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Friday, February 16, 2018

Perhaps Consider



When I went through my graduate program for counseling back in 1982 and then again for administration back in 1996, we had a wide variety of courses. Some were prescribed, while others we could take if there was time and interest to take them. I had always known that no amount of coursework, whether in counseling or in administration, would actually prepare me for what I faced on a daily basis. No, it took sitting in that particular chair, in that office and actually doing the work. Learning by doing and learning by mostly watching and listening. Learning from others and learning by listening and watching others.

There were prescribed fire drills. Making sure kids and staff got outdoors quickly, efficiently and safely. That was a big deal. Rarely, but occasionally we had someone scribble a note or write graffiti on a restroom wall or stall about a bomb. So, we learned what we needed to do to keep kids and staff safe and we practice that. Throw in an occasional earthquake drill. That was the extent of it for the most part.

And then . . .

In 1999 an event took place at Columbine High School that changed the landscape of life in schools. Several shootings in between that one and Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. And then an event took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day, just two days ago.

Thirteen killed at Columbine. Twenty 6- and 7-year-old students shot and killed at Sandy Hook. Seventeen shot and killed at Stoneman Douglas.  A total of eighteen shootings on school grounds since January 1st, 2018.

Think about that for a moment . . . or not.

As a teacher, coach and counselor and now as an administrator, I’ve always preached that school is the safest place to be. It is a community. There is a certain amount of caring, compassion, concern, and respect that is in a school environment that might not exist outside in the “real world.” Or at least there should be, right?

I mean, parents drop off their kids or kids drive to school and the biggest worry should be “Is my homework done?” “Will I pass the test?” “I have a zit on my face, is anyone going to notice?” “Who will I ask to prom?” In the life of a kid, those are the big worries, right? I’m sure there are others . . . so many others.

Now?

I’m not going to get political, though I can easily run down that path. Lord knows I want to, but in the end, my opinion is my opinion and it might be the same or different from yours and we end up in a heated exchange and nothing happens except for frayed friendships and damaged, if not broken relationships. So I’ll hold my tongue . . . or my computer keyboard, as it were.

But . . .

Perhaps Consider that the only way things will truly change will be if we get back to caring about each other. Perhaps Consider that we might try to listen and to watch more. Perhaps Consider that we need to reach out to the lonely kid in the back of the room who is by him or herself a lot, too much. Perhaps Consider that we develop a healthy relationship with the kids we teach, the kids who walk the hallway, or who sit alone and eat lunch in the cafeteria.

Perhaps Consider standing in the doorway and greeting each kid who walks in expecting a great lesson, who walks in expecting not to be belittled or to receive a sarcastic comment. Perhaps Consider that each kid comes to us at a different place in life, from a different place in life, and Perhaps Consider that each kid carries with him or her some baggage, some hurt, some longing, an empty place that love and a smile can only fill.

Perhaps Consider that a teacher, the counselor, the administrator, the receptionist, the nurse, the cafeteria worker, the administrative assistant, the custodian might be the only person who can lift up, if even for a moment. Perhaps Consider what you and I can do. Perhaps Consider what you and I can do differently. Perhaps Consider what you and I need to stop doing. Perhaps Consider what you and I might do to help instead of hurt, to hold instead of push away, to accept instead of reject. And Perhaps Consider that we need to do this, not just with kids, but with each other. Yes, Perhaps Consider. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

My fifth work of thriller/suspense fiction, Caught in a Web, is now available for preorder at http://bit.ly/2GtdsXL . If you purchase your book prior to the publication date of April 26, 2018, you may use the promo code: PREORDER2018 to receive a 10% discount.

You might ask, what is it about? Here is the jacket blurb:

The bodies of high school and middle school kids are found dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. The drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors and the Milwaukee Metro area is controlled by MS-13, a violent gang originating from El Salvador. Ricardo Fuentes is sent from Chicago to Waukesha to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay, who had killed his cousin the previous summer.

Detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else, especially George or members of his family. The three detectives discover the ring has its roots in a high school among the students and staff.

Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author                                                

Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI /

Friday, February 9, 2018

A Call



For about the first third of my life I was single. I met and married Kim late when we both landed on the same high school campus in California, even though both of us were from Wisconsin and I went to a co-ed boarding school maybe ten miles from her hometown. Weird coincidence, huh?

But even into my twenties and early thirties, I’d go visit my mom and as I was about to leave and after our goodbyes, she’d stop me and say, “When you get home, call me so I know you got home safely.” It never failed. Every time, every visit, no matter how old I was. And it didn’t matter when I got married, either. Or if I was a young parent. Mom would always ask me to call her when I got home just to let her know I was safe.

Back then, I didn’t understand the request. I mean after all, I was a ‘grown up’ and had a job and was responsible. Of course I would get home safely! Why was she worried about that?

And then I had my own kids. Those of you who have teenage drivers understand completely, don’t you? Each and every time they get in the car . . . Those who have a car and are away at college . . .

I had a two minute conversation with Lynne whose daughter is heading to Italy. Her daughter saved up the money and is traveling with friends. But Lynne is a parent and she will worry. Heck, she’s beginning to worry a little now and her daughter hasn’t left yet. All because we’re parents and our kids are our kids. We will worry.

When Emily was twelve or so, her soccer team traveled to Europe. In Sweden, Emily went with a group of players and the coaches to get something to eat and do some shopping. While shopping, Em turned around and the rest of the team had left. She figured they might be in a store next door. They weren’t. She walked up and down the street and couldn’t find them. She didn’t have the name of the hotel, but knew it was the big yellow one. She didn’t speak Swedish. She was twelve, did I mention that? She went back into the store and got directions to the big yellow hotel and walked back to it. The really scary part was that the rest of the team and the coaches hadn’t figured out she was even missing. All of this was relayed to us via phone – Emily in Sweden while Kim and I were in Stafford County, Virginia.

And then, I’m sure all of us at one time or another received calls we don’t enjoy and calls we never want to receive. There was a time Kim and I dreaded the early morning phone call around five or six. It was usually my sister, Judy, who would inform us that one family member or another had passed away. Hated the ringing of the phone in the morning. And it was a late night phone call Kim and I received informing us that our son, Wil, had been shot and killed as he had walked down a street after eating lunch and running some errands.

So as parents, and even those who aren’t parents but hold someone near and dear make and receive calls. Whether we understand it or not, whether we like it or not.

No matter how old I was, mom wanted a phone call to let her know I arrived home safe and sound. And, no matter how old Emily and Hannah are or will be, I want a phone call letting me know they are safe and sound.

Today’s thought (as if there wasn’t one already, right?) . . .

I’m stealing this idea from Dale, a friend of ours who spoke at the reception following our son’s memorial service, the celebration of Wil’s life.

Dale talked about how often we put off making a phone call, or put off sending a text, or put off writing a letter or small note until it’s too late.

Once a moment passes, it might be gone for good. Over and done. What Dale had us do right then and there was to take out our cell phones and text someone. It didn’t have to be long. It could be funny. It could be loving and sentimental. No matter, Dale said we needed to take out our cell phone and do it right now while we were thinking of it.

On that day as I was following his suggestions and texting away, my cell dinged. I had received a text from my brother, Jim, who sat at a table not far from where I had been sitting. I still remember what he wrote and how much it meant to me especially at that time, in that moment.

So I ask you today, right now, in the middle of doing whatever you’re doing, to please take out your cell and either text someone or call someone. Let them know you are and have been thinking about them. It’s important because there are those of us reading this right now who understand that moments can vanish before we even know it, before another moment comes along. Gone. I ask you to please consider doing this right now . . . and again . . . and again. Blame it on the silly old man who wrote this post. It will help you and it will help whomever you call or text. I can absolutely guarantee it. With love, something to truly think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

My fifth work of thriller/suspense fiction Caught in a Web is now available for preorder at http://bit.ly/2GtdsXL . If you purchase your book prior to the publication date of April 26, 2018, you may use the promo code: PREORDER2018 to receive a 10% discount.

You might ask, what is it about? Here is the jacket blurb:

The bodies of high school and middle school kids are found dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. The drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors and the Milwaukee Metro area is controlled by MS-13, a violent gang originating from El Salvador. Ricardo Fuentes is sent from Chicago to Waukesha to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay, who had killed his cousin the previous summer.

Detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else, especially George or members of his family. The three detectives discover the ring has its roots in a high school among the students and staff.

Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author                                              

Friday, February 2, 2018

Brittle



With each snowfall, Kim and I cringe a little. Probably me more than her. I mean besides the cold and wet and inconvenience associated with all of it, snow is a nuisance. It’s why we left Wisconsin- to get away from it.

But beyond all of that, we have these really nice boxwoods in the front of our house. Kim keeps them trimmed and nice and round, but winter and snow doesn’t help. Our roof is slanted just enough that when the western sun melts it, the snow drops in huge clumps indiscriminately and directly on top of those boxwoods. As a result, those nicely trimmed, nicely rounded bushes have broken branches and holes where there shouldn’t be.

Frustrating to say the least.

Do you remember years ago the green rubbery toy figure, Gumby? My kids never played with him or it and I could never quite figure out the attraction. Yes, you could bend it this way and that way and it wouldn’t break. His sidekick, Pokey, was the same way.

Still, what could you do with either of them? Give me little green army men and some firecrackers . . . that was fun! (Not that I would ever suggest this to my own kids- at least not while they were young. Perish the thought. My grand kids, should they ever arrive before I’m pushing up daisies are fair game, though.)

A thoughtful teacher reminded this week of the difference between Brittle and Gumby. How sometimes, we can be so set in our ways . . . in our thinking that when change occurs against our normal routine and what we are used to, we break instead of bend.

I’m not talking about being so bendable that with even the most gentle of breeze, we bend this way or that. I mean, in Wyoming I helped harvest wheat. If wheat didn’t bend and if wheat was so Brittle it broke, it wouldn’t be much good for anything.

In the same way, if we bend indiscriminately to every puff of wind of change, we might never grow or become what we are capable of becoming. We lose our sense of being, our sense of self. If we are so rigid in thought and action and routine that when change blows, like our boxwoods, we will break if we are so Brittle. And in the same way that we aren’t much good if we bend too much, we’re no good if we break.

I think there needs to be some balance between Brittle and Gumby.

Steve Adubato wrote a nice piece titled, If You Can’t Change Your Situation, Change Your Attitude. There’s a lot of truth just in the title and so much logic in his post. The link to it is https://www.stand-deliver.com/columns/leadership/1259-if-you-can-t-change-your-situation-change-your-attitude.html

For example, there are many rules and policies and regulations that simply must be accepted. Try as we might to change them, sometimes we are stuck with them. We follow orders . . . you and I. Some we like, and some, well, not so much.

There are three things we can do if we don’t like our situation. We can either fight it and resist it and be miserable. We can change our situation and find a new one where we might be happier and more at peace. We can change our attitude.

Of the three, the latter is the one we sometimes forget. That’s where our real power is anyway.

We may or may not have the power to change the rule or policy. We can provide input and logic and reason, but in the end that’s all we might be able to do. We can always see if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence . . . country . . . whatever . . . but having lived in five states and having worked in at least eight different school districts, green is green with patches of dirt and a few weeds thrown in. Nothing is perfect, but there is much good in each.

Simply put, the only thing we can do sometimes . . . perhaps most of the time . . . is to change our attitude. It isn’t giving in and it isn’t giving up. It’s changing the way we look at something. It isn’t compromising our beliefs or giving up. It’s changing our perception and our focus. I think it’s a lot better and more satisfying than breaking because we’re too Brittle to bend a little. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

My fifth work of thriller/suspense fiction Caught in a Web is now available for preorder at http://bit.ly/2GtdsXL  . If you purchase your book prior to the publication date of April 26, 2018, you may use the promo code: PREORDER2018 to receive a 10% discount.

You might ask, what is it about? Here is the jacket blurb:

The bodies of high school and middle school kids are found dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. The drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors and the Milwaukee Metro area is controlled by MS-13, a violent gang originating from El Salvador. Ricardo Fuentes is sent from Chicago to Waukesha to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay, who had killed his cousin the previous summer.

Detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else, especially George or members of his family. The three detectives discover the ring has its roots in a high school among the students and staff.

Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author                                             

Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI /

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Hello



Hello

When I was a kid, my mom and dad would only allow us to go trick or treating at friends’ houses and then only when the porch light was on. It was the way we, and our parents, knew the house was safe and welcoming. Kim and I used this same practice when our kids did their trick or treating. Now that our kids are all grown up, we continue that same practice for all the neighborhood kids who come to our door for their annual treat.

The porch light is a sign of welcome, a greeting of sorts.

So is a smile. And most assuredly, a Hello.

When I was a counselor at a barrio high school in California, there was an English teacher who greeted each student at the door- male or female- with a smile, a handshake and a “Hello.” He was almost a fixture at the top of the list kids selected for Teacher of the Year. Their comments were, “he cares” and “he respects us” and “he’s safe.”

At that same school, another teacher, a math guy, told his students from day one that his classroom was Switzerland. He informed his students that they were there to learn math and leave everything else outside the door. He had to because he had a mix of kids from several rival gangs. As a result, he was also on that list and didn’t have any problems that I remember. He might as well had a porch light on to welcome his students like trick or treaters, right?

The thing about a smile or a Hello is that it disarms and confuses someone wearing a frown. There is a bit of load taken off one’s shoulders when greeted with either. Much like the porch light, it is a welcome. It’s friendly. It’s safe.

Scientists have pointed out for years that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. Not sure if that’s true or not, but it sounds about right I guess. And my mom had always told us that if we frown, our faces might get stuck that way. Okay, maybe not so scientific, but perhaps there is some truth there as well.

You see, if one frowns or sends off the signal of “Leave me alone,” people usually do. There is a feeling of aloneness, loneliness that sets in making you even unhappier and even more alone and lonely. I mean, after all, you send the message “Leave me alone,” that “I am not interested in you or anyone else right now,” people will listen to that- whether it is a verbal or nonverbal message.

Our world, perhaps our nation specifically, has become less welcoming, less friendly. Not sure when. Not sure why. Not sure how. I have my suspicions, but that is for another day, time and post.

I just believe that that there is less tolerance, less caring, less compassion. A whole lot less smiles. Perhaps not enough Hellos.

Wouldn’t it be nice if maybe once or twice this day, maybe once or twice each day this week, we might wear a smile and greet someone with a Hello? How powerful would that be if that someone was unknown to you? We might actually start something. Maybe make our country a bit more gentle, a bit more welcoming. And while we’re at it, maybe we can leave the porch light on every now and then just to let people know that they have a safe place to go to. That we’re safe to be around. Something to think about . . .

To My Readers:

I sent the final edited copy of my fifth work of thriller/suspense fiction Caught in a Web to Black Rose Writing. It will drop in April of 2018.  You can check out the cover if you travel to my author page at https://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author  I am working with Black Rose on several publicity campaigns so when the “drop” nears, I’ll keep you posted. There will be an opportunity for preordering Caught in a Web, so when the link becomes available, I’ll make sure you know. Unlike my others, this one will be available in bookstores as well as Amazon.

Good News!
I am actively seeking agent representation for Spiral Into Darkness. It is more of a psychological thriller but with an attitude.

Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author                                            

Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI /                                         

If you like Thriller/Suspense fiction and are looking for something to read over the winter, check out my novels:

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 Agent Kelliher and 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://bit.ly/Taking-Lives-JLewis                      

Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy:
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. http://bit.ly/Stolen-Lives-JLewis                    

Shattered Lives, Book Two of the Lives Trilogy:
Six desperate and violent men escape. One of them stands in a kitchen facing a 14 year-old-boy with a gun. There are many reasons for the boy to pull the trigger. Mainly, the man had started it all. http://bit.ly/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis                     

Splintered Lives, Book Three of the Lives Trilogy:
A 14 year-old-boy is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. High up on an Arizona mesa, he faces three desperate and dangerous men in hopes of saving his father and his brothers. http://bit.ly/Splintered-Lives-J-Lewis