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Friday, June 29, 2018

For The Love Of Children



Forty-two years ago this September, I began my career as a teacher and coach. That’s a long, long time for anyone to be in a job, right? But I began traveling down that road even earlier.

When I was in eighth grade, Father Jim asked me to help him coach the sixth grade boys’ basketball team. He would tell me what drills he wanted to run and I ran them. Weird, because Al and Rick, two of my classmates were way better than I was. Way better- no false modesty at all. Couldn’t tell you our record or even the names of the guys on the team. But I remember the practices and sitting next to Father Jim on the bench each game. Pretty cool when you think about that.

In high school, I worked summers for Parks and Recreation as a playground supervisor. In college, I volunteered as a coach for football, basketball and baseball at a local elementary school. Of course I held other jobs like a drug store clerk and a stock boy filling trucks at a bottling company. I also mowed lawns and baby-sat, the normal things most kids do.

But I knew way back that I would be a teacher and a coach because I wanted to work with kids. It’s not a job to me. It’s as much a passion as it is a vocation. The romantic in me would say it’s a calling, I suppose. I think it helped that my older brother, Jack, was a teacher and I think it is safe to say I followed in his footsteps.

The profession has brought joy to me. I watched kids struggle and grow. I watched the proverbial lightbulb glow when a kid “got it.” There are kids, now young men and women with kids of their own I’m still in touch with or follow on Facebook and who read my novels. It’s nice to see how they’ve grown and what has become of them.

I happen to care about kids. All kids. Not just my own. Not just the kids who walked in and out of my life like waiters in a restaurant (to paraphrase a great line by Stephen King). I happen to care about all kids. All of them.

Let me tell you a story . . .

When my son, Wil, was in college, he spent six weeks out of the country on a study abroad thing. A lot of college kids do that. What was interesting was that Wil was pulled out of the security line at the airport for a bag and body search. Not once, but at each airport he and his classmates flew out of. Wil was the only member of his class “selected” for this “random” security search. Wil had brown skin because we adopted him from Guatemala when he was seven. He had, since that adoption, spent more time as a citizen of this country than he did as a citizen of Guatemala. Yet as I stated, he was the only one “selected” for this “random” security search. Typical of Wil, it bothered him, but he laughed it off as “one of those things.” Me? I think about that and it not only angers me, it saddens me. Deeply.

So I have to tell you that it saddens me . . . deeply saddens me . . . that my country, yours and mine, decided to take children from their parents and house them in cages, sometimes miles and states away from their parents with no real plan or effort to reunite them anytime soon. Kids in cages on a mattress on a cement floor. In a cage- did I tell you that? Oh yes, a couple of times already, but in case you didn’t get it, the kids are kept in cages. In cages away from their parents.



Imagine one or more of your own children taken from you, separated from you, ripped from your arms. Imagine a commentator making fun of your own child, a Downs Syndrome child, and the fact that he was taken from his mother. Imagine another commentator justifying the taking of children from their parents because, “these aren’t our kids.”

They aren’t? Because they are brown? Because they’re not from our country?

As adults, aren’t we responsible for kids? As a world citizenry, aren’t we responsible for all kids? Shouldn’t we be?

And shouldn’t each of us be outraged and vocal about kids being separated from their parents? Used as pawns for political purposes?

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post titled Most People Are Good, but you know, that theory, though I hold it dear to my heart and believe it will every fiber of my being, has been tested these past two years. I’m sure it will be tested in the next two years, too. Tested, because those in power refuse to do anything like performing checks and balances like they have been elected to do. Refuse to do and ignore all of it as well. And it goes on and will go on unchecked because there seems to be very few of us who care. Sad really. So very sad. Something to think about . . . and care about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make a Difference!

For My Readers:

I have some exciting news:

Black Rose Writing, the company that published Caught in a Web has accepted for publication another of my books, Spiral into Darkness and it will be out in January 2019. On my author page on Facebook, I will post passages and snippets from time to time and keep you updated on the publishing progress.

Caught in a Web, has been receiving some excellent reviews that I’m proud of, but I have to tell you the reviews are also humbling. So to those of you who have read it, thank you for passing on the positive vibes and for taking a chance on a novice writer. With five books to my name and a sixth coming out in January, yes, I still feel like a novice.


Connect with me on Social Media:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor


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

Friday, June 15, 2018

You Never Know


It’s that time of year again. For me and for almost all of my staff except for a few, the school year is over. Kids departed on their buses or rides about two hours ago. Much of my staff are putting the last touches on grades or cleaning classrooms, packing up this or that to take home for the summer. And I sit in the quiet of my office. And it is quiet.

Tomorrow, the seniors walk in the Commencement ceremony. It never gets old for me. Each class does it a little differently, but it is mostly the same each year. It’s tiring and nerve-wracking, but at the same time, satisfying and worth it.

Nice stories in this class and nice stories for this year.

Ethan . . .

I had gotten to know this little guy, a freshman, over the course of the year mostly through a healthy give and take rivalry over the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. On Fridays before a game or Mondays after a game, he or I would wear our team's jersey, catch each other and poke fun at each other. During soccer, we’d talk and he’d ask if I was going to go to his game. So I did. More than one.

One day last week, he wandered into the cafeteria before school and looked out of sorts, kind of down. I asked him what was wrong and he said he had to change travel soccer teams. He explained that the new team would be better for him, but still. We talked about it further and after, I asked him if he had any big plans for the summer. He said he and his family have a time share near the beach and were going to spend a week there. I mentioned that my wife and I were looking into renting something in South Carolina near the beach because we were thinking that might be an area we’d move to after retirement.

This seemed to stun him. He was shocked, but more than that, he seemed hurt. Ethan said, “I don’t want you to retire.” I told him it would be a while before we do and he repeated in a quiet voice, “No, I don’t want you to retire.” I didn’t know quite what to say, but I managed a, “Well, how about when you’re a senior, we leave together.” He looked down at his shoe, looked back up and said, “Okay.”

That was one of the nicest moments this year among many. It warmed my heart to think that somehow, some way, I had managed to forge a relationship based upon a football rivalry and a mutual love of soccer.

Got me thinking . . .

We Never Know the impact our words or actions can have on someone. We move around in our world and we rub elbows, exchanged bits of conversation, a laugh or two and move on to something and someone else. From our vantage point, fairly innocuous, rather bland if not innocent.

Or perhaps . . .

We might lose it with someone. We might use words that cut to the heart and soul of someone and they end up crawling off to a corner to lick their wounds or bleed to death. And we might never know it. Pride, after all. We move on, he or she does not. We think it’s over and done, when for that individual- a kid, a colleague, a loved one- it cements feelings of inadequacy, hurt, failure, loneliness, “not good enough” and no ability or talent or strength to improve or do better next time.

Perhaps . . .

Instead of choosing the most hurtful thing to say, we smile, nod a head and move on before we do any lasting damage. Instead of belittling someone behind his or her back, we walk away or better yet, steer the conversation away. Instead of piling on the hurt or degradation or humiliation, we take time to build up, to encourage, to foster hope and promise.

Honestly, I reflect back on my interactions with Ethan and I don’t see much to have caused him sadness and disappointment, even hurt when I told him that someday I might retire. A smile in the morning. A tease or two. A game or two. But somehow, in some way, I made a difference in that kid’s life. I wonder, how many other kids I . . . we . . . might have done that for or to a kid or kids in both good and bad ways. It happens and I’m sure it happened. But We Might Never Know, will we? Something to think about . . .











Live Your Life, and Make a Difference!

For My Readers:

Some Great News!

My book, Caught in a Web, will be $.99 from 6.21.18 – 6.23.18! It’s a limited time but the eBook (Kindle and Nook) will be available at this site: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696 It has received some tremendous reviews that I’m proud of, but they are also humbling. So those of you who have read it, thank you for passing on the positive vibes.


Connect with me on Social Media:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor


Friday, June 8, 2018

Bailey


When we first moved to Virginia ten years ago, Hannah and Emily began a campaign. Kim and I would find a picture of a Golden Retriever stuck on the bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator door, sometimes in the refrigerator itself. The hints were not so subtle.

And then there were the conversations, the negotiations, the pleas and the begging.

Got to admit, I’m a sucker. I’m a softy. They had me and they knew it, though I didn’t let them know. More problematic was that Kim knew, although I falsely proclaimed otherwise. She knew me too well and so did the kids.

So . . .

We met this lady in a strip mall parking lot. She dropped off a quiet, gentle Golden Retriever she or someone had named Baby. We didn’t like the name and settled on Bailey because it sounded close and we didn’t want to confuse her. Kim and I took one look at her and thought she might last a week or two. We could count her ribs and, she was just too quiet. Not normal. No jumping. No real movement from her. She climbed into the backseat, laid down and was a perfect passenger the entire trip home.

Once home, she did more of the same. She camped out in the living room on one of the couches. She might wander around the house exploring her new digs. And it wasn’t until about the sixth week that Bailey actually barked. Scared the hell out of me! Probably all of us. Up until then, we thought she was incapable.

And life went on. For ten wonderful years, life went on.

Instead of Bailey, we could have called her Tigger because she had a habit of bouncing up and down to get our attention. And I don’t know what it was about Hannah, but Bailey insisted on sitting on her lap. Not laying down, mind you, but actually sitting prim and proper.

When we got Stella, another rescue dog like Bailey, Stella came not liking men at all. That hasn’t changed even after three years. And when Stella would bark at me, Bailey would insert herself between the two of us as my fearless protector.

Wonderful times. A wonderful companion. A wonderful addition to our family.

Bailey got sick . . .

Wouldn’t eat. Wouldn’t drink much. Struggled moving especially on our tile floor. Stairs and steps became mostly unmanageable. It hurt us to see her like that.

And in Bailey’s way, she never complained. At the end, she didn’t want to be anywhere we weren’t. That was okay with us. More than okay.

Two trips to the Vet and one to the Animal Hospital . . . Cancer.

An ugly word for such a beautiful dog, still in many, many ways, a puppy. Our Miss Bailey, as I liked to call her. A member of our family- now and forever- just as Sherlock was before her.

The Vet said maybe two weeks. Nothing we could do for her other than to make her comfortable, if we could make her comfortable. And inside of two weeks, we’d be faced with the very same decision we were faced with yesterday afternoon. We knew what should happen, what needed to happen, but no one wanted to come out and actually make the decision.

In the end (a fitting phrase, if not a painful and ugly phrase), we decided as a family that none of us wanted Bailey to suffer. We didn’t want Bailey to be in any more pain. She didn’t deserve that. She was too good of a companion, too good of a friend. Bailey was . . . and is . . . family.

So a shot was given, a sedative, to put her asleep. Followed by another injection. And Bailey was no more than a memory, a warm place in my heart, in the hearts of Kim, Hannah and Emily. Now racing around somewhere with Wil and Sherlock. The three amigos. Together. No more pain.  But lots of love. Still lots of love. Always lots of love.

With hearts full of love and wonderful warm memories . . . Bailey.

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 78 individuals and has garnered a 4.33 out of 5. Nice return for only a few weeks in release.


Connect with me on Social Media:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor


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