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Friday, May 18, 2018

Conductor


I met John in my first high school as principal when he was the band director and instructor. He had a ready laugh, a ready joke and a wry wit and a glint in his eye that announced a prank- any prank- on anyone. You were never safe around John. And whatever he did or caused would leave everyone laughing. He was as much a colleague as he was a friend. I admired him so much that I ended up hiring him at my next school as the band director and instructor.

Kids lived in his room. They were welcomed and were accepted and were safe. They ate lunch, and sometimes breakfast there. They’d hang out. It was a home away from home.

I remember one commencement sitting up on the stage next to a school board member watching and listening to the band perform. The musical selection was from Pirates of the Caribbean. Not sure what the selection had to do with commencement- probably nothing, other than to showcase the students.

His arms waved (not sure if that is the correct musical term, but you get the picture), his short body lifted and jumped. Throughout the whole song, I don’t think I took my eyes off of him. I couldn’t. I know folks maybe overuse the term mesmerize, but that’s exactly what happened. Probably for others to.

By the time the piece had ended, John was red-faced and sweaty and puffing a little. The board member turned to me and said in a not so quiet tone, “Wow! My God, is he good!” I couldn’t agree more.

I see the same in Eddie, Joe and Mandy who are the current band, choir and orchestra instructors. High expectations, but a willingness to help kids meet them. A home and safe haven for kids. A place where kids feel they belong. A surrogate mom or dad. The kids respond to them in a way that they don’t respond to others.

And the really unique thing about John, or Eddie, or Joe, or Mandy is that they don’t play a note. They don’t sing a note. They wave their arms and grimace and smile and maybe dance slightly, and magic happens. Yes, magic. All of it comes from the kids sitting or standing in front of them- they’d be the first to tell you that.

But the magic, the real magic, is they don’t play a note. They don’t sing. The only thing they might say is by way of introducing the piece or introducing the soloists. And at the end of the piece, each one steps to the side, lifts up an arm and presents the kids as having done a great job. He or she might bow, but it is on behalf of the kids.

Do they get nervous? Maybe. After all, they are the proud “parents” of the kids sitting or standing before them. After all, they try to place “their children” in the best light possible for the benefit of the audience filled with family and friends.

Did I mention proud? Yes, I did, and I meant it. I’m sure John, Eddie, Joe and Mandy can point to specific passages where it didn’t go quite right or as well as they had hoped. But in the end, they have to be so proud of what the kids accomplished.

Did I mention what the kids accomplished? Yes, I did, and I chose those words specifically. Because if you were to compliment each instructor as I have done, they are quick to say thank you, but point out that it was the kids- not them. Each time, every time. It was the kids. Well, I agree, but it was the kids who performed under their direction, their lead.

Each of them, John, Eddie, Joe and Mandy work their magic, and their magic is done in silence.

They lead. They conduct. Every ounce of energy is focused on the kids. They live in the moment of each selection, each piece. And they create magic.

In silence. Their actions are truly, louder than their words. As it should be. For you and for me. Actions are louder than words. Through action, through silence magic happens. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I have been really blessed with some wonderful reviews on my new novel, Caught in a Web. Best Thrillers wrote: “The Bottom Line: This important, nail-biting crime thriller about MS-13 sets the bar very high. One of the year’s best thrillers.” You can read the entire review (rather short, but impactful) at https://bestthrillers.com/caught-in-a-web-one-of-the-years-best-conspiracy-thrillers/    

Another review, from Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer at The Midwest Book Review wrote: “As the investigators review relationships, affairs, and threats, they find themselves unraveling an ever-increasing web of deception as readers are carried into a thrilling underworld of gang violence and teen involvements which gradually lead to a resolution where characters may fudge on honesty, but tie up loose ends.

Characters are many, but are well-drawn; the action offers just the right blend of tension and intrigue; and detective story enthusiasts will especially relish the level of emotional inquiry which makes the characters both human and believable.

The result is an involving detective piece that probes the worlds of teens and gang members with an equal attention to precise, staccato details that flow smoothly into a story that creates a satisfying conclusion to all conundrums.” You can read the entire review, again fairly short, at http://www.midwestbookreview.com/mbw/may_18.htm#donovan

So far on Goodreads, Caught in a Web has received ratings from 73 individuals and has garnered a 4.35 out of 5. Nice return for only three weeks in release.


Connect with me on Social Media:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor


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

Friday, May 11, 2018

The End of the Road


My heart sort of fell apart a little yesterday. It was Emily’s twentieth birthday. A happy day normally. End of the teen years and stepping into adulthood. But it was also the day Kim and I moved her out of her dorm room and into an apartment with two of her teammates as roommates. She has two jobs she’ll be working this summer. And, she’ll be living in Greensboro, not at home with us. Not.

It is sad for me. Real sad.

Of course at the start of the day, Em was excited. It was her apartment. Her own keys and her own address. Her own mailbox. Her own room. New pots and pans and mixing bowls. New lamps and a new bedspread. Everything new.

At the end of the day and after the great, grand move in, there was a birthday dinner celebrated with her boyfriend, her two roommates and their families. Lots of laughter and smiles.

And then as we got ready to leave and as we stood outside by the car that would take Kim and me away, I think reality set in for all of us. There were hugs and tears. And that was when I felt big chunks of my heart fall away. I think Kim and Em felt the same thing. It was the reality that she is there and we are here and our lives- Em’s, Kim’s, Hannah’s and mine- will be different.

I’m a little bit older today . . . not so much physically, although I am that too. But emotionally. I’m not ready for it. Maybe someday, down the road. But I’m not ready for it today. Just not.

And as I think about it, this time of year is sort of the journey down the End of the Road for many of us and in various ways.

It’s the start of the end of the year. It’s the start of the end of routine- for teachers, for parents, and even for the kids.

Some will retire. Some are moving on to different jobs and different positions. Kids are graduating. Other kids are moving one grade closer to graduating. And still other kids will be making the move to high school. Others to middle school. Others will enter kindergarten.

I get it. Life keeps moving. I get it. Life moves forward and doesn’t stop just because we want it to . . . maybe need it to. I get it. But I don’t have to like it.

There is an analogy. Stick your hand in a moving stream or river and the water continues to move around it. Your hand doesn’t stop the water from moving. Not at all. All your hand does is get wet.

And, no matter how I feel . . . how we feel . . . life keeps moving forward. It marches to its own beat, its own rhythm. It is independent and separate, yet it involves us whether we want to be involved or not.  

So, this is the time of year when I most feel I’m on the journey towards the End of the Road. Knowing of course, that there will be a new road, a different road. Knowing that there will be a different journey. And like the last journey, some of it will be fun and joyful, just as some of it will be sad and maybe painful.

As much as I’d like to buck up and say, “All is good and it is the way it should be!” I can’t. I’m not ready to. As I said, I’m a little bit older today. I’m not ready for it. Maybe someday, down the road. But I’m not ready for it today. Just not. And I think that’s okay. For me. For you. For us. It’s okay. Something to think about . . .

Life Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I have been really blessed with some wonderful reviews on my new novel, Caught in a Web. Best Thrillers wrote: “The Bottom Line: This important, nail-biting crime thriller about MS-13 sets the bar very high. One of the year’s best thrillers.” You can read the entire review (rather short, but impactful) at https://bestthrillers.com/caught-in-a-web-one-of-the-years-best-conspiracy-thrillers/   

Another review, from Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer at The Midwest Book Review wrote: “As the investigators review relationships, affairs, and threats, they find themselves unraveling an ever-increasing web of deception as readers are carried into a thrilling underworld of gang violence and teen involvements which gradually lead to a resolution where characters may fudge on honesty, but tie up loose ends.

Characters are many, but are well-drawn; the action offers just the right blend of tension and intrigue; and detective story enthusiasts will especially relish the level of emotional inquiry which makes the characters both human and believable.

The result is an involving detective piece that probes the worlds of teens and gang members with an equal attention to precise, staccato details that flow smoothly into a story that creates a satisfying conclusion to all conundrums.” You can read the entire review, again fairly short, at http://www.midwestbookreview.com/mbw/may_18.htm#donovan


For those of you in the Fredericksburg, Virginia area, I am doing the last of three Caught in a Web book sale and signing events. You can find me at:
Tomorrow, Saturday, May 12 Salem Church Library in Spotsylvania/Fredericksburg from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Connect with me on Social Media:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor


Friday, May 4, 2018

Trailblazers


Though I mostly taught psychology during my teaching career, I was trained as a “broadfield” social studies teacher. What that means is that theoretically, I could and am qualified to teach anything and everything in social studies. Um . . . no way!

You wouldn’t want me teaching economics or any of the world histories. I could do a pretty good job in US History and any of the behavioral sciences like sociology, anthropology, geography and of course, psychology. I don’t think they even use the term “broadfield” any longer in teacher licensing or certification. In fact when I wrote that term, spell check caught it and wondered, ‘Did I lose my mind or something?’

In history, my strengths were the civil war, the old west, and westward expansion. Teaching it was fun, but learning about it even more fun. I think that’s why I chose Wyoming for my first teaching and coaching position. Moving there without knowing anyone or having lived there previously. It was kind of like the early explorers, but with a car and U-Haul.

Think for a moment about Lewis (no relation that I know of) and Clark exploring west of the known. Mountains, rivers big and small, braving the elements. Or think of Marquette and Joliet exploring the upper Midwest, which is where I came from originally. Using canoes as they paddled down rivers and when they ran out of river, they carried or ‘portaged’ from river to river. They, too, had to battle the elements: cold, ice, heat and humidity, bugs.

It was because of brave men and women like them we expanded from ocean to ocean, or “. . . from sea to shining sea” as the song goes. It was because of them that folks saddled up a horse, sailed on steamers and climbed aboard wagons and caravanned west to strike out (sometimes literally as well as figuratively) on their own to create a new life. Brave souls, they were. Intrepid spirits one and all.

But their path was made better because of those who went before them, those who showed them the way. Those who created the first path, the first trail. The explorers who cleared the way for all those who ventured after them.

And while there were many who moved west, there were those who declined any kind of move and instead, stayed in Boston or New York or wherever. They were happy, content and satisfied. They felt no need to move, no desire to uproot their comfortable (or not) lives and begin again.

Got me thinking . . .

Parents, adults, teachers and coaches and those in the helping and service professions do their own share, their own kind of Trailblazing, don’t they . . . don’t we?

We do our best to make the road a little safer for those who follow us: our own children, someone else’s children.

We caution. We teach. We counsel. We guide. Sometimes, like Marquette and Joliet when they didn’t have water, we pick up and carry- not canoes, but those, especially the kids, who can’t quite cut it on their own. Those who may be fearful, afraid, or nervous. Those who have doubts.

We do it because it is our job, what we ought to do. And many times, we do this without recognition, without extra pay, without the pat on the back or the thank you- sometimes not even from the one we helped.

More often than not, most of the time, we do it out of love. We do it because we care and are concerned. We do it out of compassion. We do it whether one notices it or not. We see a need and dig in. We put our arm around that kiddo, tell him or her it will be okay, that we’ll walk with them, be alongside of them, that we’ll catch them if and when- and we know they will- fall. Because that’s what Trailblazers do. Over and over again. Time and again. It’s what we do. Should do or have to do, or not. We do. Something to think about . . .

To My Readers:

I have been really blessed with some wonderful reviews on my new novel, Caught in a Web. Best Thrillers wrote: “The Bottom Line: This important, nail-biting crime thriller about MS-13 sets the bar very high. One of the year’s best thrillers.” You can read the entire review (rather short, but impactful) at https://bestthrillers.com/caught-in-a-web-one-of-the-years-best-conspiracy-thrillers/  

Another review, from Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer at The Midwest Book Review wrote: “As the investigators review relationships, affairs, and threats, they find themselves unraveling an ever-increasing web of deception as readers are carried into a thrilling underworld of gang violence and teen involvements which gradually lead to a resolution where characters may fudge on honesty, but tie up loose ends.

Characters are many, but are well-drawn; the action offers just the right blend of tension and intrigue; and detective story enthusiasts will especially relish the level of emotional inquiry which makes the characters both human and believable.

The result is an involving detective piece that probes the worlds of teens and gang members with an equal attention to precise, staccato details that flow smoothly into a story that creates a satisfying conclusion to all conundrums.” You can read the entire review, again fairly short, at http://www.midwestbookreview.com/mbw/may_18.htm#donovan


For those of you in the Fredericksburg, Virginia area, I am doing two Caught in a Web book sale and signing events. You can find me at:
May 5 England Run Library in Stafford/Fredericksburg from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
May 12 Salem Church Library in Spotsylvania/Fredericksburg from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Connect with me on Social Media:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor