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Thursday, October 25, 2018

That One Kid








My daughter, Hannah, is in her first year teaching. Obviously excited, she comes home with lots of stories about this kiddo or that kiddo, almost always successes or funny anecdotes. It’s fun listening to her and it is something I look forward to each evening.

She told us a story of one of her fourth graders who didn’t like to read. Not one book. Nothing. Hannah got out of him that he liked “aminals.” His word, not a typo, and I loved it. So, Hannah dug around in her book bin and found a book about a dog. Warily, if not somewhat reluctantly, the boy began to read. And read. And read some more. In just a short time, this boy read his first book EVER! And not only that, he asked for another one like it, showing Hannah the other books in the series. All “aminal” books. He has been asking her ever since if she was able to get this one or that one. A success for her, but more importantly, for him!

When Emily was in kindergarten, her teacher thought Em had a reading problem. Huh. Never thought that, since at home, Emily liked it when we read to her and would discuss the stories and the characters. Whatever her teacher thought Em had, didn’t seem to exist when she hit first and second grade, and was later placed into the gifted and talented program. In college, she is in the honors college with a major and three separate minors. Thanks to Mr. E in first grade, we think.

When I was in grade school, especially in first through third, I was in the Blackbird reading group. That was the lowest group. I wasn’t with my friends who were in the Bluebird or Cardinal groups. Nope, I wasn’t “good enough” or “smart enough” and certainly couldn’t “read well enough.” I hit fourth grade and life as I knew it to be changed. Whatever teachers thought of who or what I was in the early years, disappeared. I was a different kid, a new kid.

Thanks to a teacher!

We label kids and group kids and separate kids. It used to be that “those kids” wouldn’t be taught with “these kids.” Homogeneous groupings, we called it back then. Heck, can’t have a kid with an IEP taking an Honors or AP level class, can we? Not appropriate. They can’t do it. Same with PSAT and ACT and SAT tests. Can’t have them taking it.

Oh, we justify it by saying they can’t handle it, or we might be damaging their self-esteem. Perhaps it’s more of the fact that we might not want to deal with them, work with them, or teach them.

But . . .

All it takes is one teacher to believe in them, one teacher to encourage them, one teacher to care.

A teacher (thank you, Sarah) tagged me on a Facebook post about Jonathan Mooney, who was always the slow kid in class. He was called “stupid” and “lazy” most of his life. He believed that because he was ‘different’ he was ‘deficient.’ His story can be found at: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2178525462361315&id=100006116466677 and it is truly worth the three or so minutes to watch. Please take the time. It is powerful and moving and it might bring you to tears. It will certainly raise the hair on the back of your head. I guarantee it!

Teachers, administrators, counselors . . . any adult who has or works with kids . . . has the power to mold and shape a child’s life. We can do it with sarcasm. With an eye roll. With a sharp word. By ignoring the need. Certainly by placing this child or that child into a group and forcing him or her to wear a label.

That’s one choice. It’s probably the easiest of choices, because it doesn’t take any work, any time whatsoever.

Perhaps the better choice is to encourage. To build up. To care about and to work to understand. To find that “one thing” that might turn a life around.

No perhaps about it. Yes, it does take time. Yes, there is effort involved. But if it changes a life, even just one life . . . Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I am proud, and humbled, to announce that Caught in a Web was named as a PenCraft Literary Award Winner for Thriller Fiction! I was nominated by a reviewer and received notification in the last week or so. It is also on the list for “one of the best crime thriller books of the year!” by Best Thrillers. As I said, I am both proud and humbled.

Thanks to all who have taken a chance on reading Caught in a Web. If you are interested in a copy on either Kindle or in Paperback, you can find it on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696  or on Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/caught-in-a-web-joseph-lewis/1128250923?ean=9781684330249

And if you do give Caught in a Web a shot, please leave a rating and a review. I would appreciate it. Thanks for this consideration!

Caught in a Web:
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. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696

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. http://tinyurl.com/Stolen-Lives-J-Lewis      

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. http://tinyurl.com/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis      

Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
A 14 year old boy knows the end is coming. What he doesn’t know is when, where or by whom. Without that knowledge, neither he nor the FBI can protect him or his family.

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

Connect with me on Social Media:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor


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

Photo by Hari Nandakumar from Unsplash. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Easier to Quit





I admire anyone who participates in an individual team sport. Cross Country, Wrestling, Swimming- those sports are made up of individuals who compete as individuals, but score for the team. Runners take the course, swimmers take the lane, and wrestlers take the mat. The spotlight is on them, actually. Different from, say, football, basketball, or baseball, I think, though I could be wrong.

Like most teams, you are only as good as each individual team member. They train mostly together. Some teammates might do extra or less, depending upon one’s circumstances or situation. But in theory, they have a workout and they attack it.

Running is rather solitary. My wife, Kim, runs most every morning in most any kind of weather. She gets up in the dark at about four, runs her six miles, and then comes home to get ready for teaching at a middle school. At night, she goes to cross fit. I think she’s crazy, but she shrugs it off as something she likes to do.

She describes running as her “cup of coffee” each morning. Without it, she is tired and listless. She also says that she prefers running by herself because she can think and consider. It’s “her time” as much as writing is my time. I just happen to sit while I do my “workout” and I don’t necessarily break a sweat.

Kim has been living this lifestyle since college. Because she was a physical education and health major, one of the courses she had to take dealt with running to get in shape. And ever since that class, she hits the road. It doesn’t matter the season. It doesn’t matter if she’s on vacation. It’s a healthy habit.  

Justin Gallegos runs cross country at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon. I suppose like most middle school and high school runners, Justin dreamed of running. Much like the high school kids I used to coach, they dreamed of playing at the collegiate level, maybe even the pro level. So I imagine at some point, the running bug bit Justin just as it bit Kim.

I can’t imagine the effort and determination, the countless hours of training. The constancy of the pounding on the knees, the ankles, the hips, the back in order to run at the collegiate level. Not just running, but any sport and any act of training. The diligence, the discipline involved has always amazed me.

There is something special about Justin that separates him from Kim and from many, many other runners at any level.  You see, the big difference between Justin and Kim is that Justin has cerebral palsy.

Now, I don’t know much about cross country. But a kid from Wisconsin, Drew Bosley, ran the Midwest Invitational this year with a time of 14:51.6. I’m no expert, but I think this is pretty fast. In comparison, I think I might be able to hit the fourteen hour time barrier, but fourteen minutes? Wow!

Justin’s goal was simpler . . . for most of us, that is. Remember, he has cerebral palsy. His goal is to break the two hour barrier in the half-marathon. That’s what he’s training for above and beyond his cross country team. To run a half-marathon. With cerebral palsy. Oh, one more thing. Justin just became the first professional athlete for Nike who has cerebral palsy.

To see this beautiful and magic story, catch it at https://twitter.com/SInow/status/1050057048686092288?s=19 It will take you only 2:36 to watch, but I promise you that it will make your day. I promise you it will lift your spirits.

I know there are runners with prosthetic limbs. I admire them just as I do Justin. I admire them for overcoming a barrier- be it personal, medical, social or emotional- to do something above and beyond themselves. Way above and beyond. I admire their discipline, their dedication to never give up, to never give in.

For most of us, it’s easier to chuck it all, pack it in, toss in the towel. Just quit and move on to some other goal, some other dream. How much harder it is to stick with it. How much harder it is to not give in and not give up. But sometimes, while giving in and giving up might be the easiest thing to do, it isn’t always the best thing to do. Not really. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

Thanks to all who have taken a chance on reading Caught in a Web. If you are interested in a copy on either Kindle or in Paperback, you can find it on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696  or on Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/caught-in-a-web-joseph-lewis/1128250923?ean=9781684330249

And if you do give Caught in a Web a shot, please leave a rating and a review. I would appreciate it. Thanks for this consideration!

Caught in a Web:
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. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696

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. http://tinyurl.com/Stolen-Lives-J-Lewis     

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. http://tinyurl.com/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis     

Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
A 14 year old boy knows the end is coming. What he doesn’t know is when, where or by whom. Without that knowledge, neither he nor the FBI can protect him or his family.

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

Connect with me on Social Media:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor