yours, and have a great day!

Tom Tatum – Author – 2017

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor LinkedIn: TomTatum1

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WHAT WE DON”T KNOW

A simple thought, but one that is very true. I’ve been there—have you?

whatwedontknow

Have a great day!

Tom Tatum – Author – 2016

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor  LinkedIn: TomTatum1

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Quote

SUCCESS COMES FROM DOING THE RIGHT THINGS RIGHT

You do not succeed in life by doing the wrong things right or by doing the right things wrong.

Success comes from having a good plan, giving it your best, working hard, and by doing the right things right.

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Have a great day!

Tom Tatum – Author – 2016

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor  LinkedIn: TomTatum1

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NO TIME FOR GRANDPA

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If you are a parent or grandparent, you can probably relate to this tale about a grandpa’s love and loneliness experiences with his grandchildren. Many of you may have experienced similar situations. If not, you likely will at some time in life.

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I decided to stop by a local diner for a quick lunch the other day. That in itself is not important, but what happened while I was there certainly is.

The diner was crowded, but I spotted a small-empty table located against the rear wall. It was a table for two. As I sat waiting to place my order, I noticed a man looking around the room and sensed he was searching for a place to sit. Since I was dining alone, I motioned for him to come join me.

As he approached the table, I couldn’t help noticing how similar we were in appearance—size, hair, beard—even our shirts were the same. I felt as though I was looking at my reflection in a mirror.

He introduced himself as John. I’m guessing we were about the same age. We exchanged pleasantries and quickly started solving all the problems plaguing the world today—old folks are inclined to do that sometimes.

About halfway through lunch, I noticed a tear running down John’s cheek. I asked if I said something that had upset him. He told me no and proceeded to explain the reason for his tear.

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“Tom, when I was a young man, God blessed me with two beautiful children. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a good father to either of them. I regret not spending more quality time with them when they were young. Thank goodness, their wonderful mother managed to fill the void of my deficiencies.

“When we became empty nesters, I promised myself I would do things differently with my grandchildren. I didn’t want to create any more regrets in my life.

I was fifty-years old when my first grandchild was born. It was definitely one of the happiest days of my life. My son named the boy Joseph in honor of his mother’s father. Little Joseph lived nearby, so I was able to visit him often, even if only for a few minutes each day. I was determined to make good on my promise; I’m proud to say I did.

“As a baby and toddler, Joseph had a way of making me feel special. When I walked into the room where he was playing, his big blue eyes opened wide and a big smile spread from ear-to-ear. He would immediately raise his arms for me to pick him up. The joy he displayed by my presence melted my heart. I often close my eyes to this day and picture those wonderful moments. A special bond formed between us, and I enjoyed every minute we spent together.

“It wasn’t long before grandchildren Lisa, Elijah, Rebecca, and Daniel came into my life. To say I was in heaven with this clan of five would be an understatement. The only problem was Lisa and Rebecca lived in a distant town, so I wasn’t able to visit them as often as I did my grandsons.

“I enjoyed all five grands and felt blessed to have them in my life. We spent many great moments together when they were young. Like most Grandpas do, I played with them, but I also tried to teach them about life—I wanted them to grow up to be the best they could be no matter what they chose to do in life.

“When Joseph turned fourteen, the strong bond we once shared began to fade away. His interests transitioned to school, sports, friends, and a multitude of electronic gadgets. I guess it was a natural progression of grands getting older and spreading their wings. He no longer desired to spend time with me, which was something I never expected. I naively thought our special bond would last forever. I guess I missed the ‘No Time for Grandpa’ course when I was in school.

“Unfortunately, Joseph wasn’t the only grandchild who no longer had time to spend with Grandpa. As each year passed, another grandchild seemed to pull away from me. My heart broke a little more each time. I think I know how the buggy-whip manufacturer felt when the automobile replaced the horse and buggy—no one needs you anymore.

“I felt a giant void in my life and didn’t know what happened. Each day became a struggle because I wished to share special moments with each of them again. Thankfully, the emptiness I’ve felt for years changed a little bit today.

“That tear running down my cheek is not a tear of sadness. No, no! It’s a tear of joy! A happy tear as they say! You see, I was just thinking about a text message Joseph sent me early this morning. It was an answer to my many prayers and turned another ordinary day into a very special one.

“Here’s the message Joseph sent me. 

‘Hi Grandpa! I’ve missed you so much! I’d like to spend some time with you today. May I come visit you tonight? I have many things to tell you. I’ll see you at 6, if that’s okay. Love ya! Joseph’

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“I think you can understand how happy I am at this moment. I can’t wait for 6 o’clock to get here! I am a very happy Grandpa today!”

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John and I finished lunch and I wished him well. I told him to have a wonderful evening with Joseph. He smiled and insisted on paying for our meals. I declined his generous offer and told him I’d take care of the bill. We shook hands and he started walking away.

John took three steps from the table, turned around, and then with a big smile said, “Hang in there, Tom. I am confident your grands will do the same for you one day. Trust me, they know how much you love them. They just haven’t figured out how much they still love and need you in their lives. Grandchildren may drift away sometimes, but they will return when they sort life out. Be patient. Don’t let go of what you hope will be.

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I sat for a few moments wondering what made me invite John to join me for lunch. Did he share his story with me because he somehow knew my struggles were similar to his?

When the server brought me the check, I noticed it was for only one meal. I asked her to include John’s meal and was shocked when she said she had only served one meal to my table.

Then I started wondering if John was ever even there. Maybe I was just talking to my subconscious mind the entire time. Could he have been an angel God sent to ease my loneliness? Maybe…

It was then a tear rolled down my cheek. However, my tear was not one of joy or sadness, but one of hope—hoping John’s ghostly appearance was right—hoping I’d soon receive a similar text message from my grands.

To capture this unusual moment, I wrote the following thoughts on a napkin.

NO TIME FOR GRANDPA

When my grands arrived, they brought me joy.

I smiled each day, for I was their toy.

But those days are just a memory,

As I now sit idle on their shelf.

 

With computer gadgets they now play,

And have no time for Grandpa, they say.

So, I just stop by from time to time,

Hoping they notice me standing there.

 

Each day comes and goes without a chat.

I never dreamed it would be like that.

Many memories I still hold dear,

And my love will never fade away.

 

I pray you never feel as I do,

But should such sadness come visit you,

Remember John’s parting words to me.

Don’t let go of what you hope will be.

Enjoy every moment you spend with your grandchildren because there may come aTimeinLife when they have No Time For Grandpa.

Blessings,

Tom Tatum – Author – 2016

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor  LinkedIn: TomTatum1

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EVIL DEEDS AND THE PALLBEARER LIST

Have you ever had someone deliberately commit evil deeds that harmed you or someone in your family? I don’t mean petty things that might annoy you from time to time. No, I’m referring to evil deeds that alter your life in a very negative way. If so, you probably experienced some anger that may have even escalated into rage.

So, what should we do when such evil deeds come our way? Should we seek revenge to get even or offer forgiveness and move on? How can we control our rage in a way that prevents us from doing something we may live to regret?

Obviously, there are many options available, but this post highlights one method that falls somewhere in the broad spectrum between seeking revenge and forgiving. It helps control the rage that is a normal reaction to evil deeds. The idea comes from a man I’ll refer to as John. He definitely marches to the beat of a different drum and is not afraid to think outside the box in pursuit of solutions.

I met John many years ago when we were next-door neighbors. He was in his early forties and I was in my late twenties at the time. We spent many hours discussing topics ranging from the weather to hot-button-political events while standing by the wooden fence that separated our backyards. Naturally, we had solutions for all of the world’s problems.

This reminds me of the Tool Time sitcom where characters, Tim and Wilson, had many discussions while standing on opposite sides of a wooden fence.

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During one of our wisdom-sessions by the fence, I shared some details about a situation one of my relatives had recently experienced as a defendant in a civil suit. I described how the plaintiff’s prosecutor used very underhanded tactics and false-malicious rhetoric about my relative in the closing arguments to sway the jury and ultimately win the case. What made this difficult for me was there was a time in life when I considered said prosecutor to be my friend.

As I listened to the prosecutor grandstanding at my relative’s expense, my anger toward him quickly escalated to rage. I wanted to seek revenge, but my thoughts on how to go about it would only make the situation much worse—for me. To put it mildly, I was in a quandary as to what I should or could do.

As I explained the details of the court case, John maintained a pensive expression, but said nothing. When I finished my monologue, he proceeded to tell me the method he uses to control his rage.

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“Tom, I’m glad you haven’t done anything dramatic yet because I prefer talking to you over the fence and not through the bars of a jail cell. At the same time, I also know how you feel. It’s hard to deal with rage in a calm-peaceful manner, but it’s not impossible. 

“Life is complicated. There are many people willing to do nice things for us and seriously want to help in any way they can. I call them the good folks. We should cherish them. Unfortunately, there are also people who will stab you in the back and rejoice when they harm you. I refer to them as the evil folks. They seem to have no conscience and allow their love of money or other misplaced-evil values to influence their actions. They are willing do anything to win. 

“You and I both believe in a loving God and know what He wants us to do when we face such situations. The prosecutor may also believe in God, but he seems to have succumbed to the earthly ways of evil. The Lord will judge all of us by the things we say and do. 

“Like you, I’ve had people do evil deeds not only to me, but also to members of my family. Rather than trying to get even with them, I realized long ago that the best thing for me to do was to create a list. I call it my Pallbearer List.

“So, what is my Pallbearer List?

pallbearerlist

“Well, it’s simple. When someone does something evil to me or my family, I place their name, date, and what they did on a list. It’s my passive means of holding people accountable for their actions. It helps me control my rage toward them by allowing me to put the person and the evil they did out of my mind, which prevents me from doing something crazy by trying to get even. In essence, they become ‘non-people’ in my life—I still love them, but I no longer like or care to be around them. They simply no longer exist in my little corner of the world. 

“As I said before, the Lord will make final judgement on all of us. There’s no need for me to stoop to their low-evil ways, so I try to take the high road. Besides, God teaches us to love our neighbor, but He doesn’t say we have to like them or the things they do. 

“I can see by your expression that you’re wondering if your name is on my list, and you’re also probably wondering what happens to people who are on the list.

“First of all, you’re not on the list—not yet! 

“Secondly, nothing happens to them, at least not until my death. I don’t hire a ‘hit squad’ to take them out, nor do I perform any hoodoo-voodoo rituals on them. I actually wish them well and even say a prayer on their behalf. Upon my death, each person on my Pallbearer List will receive a personal invitation from me—prewritten of course. The invitation asks each of them to serve as either a pallbearer or honorary pallbearer at my funeral, depending on the nature of the evil deed they committed. The invitation also serves to remind them of their evil deed(s). 

“I look at it this way. It may be the first time some of them ever set foot in a church. I’m simply reminding them of their evil deeds, which also gives each of them a chance to ask for forgiveness and repent before their final day of judgement. It’s my last opportunity to serve God before they place my body beneath the grass. 

“The list also provides a special bonus for me. The most evil of those on the list will serve as pallbearers and carry my casket to the grave. Consider it “poetic justice” with a touch of grace and forgiveness.

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“I bet you’re also wondering if my Pallbearer List has actually helped me control my rage.

“Absolutely! Had I not found a means to control my anger—my rage, you’d be talking to me through the bars of a jail-cell right now. That simple list has prevented me from doing some ill-advised things over the years. 

“You see, rage is a powerful force that can lead people to commit acts they may regret for the rest of their lives. There are times when getting even is just not worth the consequences.”

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As I stated in the beginning, John thinks outside the box. Sometimes, his unusual ideas actually have merit. Who knows, his Pallbearer List may very well be one of them.

So, are you going to think outside the box and consider using a Pallbearer List or similar method to help you control your anger—your rage? No matter what you do, I hope the method you choose works well because life is much better talking to others while standing beside the fence.

Have a great day!

Tom Tatum – Author – 2016

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor LinkedIn: TomTatum1

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LAUGH AT YOURSELF

laughatyorself

Once upon a time in life, I found it hard to laugh at myself when I made silly mistakes in front of others. The very thought of people laughing AT me was like bombs bursting in air. (Excuse the National Anthem reference, which is a serious topic for a future post.)

I’m guessing that some of you can relate to situations when people have laughed at you too. Even the smartest among us are capable of making silly mistakes. It’s something that happens, but it’s not the end of the world when or if it does.

For example,

When I was a senior in high school, I remember making one of my many silly mistakes that caused others to laugh at me—for days. I was leading the entire school, as I did every day, in the Pledge of Allegiance and had one of those “oops” moments when I inadvertently said the final words of The Lord’s Prayer at the end of the Pledge.

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This is what I said:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” However, instead of saying “with liberty and justice for all,” I said, “with the power, and the glory, forever.”

Thank goodness, it wasn’t something more serious, but that was the day 1,100 students and teachers laughed at me. It took a few days before I was able to walk in the halls between classes without hearing giggles from other students.

You’re probably laughing at me right now for even writing this post, but I’m okay if you are. You see, I learned valuable life lessons from that infamous Pledge day.

The lessons I learned were:

–  It’s okay to laugh at yourself, and I have—more times than I care to count.

– When you learn to laugh at yourself, others aren’t laughing AT you. They are laughing WITH you.

– If you can’t laugh at yourself when you make silly mistakes in front of others, it would be wise not to laugh at others who do such things. ‘Karma’ has a way of getting even.

I hope this simple post made you think of some of your embarrassing moments, and if it also made you smile, that’s win-win for both of us.

Should you happen to make a silly mistake today, laugh so others can laugh WITH you! You just might bring a little joy into someone’s life if you do.

Have a great day!

Tom Tatum – Author – 2016

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor  LinkedIn: TomTatum1

Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels