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Sunday, January 24, 2021

Children Are Us

 

I have been in a rather nostalgic mood lately. I find it happening more so as I get older, especially around holidays. I remember over our Christmas break standing in front of the game closet with Emily. We were looking for a game to play as a family. I began to weep. Em asked if I was okay and I lied and said I was. No, I wasn’t. My heart ached.

I remembered how Hannah and Em would play this game or that game. How we would laugh and sometimes complain. A competitive bunch we are. Mostly, the stories and being together. But I wept because so much of that doesn’t happen any longer. Hannah and Alex have their lives, and Emily and Q have their lives, and mostly, it’s Kim and me. How I long for those days when Em would crawl up on my lap and nap. How Hannah and I would stop for breakfast on our way to school. Our routines. Our memories. Maybe just my memories.

I wrote a book, Spiral Into Darkness, about a serial killer. I started with the questions, ‘How does one become a serial killer? Are they born that way or is there a trigger that causes one to become one?’ In that same book, a thread of a storyline ran through it about family: what makes a family? Born? Adoption? Does Adoption somehow “ruin” a family? In that same thread, I have a character beginning to wrestle and struggle with sexuality. I’ve taken some “hits” with reviewers about that, but having worked with kids for 44 years, listening to their stories in the locker room or the counseling office, I understand, I think, what makes kids tick. Or at the least, what makes some kids tick. I’m not an expert and don’t claim to be. Just one guy who has been around and who has listened and watched.

More recently, I look at some of the hatred my fellow Americans have for one another. One group espouses hatred and intolerance of black people, brown people, Jewish people. I believe these fellow Americans have always been there. Next door. Down the street. In the supermarket. In positions of leadership. The priest, minister, the custodian, the mailman.

They’ve become more vocal, more out in the open.

As someone who worked with kids, I wonder about them, just as much as I wondered about the serial killer in my book. How does someone become hateful? How does someone become intolerant? Are they born that way- with a predilection of hatred towards one group or another, or is there a trigger that causes one to become hateful?

My belief is that kids are kids. They don’t know hate until they learn it, just like they don’t know love until they learn it. They play with each other, read with each other, attend the same churches, movie theaters, malls. It isn’t until they are taught to hate, to distrust, to disrespect that they become hateful, distrustful, disrespectful. 

Kids learn those behaviors. And, they learn those behaviors from us, from adults.

The picture I chose for this post was purposeful, just like the other photos I used for my other posts. I don’t know who took this picture, but the story behind it is that the kids were being read to by their teacher. The little girl was tired and without asking, she leaned over and used the leg of the little boy sitting next to her as a pillow. The little boy placed his arm on the little girl’s shoulder. Protective, maybe. Maybe just resting his arm. No words were exchanged by either the boy or the girl. It just happened.

The little girl didn’t look at the boy and say, “You’re black. I can’t rest my head on your leg. I shouldn’t even be sitting next to you.” No, she simple rested her head on his leg without asking, and the boy let it happen and protected her in doing so.

I remember when Emily was quite young, Wil, our son, explained to her that he was adopted by us. She didn’t understand what adoption was. She just “knew” that Wil was her brother, and that some families have “brown” kids. We laugh about it now, but Emily didn’t see color. She saw only Wil, who was her brother. It wasn’t until Wil explained to her that he wasn’t born of Kim and me, but adopted and came to live with us as a family, that she understood what adoption was.

Kids learn from each of us. Our actions. Our attitudes. Our words. They watch. They listen. They learn. Our children become us. Our children are us.

My question to you is, who do we want our children to be? What type of adults do we want them to become? They will, after all, inherit our world and all that is right . . . and wrong . . . with it. They will arrive in their thinking, their choices, their decisions having learned from us, the adults- their parents, their teachers, their significant others. Yes, they will go about life their own way and in their own time, but for a significant portion of their lives, they are taught, and molded, and formed by us. Are you happy with what and how you taught your children? Are you happy and proud of them becoming you, us? Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:Connect with me on Social Media:
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

I am pleased to announce that this past December, Betrayed has won the Literary Titan Silver Book Award one month after its release. I am proud of that accomplishment.

A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, but no one is willing to talk. A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old boy. Seeing is not believing. No one can be trusted, and the hunters become the hunted.

"I was on the edge of my seat and holding my breath as I waited for these characters to get through the latest scrape." @MyBookishBliss

"The story whilst it’s a hunt for a missing friend also shines a light on teens who are struggling to find their place in the world." @MachinSharronm1

"Joseph Lewis has tactfully dealt with some difficult themes, and still managed to squeeze a nice amount of action and mystery into this novel." @caathycastling

"Excellent pacing, intriguing characters, and an action-packed plot line. Don't miss this one!" @jessicaxbelmont

"Well written and with real heart and honesty this is a beautiful and moving story about survival and kinship." @ramblingmads

"An action-packed thriller that grabbed my attention from the start. ... I thoroughly enjoyed the pace of this book and getting to know all the characters." @ShazzieRimmel 

You can find Betrayed at https://amzn.to/2EKHudx You can also watch the book trailer at https://youtu.be/YE8jHbHqSC8

Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!
He blends in. He is successful, intelligent and methodical. He has a list and has murdered eight on it so far. There is no discernible pattern. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, have no idea they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement. https://amzn.to/2RBWvTm  You can watch the book trailer at https://youtu.be/PrDxfbfqV_8 

Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner!
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. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696 You can watch the book trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xd3YdNv_ayQ

Caught in a Web is now available in Audio format. You can find it at: https://www.beaconaudiobooks.com/audiobookreleases/high-school-drug-rings-gangs-and-revenge-are-all-encompassing-in-caught-in-a-web-by-joseph-lewis    

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

Photo Courtesy of Unknown and Facebook  

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Words

As a writer, I am careful and deliberate when it comes to what I write. I think all writers are. What I place on paper, what I choose to have a character say, and where I choose to have the character say it are deliberate choices. The are decisions I make that help the reader get emotional, and sometimes physically, involved in what I’ve written. There is an old adage that goes like this: No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. I have to feel it first before you, the reader, feels it. If I don’t, you won’t.

Phyllis Whitney said, “Good stories are not written. They are rewritten.” And Shannon Hale writes, “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box, so that later, I can build castles.” Writers are reminded all the time that no one ever sees the first draft of anything, and no one cares about the first (or second or third) draft- only the final product.

I am aware that what I write will cause someone to think, mostly feel. I write with emotion. Sometimes that emotion is uncomfortable for the reader, and it should be, because it was uncomfortable for me writing it. Mostly, I write to make myself think, which in turn makes the reader think. Yes, I want what I write to be “real” to the reader, since it is “real” to me. I also want it to be entertaining.

Each of my stories contain life examples. Many of these life stories come from the kids I’ve worked with over the years. I’m simply retelling what was shared with me in the classroom, the locker room, the hallways, the counseling office. So, what Brian, George, Brett, or Bobby (some of the characters in my books) are thinking, saying or doing, you can pretty much bet that there have been kids I’ve heard or watched doing the same thing. I think that lends a “realism” to each of my books. 

As careful as I am with my writing, there are times when I’m less careful about what I say. Admitting that pains me, but it is the truth.

There are times when I say something that I think is funny and harmless, but what I say ends up hurting someone’s feelings. That hurts me as much or more than it hurt the recipient. I honestly try not to let my emotions interfere with my words, my actions, or my judgment, but I admit I am human. I make mistakes. There are times when I’ve let my emotions get the best of me. I cause friction, hurt, and fail to live up to my own expectation to lift someone up rather than push someone down. Correcting that mistake is often a humbling experience, but a necessary one nonetheless.

There are folks who read my blog who don’t share my religious beliefs, my political beliefs, my beliefs on family, rights, or freedom and responsibility. While I don’t understand their thinking or reasoning, I’m certain they don’t understand mine. Life.

This last week was a particularly tough week in a year that has been particularly tough for many.

What bothered me, actually haunts me, is that words were said that pushed and pulled people to act in such a way as to hurt others. Five people died. There was damage to a public building. Things were stolen. People got arrested. Some got fired from their jobs. Others might end up resigning in shame or anger.

But the words that were used to spur action were deliberate choices. They certainly weren’t intended to lift up. They certainly weren’t intended to create peace. The words chosen were deliberate. And those deliberate choices of words had, and will have, consequences that reach far beyond the two or three minutes it took for those words to be uttered, and the four or five hours it took for the death and destruction that occurred.

I realize people make mistakes. I realize that people act in emotion rather than in thought. I realize that, because I have done it and probably will do it in the future. Probably yet today. And again, it pains me to admit that. But I know I am human.

It saddens me when leaders urge, or at the very least, support violence. It’s wrong. If words are meant to hurt or harm others, that is wrong. There is no other way to state that. No other way to think about that.

We need to do better. We need to act better. And, our words need to be better. I am on the backside of life. But my kids and your kids have a lifetime ahead of them. We need to do better, not only for ourselves, but for them. Our words have consequences. Our actions have consequences. Consider for a moment what you are saying now, what you are thinking of doing now or in the future. Will my children, and their children, be proud of it? Will what you say and what you do, what you are saying and what you are doing, make them better people? Will what you say and what you do make this world a safer and better place to live for you? For your children? For those you love and care about? Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference . . . a Positive Difference, please!

To My Readers:

Connect with me on Social Media:
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

I am pleased to announce that this past December, Betrayed has won the Literary Titan Silver Book Award one month after its release. I am proud of that accomplishment.

A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, but no one is willing to talk. A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old boy. Seeing is not believing. No one can be trusted, and the hunters become the hunted.

"I was on the edge of my seat and holding my breath as I waited for these characters to get through the latest scrape." @MyBookishBliss

"The story whilst it’s a hunt for a missing friend also shines a light on teens who are struggling to find their place in the world." @MachinSharronm1

"Joseph Lewis has tactfully dealt with some difficult themes, and still managed to squeeze a nice amount of action and mystery into this novel." @caathycastling

"Excellent pacing, intriguing characters, and an action-packed plot line. Don't miss this one!" @jessicaxbelmont

"Well written and with real heart and honesty this is a beautiful and moving story about survival and kinship." @ramblingmads

"An action-packed thriller that grabbed my attention from the start. ... I thoroughly enjoyed the pace of this book and getting to know all the characters." @ShazzieRimmel

You can find Betrayed at https://amzn.to/2EKHudx You can also watch the book trailer at https://youtu.be/YE8jHbHqSC8

Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!
He blends in. He is successful, intelligent and methodical. He has a list and has murdered eight on it so far. There is no discernible pattern. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, have no idea they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement. https://amzn.to/2RBWvTm You can watch the book trailer at https://youtu.be/PrDxfbfqV_8

Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner!
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. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696  You can watch the book trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xd3YdNv_ayQ

Caught in a Web is now available in Audio format. You can find it at: https://www.beaconaudiobooks.com/audiobookreleases/high-school-drug-rings-gangs-and-revenge-are-all-encompassing-in-caught-in-a-web-by-joseph-lewis  

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

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      

Photo Courtesy of Brett Jordan and Unsplash  

Friday, January 1, 2021

Resolutions

 


My sister, Betty, had a New Year tradition that I found funny, if not a bit strange. Each year, she would have a can of sardines open. At the stroke of midnight, in one hand, there would be a sardine on a fork and in the other hand, a dollar bill. I believe there was a third thing, but I can’t recall what it was. She said the sardine represented enough to eat in the coming year. The dollar bill represented enough wealth to get by in the coming year. I believe the third thing dealt with health in the new year. For Betty and her husband, they seemed to have enough food and enough money for them to get by. In her later years, her health failed, and she passed away. This was quite some time ago after she spent time a long time in a hospital. A sad ending to such a funny and kind lady. Someone who could and often did poke fun at herself. I loved, and still love, her much.

Fairly regularly, I’ve made resolutions going into the new year, only to backtrack and then forget the resolutions I’ve made. Lose weight. Get in shape. This. That. Whatever. Like I said, I never finished what I set out to do. I think that is common among most of us.

This year, I would like to offer you a thought on resolutions that are not only painless, but will help both you and others. I’m sure you will be able to come up with others that are meaningful to your life, as well as others that will be meaningful to others in your life.

For me . . .

I will smile more.

Not that I don’t smile already, but I want to be more conscious of smiling more, because smiling, whether you realize it or not, can and will change one’s attitude. A smile is infectious. It spreads faster than Covid-19, and is certainly less painful and uncomfortable. A smile is a doorway for others to approach you, to interact with you. It is a welcome matt that sits in front of your heart and soul that says, “Hey, I’m okay, and you are too. Welcome!”

I will be kind.

I like to think that I am already kind, but I want to be intentional about it. I want to extend kindness to those who are unkind. I want to be kind to anyone without expectation of having kindness return to me. We already live in a world that can be cruel without knowing and is sometimes cruel purposely. We don’t have to be unkind. There are too many people who are suffering, who are fighting battles and demons. We don’t need to add to their tough fight. Be kind.

I will be gentle.

There are times when I can be harsh, sometimes rude. That is not my intention, honestly, but I know that my words will come out wrong sometimes, and I know that my actions can sometimes be perceived as uncaring. I want to be deliberately gentle to those around me, including being gentle with myself. I can be and often am my own worst nightmare when it comes to playing the if-I-could-have-would-have-should-have game. I am quick to focus on my own weaknesses and my own faults, rather than on my strengths and efforts. That needs to change.

I will forgive.

This is the hardest one for me. While I can and often do (sometimes don’t) forgive those who have hurt me, I am relentless with those who hurt my family. I don’t have the patience with them to see that they are hurting, which is sometimes why people act without thinking and hurt those who I love. All I focus on is that my wife or one of my daughters is hurt. I think I need to remember that I can forgive, but I can learn to not forget. That doesn’t mean holding a grudge. It means that perhaps my trust won’t be misplaced again. It means that there is a lesson that was learned that won’t be repeated. I know this will take a great deal of strength and fortitude on my part, but I know I need to forgive.

If along the I can shed a few pounds (and I know I have many to shed), and if I can get off my butt and move more (I have been working at it consciously), all the better. But I think my resolutions for the coming year, for many years after this one, might do me and those whom I love, the most good. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers: 

Connect with me on Social Media:
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

I am pleased to announce that this past December, Betrayed has won the Literary Titan Silver Book Award one month after its release. I am proud of that accomplishment.

A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, but no one is willing to talk. A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old boy. Seeing is not believing. No one can be trusted, and the hunters become the hunted.

“The Bottom Line: A stirring and unusual tale of teenage love, adventure and murder. While author Joseph Lewis has filled Betrayed with a large and compelling cast, the story belongs to Brian, one of several characters from Lewis’ excellent crime thriller, Spiral Into Darkness. The relationship between Brian and his family is incredibly well-drawn and often touching. Readers will be rewarded with an explosive adventure.”

-        Best Thrillers

This novel is an action-packed thriller that will keep the reader turning the pages. The descriptions of settings and characters are extremely well done, and the pacing is perfect. The ending ties up all the loose ends, yet you feel (and hope) there will be more from these characters in the future. Action and adventure are the words of the day in this thrilling, well-written, page-turner from Joseph Lewis.” 

-        Sublime Review

“To call Betrayed a thriller alone would be to do it a disservice. It’s a social inspection of Navajo reservation culture and life, and its probe of the roots of love and connection are wonderfully woven into a story of adversity and the struggle to survive on many levels. These elements make Betrayed particularly recommended for readers who look for psychological depth and complexity from a story of violence and evolution.” 

-    Diane Donovan, Editor; Donovan's Literary Services; Midwest Book Review/Bookwatch; Author of San Francisco Relocated. 

You can find Betrayed at https://amzn.to/2EKHudx You can also watch the book trailer at https://youtu.be/YE8jHbHqSC8

Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!
He blends in. He is successful, intelligent and methodical. He has a list and has murdered eight on it so far. There is no discernible pattern. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, have no idea they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement. https://amzn.to/2RBWvTm You can watch the book trailer at https://youtu.be/PrDxfbfqV_8

Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner!
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. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696  You can watch the book trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xd3YdNv_ayQ

Caught in a Web is now available in Audio format. You can find it at: https://www.beaconaudiobooks.com/audiobookreleases/high-school-drug-rings-gangs-and-revenge-are-all-encompassing-in-caught-in-a-web-by-joseph-lewis 

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

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     

Photo Courtesy of Tim Mossholder and Unsplash  

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Gift

 

As a kid, Christmas was one holiday I looked forward to every year. As an adult, I still look forward to it, but with a completely different perspective.

As a kid, and even now as an adult, I wrote up a list of things family could choose from. I don’t expect that every item from the list will be under the tree Christmas morning. Not even as a kid. I think that’s where some of the fun came from. We never knew what “Santa” might bring. There would always be some surprise that was not on the list, but somehow, some way, a wish and a hope would appear wrapped in pretty paper with a bright bow on top.

Like most of us, I’m sure, kids choose 'things'. A toy or a game or two. A shirt or sweater. A book. A CD. As I got older, my list grew differently, and somehow, grew less.

I look at my daughters and want them to be happy. I want Hannah and Emily to be healthy. I want them to be successful at whatever they set out to do and to be. I wish the same for Alex, Hannah’s fiancĂ©, and Q, Emily’s boyfriend. They are family, too.

I want to race ahead of them and remove the roadblocks and hurdles that would otherwise cause them to trip and stumble. I want to see them smile and hear them laugh. I want to hear their stories, their struggles, their successes.

I want to be with them. I want to see them.

I want them to know the door is always open to them. I want them to know my cell is always turned on “just in case.” I want them to know there will always be a place at the table for them, a light turned on for them.

I hope to never be a burden to them. I hope never to be the unwanted baggage that needs to be dealt with, pushed aside, stored in some dark, dingy closet. I hope to never embarrass them, harm them, hurt them.

The gift I want is for them to know that no matter what, I will be there. I want them to know that I’m always willing to listen to them, to hear them, to try to understand them, and to help them any way I can.

I realize that this gift is not easily wrapped. I realize that it can’t fit under a brightly lit tree. I realize that there might never be a bow on it. Mostly, I understand that at times, it might not be appreciated and that it sometimes might be forgotten. I hope not, but I understand that time and distance and the minutia of life might cause this gift to go unnoticed.

But my gift is there. My gift will always be there. Always. Something to think about . . .

From my family: Kim, Hannah and Alex, Emily and Q, and me, I hope you have a wonderful, merry Christmas! May your dreams be larger than life itself. May you never, ever lose hope. May you never lose faith. And, may you always love and be loved! God Bless!

Picture courtesy of Emily Underwood and Unsplash

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Happiness is . . .


Back when I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to get the Christmas edition of the Sears catalog. My brothers and I would hunt through it to find the best toys for Santa to put under our tree. I remember wanting a football helmet, shoulder pads, and a football. Those were my big three items. As I grew older, a BB gun. We lived out in the country next to what was then the Milwaukee River. We had a huge yard where we would choose up sides for football or softball. The yard next to the river would be great for shooting my BB gun.

There were two things I didn’t know at the time I paged through the Sears catalog. The first was that Santa didn’t exist. I believed Santa to be real. I swallowed that fairy tale hook, line and sinker. Most kids did, or do, I guess. My own certainly did until they got older. The second thing I didn’t realize was that my family was poor. Whatever it was, we wanted out of that catalog, it was up to my mom and dad and their meager finances to secure. Even as I think back on it now these many, many years since, I feel guilty. 

Yes, I did get my helmet, shoulder pads and football. And yes, I eventually got a BB gun when I was older.

The thing is, I ended up outgrowing my helmet and shoulder pads. Yes, I wore them in and out of football season, but I grew. Eventually, they ended up in the toy box. After that, who knows where they ended up. The dump or Goodwill, I suppose. The football and BB gun lasted the longest, but eventually, the football ended up as a toy for the dog, who punctured it as she played fetch with us. I don’t know what happened to the BB gun. Gone, but I still remember it fondly.

Those things I wanted, well, I grew up and they grew old and became unwanted. Sadly. A memory.

I came across an article on LinkedIn. I forgot who had posted it and I’m sorry for that, because I want to name the author. But the article, like others, hit me. It goes like this . . .

A professor gave a balloon to every student, who had to inflate it, write their name on it and throw it in the hallway. The professors then mixed all the balloons. The students were given 5 minutes to find their own balloon. Despite a hectic search, no one found their balloon. At that point the professors told the students to take the first balloon that they found and hand it to the person whose name was written on it. Within 5 minutes everyone had their own balloon.

The professors said to the students: “These balloons are like happiness. We will never find it if everyone is looking for their own. But if we care about other people's happiness, we'll find ours too.

I thought the helmet, shoulder pads, and football, and eventually the BB gun, would make me happy. And they did, for a short or long time. But eventually, like most things, the happiness ended and I was off to seeking other things. That’s the way of it, isn’t it? Like the balloon, I searched and couldn’t find it.

What I do know now was that the helmet, shoulder pads, football, and BB gun made my parents happy because they knew and saw how much I enjoyed them. Even in their, our, poverty, they found joy in making me and the rest of us happy. As parents with our own kids, or as friends to other friends, it is that joy of giving to someone that makes us truly happy. Not so much the gift, but in the giving.

The joy, the happiness is in giving. The joy, the happiness is in helping someone else, recognizing someone else, and valuing someone else. When we receive something from someone, it isn’t so much what we receive, but that we were remembered by someone. That is what makes us happy. Not the gift so much as in being remembered by someone. And what makes us truly happy is in giving to someone else.  

If we don’t learn anything else in this crazy year, I hope we can learn and remember to give in order to receive, to help others, to lift up others, to comfort others, because if we do that, we will be helped, and lifted, and comforted. Yes, we will end up happy. Because, in my very humble opinion, that’s what happiness is. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference! 

To My Readers:

Connect with me on Social Media:
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Betrayed is Discounted for Kindle on Amazon for only .99 for Today and Tomorrow Only. The sale ends on Monday, 12-14 at Midnight. Don’t wait! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08GCTV2XH 

A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, but no one is willing to talk. A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old boy. Seeing is not believing. No one can be trusted, and the hunters become the hunted.

“The Bottom Line: A stirring and unusual tale of teenage love, adventure and murder. While author Joseph Lewis has filled Betrayed with a large and compelling cast, the story belongs to Brian, one of several characters from Lewis’ excellent crime thriller, Spiral Into Darkness. The relationship between Brian and his family is incredibly well-drawn and often touching. Readers will be rewarded with an explosive adventure.”

-        Best Thrillers

This novel is an action-packed thriller that will keep the reader turning the pages. The descriptions of settings and characters are extremely well done, and the pacing is perfect. The ending ties up all the loose ends, yet you feel (and hope) there will be more from these characters in the future. Action and adventure are the words of the day in this thrilling, well-written, page-turner from Joseph Lewis.”

-        Sublime Review

“To call Betrayed a thriller alone would be to do it a disservice. It’s a social inspection of Navajo reservation culture and life, and its probe of the roots of love and connection are wonderfully woven into a story of adversity and the struggle to survive on many levels. These elements make Betrayed particularly recommended for readers who look for psychological depth and complexity from a story of violence and evolution.”

-    Diane Donovan, Editor; Donovan's Literary Services; Midwest Book          Review/Bookwatch; Author of San Francisco Relocated.

Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!
He blends in. He is successful, intelligent and methodical. He has a list and has murdered eight on it so far. There is no discernible pattern. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, have no idea they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement. https://amzn.to/2RBWvTm

Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner!
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. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696 

Caught in a Web is now available in Audio format. You can find it at: https://www.beaconaudiobooks.com/audiobookreleases/high-school-drug-rings-gangs-and-revenge-are-all-encompassing-in-caught-in-a-web-by-joseph-lewis

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

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    

Photo Courtesy of Stan B and Unsplash  

 

 

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Control Over Our Buttons

Yesterday, our daughter, Hannah, visited us with her dog, Teddy. He’s a Golden Retriever. We have a puppy, just over a year old, who is also a golden. Daisy, our dog, is stubborn and get jealous rather easily.

Last night, Hannah sat on the couch with Teddy sprawled out on her lap. Comical, in that Teddy is super large for that breed, and Hannah is on the short side. Daisy wanted to join in and attempted to launch herself onto both Teddy and Hannah.

Hannah pointed at Daisy and said, “No, don’t even think about it!”

Teddy, put his paw on Hannah’s arm pushing it down.

Daisy attempted another launch, and Hannah repeated, “No, Daisy, don’t!”

Again, Teddy placed his paw on Hannah’s arm pushing it down.

In the end, Daisy lay down on the hassock and stared at the two of them longingly.

Hannah explained that Teddy doesn’t like the word, ‘No’ and doesn’t like anyone raising his or her voice around him.

Interesting that Teddy is quick to pick up on tone of voice, gestures, feelings. He became protective of his buddy, Daisy. They had played long and hard all day. Each dog mopes and sulks when one or the other leaves for home. Daisy is in equal parts tired out from rough-housing, and sad that Teddy has left.

One of my contacts on LinkedIn, Linda Breedlove, posted this the other day. The story is of unknown origin.

            This is a story of two dogs.

Both, at separate times, walk into a room.

One comes out wagging his tail, while the other comes out growling.

A woman watching this goes into the room to see what could make one dog come out so happy and the other so mad.

To her surprise, she found a room with many mirrors.

The happy dog found a thousand happy dogs looking back at him while the angry dog found only angry dogs growling back at him.

The moral of the story is this: what you see in the world is a reflection of who you are.

Unknown 

The writer didn’t explain why one dog was happy and one dog was angry. The writer stated that one dog was happy coming out, while the other dog was angry coming out. Two dogs. Same room. Different reactions.

I think each of us are faced with rooms with many mirrors. And if not rooms, many situations, many circumstances, and a whole lot of people. For us, those rooms, situations and circumstances, and the different people we encounter elicit within us different perceptions, different reactions.

When I taught psychology many moons ago, I told my students that no one can make you feel one way or the other. The way we feel is a choice. We choose the way we feel: happy, sad, angry, indifferent. We choose our reaction to any given individual and situation. We are in control . . . or not, as the case may be. I reminded them that it sometimes isn’t easy to remember that especially when someone or something pushes one of our buttons. The trick is to take back control of the button, our buttons. Don’t allow anyone else to assume control.

Lastly, like the two dogs entering and leaving the room of many mirrors, we choose from moment to moment how we feel. Much of that feeling stems from our attitude going into and coming out of any given situation and circumstance. We can allow that control to be given to others, but why would we? Why would we allow someone else to control our thoughts and feelings as if we were a marionette?

I leave you with this thought from Greek philosopher Heraclitus:

“The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts.

Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day.

The content of your character is your choice.

Day by day, what you do is who you become.

Your integrity is your destiny — it is the light that guides your way.”

Definitely something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

Connect with me on Social Media:
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

This week, I received word that my newest book, Betrayed, won the Literary Titan Silver Book Award. Happy about that. You can find Betrayed on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You will find the link for Amazon at: https://amzn.to/2EKHudx

The book blurb is as follows:

A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, and no one is talking. A promise is made and kept, but could result in the death of a fifteen-year-old boy. A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old boy.

Some recent reviews for Betrayed:

"Excellent pacing, intriguing characters, and an action-packed plot line. Don't miss this one!" @jessicaxbelmont

"Well written and with real heart and honesty this is a beautiful and moving story about survival and kinship." @ramblingmads

"An action-packed thriller that grabbed my attention from the start. ... I thoroughly enjoyed the pace of this book and getting to know all the characters." @ShazzieRimmel

"I was on the edge of my seat and holding my breath as I waited for these characters to get through the latest scrape." @MyBookishBliss

"The story whilst it’s a hunt for a missing friend also shines a light on teens who are struggling to find their place in the world." @MachinSharronm1

"Joseph Lewis has tactfully dealt with some difficult themes, and still managed to squeeze a nice amount of action and mystery into this novel." @caathycastling

Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!
He blends in. He is successful, intelligent and methodical. He has a list and has murdered eight on it so far. There is no discernible pattern. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, have no idea they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement. https://amzn.to/2RBWvTm 
     
Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner!
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. 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. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696         

Caught in a Web is now available in Audio format. You can find it at: https://www.beaconaudiobooks.com/audiobookreleases/high-school-drug-rings-gangs-and-revenge-are-all-encompassing-in-caught-in-a-web-by-joseph-lewis

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, each more dangerous than the next, 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  
        
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 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              

Photos Courtesy of Hannah Joshua and Unsplash.