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Friday, March 20, 2020

New Normal



When I announced my retirement effective at the end of this year, I had no idea whatsoever that it would turn out like this. None at all.

I had expected my Mondays through Fridays to have a normalcy to them. Greeting kids as they got off the buses. Doing the Pledge, the Moment of Silence, and a message to the kids and staff. Signing purchase orders, wandering into classrooms, watching kids learn and teachers teach- the very best part of my day(s). Supervising the cafeteria during lunch and talking with or teasing the kids as I do so. Harassing my office staff or a teacher or two if they wander my way. Catching a game or a performance.

Then home. Kim would go to Cross Fit. We’d eat something lite. I’d do some writing or some reading, sometimes both. Hannah would call and tell me about her day either on her way home from school or on her way to the gym. Emily would text or call about her classes, mostly her work for the nonprofit.

Normal, everyday kinds of things. A good life. A comfortable life.

Now, a New Normal.

Em can’t travel out of state or she will have to self-quarantine because of her job at the nonprofit. She can’t work out because her gym is closed. Her classes are now online and she has no idea if she will have a graduation or not. Many of her friends have left for home already.

Hannah teaches from home using online platforms. Her gym is closed so she runs in a park- until they close. Her fiancé, Alex, works from home. Kim and I are planning on spending the day with them tomorrow. A break for us and for them.

Kim’s Cross Fit is closed now. She runs her four to six miles each morning and has begun working out in the downstairs family room. I walk most every day. I spend my time writing or reading. We make a pilgrimage to Walmart or Giant in search of necessities. We try to eat lighter and less. I certainly snack less, because I don’t want to end up looking like a Sumo wrestler.

I worry about our future- mine in retirement, wondering if perhaps I am retiring at the wrong time. While we have a time frame for when the school will be “back” we really don’t know what the future holds.

I am in the “vulnerable” group because of my age and because of my past history with asthma. I am the second youngest in my family, meaning that my older brothers and sisters are more vulnerable than I am. I worry.

I worry about the life Emily and Q, Hannah and Alex, and Kim and I face. I think about some of my kids from school- often- and worry about the same thing. You see, as a principal, I’ve always looked upon the kids as my kids, my staff as my brothers and sisters. I don’t know if that’s good or bad or right or wrong, but that’s the way I always approached my work. I worry about them.

But then I’m inspired.

I see the Italians singing to each other on balconies while in isolation in the midst of their family and friends dying. I see the same thing in Spain. I see a family singing Happy Birthday to their mother/grandmother from outside a window of her nursing home. I see a priest offering the sacrament of Penance in the church parking lot in a drive-through format. He sits in a chair, and the parishioner pulls up in a vehicle.

On Facebook, I see people trying to bring a laugh to others with a funny meme or two, trying to distract us from our situation. I see others offering inspiration and hope.

The New Normal.

I can’t say I’ve ever been through something like this before in my lifetime. Yes, many in the country have. There have been sacrifices before. There have been tightened belts and diminished wallets before.

We’re going through it again. We don’t know when the end will be, but I firmly believe there will be an end and we will survive. I believe there is enough goodness in us, in those around us to see to it that we will survive. I have hope. I have faith. I have seen both in and through others. I have seen and experienced love. I don’t know when our New Normal will return. I don’t know if it will ever be quite the same as it once was. But I do believe we will make it- you, me, my family both immediate and extended. We will make it. We will. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
My new book, Betrayed, will debut Nov. 12, 2020! It is a contemporary psychological thriller using some of the same characters from my previous work. It takes place on the Navajo Nation Reservation in northeast Arizona. I will post parts and passages on my author page on Facebook. Here are two advance reviews from two awesome authors:

Adopted and bonding as a family, with histories of death, destruction and for some...abuse, these boys band together—ready to lay down their life for their new family—in order to find a missing friend before dangerous gunmen find them.

“A whirlwind of adventure, relationships, protecting family, hair-raising situations, and cold betrayal.”
Tina O’Hailey author of When Darkness Begins

A boy goes missing in Navajo Nation, a family is killed. Onto the next adventure for three brothers, including one who grew up there, to search for him. As to be expected, danger awaits, but these are not ordinary teens. They have faced harrowing situations before, and now they will rely on the skills and experience they’ve developed to get through this one.

“Once again, author Joseph Lewis has written a fast-paced psychological thriller mystery that immerses readers into a dark world few encounter.”
Joan Livingston, author of the Isabel Long Mystery Series

Connect with me on Social Media:
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor


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. 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.
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 Pablo Heimplatz and Unsplash

Friday, March 13, 2020

About 44 Years!



Way back at one of my counseling stints in California, I had the honor and privilege of working alongside Ed Whitney. “Easy Ed” was a gentle guy with a broad smile and an even bigger heart. Kids and staff loved him. I learned much from that humble man. How to treat people, especially kids and parents. Consistency, honesty. High moral and ethical standards. Easy Ed was that kind of man.

One day, he announced his retirement. He had worked over 30 years and I remember marveling at that. I didn’t know if it was possible for anyone, much less me, to work that long in the same position. I felt cheated because I hadn’t worked with him as long as other folks did. I remember asking him to stay on a little longer. He just smiled and said, “It is time.”

That crossed my mind yesterday as I announced to the district and to my staff that after 44 years, the last 23 or so as an administrator, I am retiring.

It was a tough decision. I had promised a junior, Ethan, that I would be around for his graduation. TJ, Cristian and others, well, I feel I let them down. But honestly, as Ed told me when I asked him to stay a little longer, it’s time.

I made mistakes along the way. When someone makes decisions, mistakes are bound to happen. But I feel I had successes along the way, too. Gabino, Khalid, Matt, Jody, Kathy, Melissa. I think I’ll remember them the most, some dating way back to my first counseling position.

I’ve met and worked alongside incredible people. People who made me better just by being in their presence, their sphere. Andre. Randy. Bill. Art. Peggy. Wes. Harry. Felix. Dave. Julie. Theresa. Anna. Sharon. Pat. Joanne. Just a few of the many. Their mentoring of me, their guidance, patience and understanding, their compassion and kindness, their thoughtfulness every day- I was thankful for. I’m hoping some of it wore off on me.

I met my wife through this wonderful profession. While both of us were from Wisconsin, we had to travel to California and land at the same school in order for us to be connected, to fall in love, to have a wonderful marriage and be blessed with three remarkable and wonderful kids, now young adults.

About 44 Years!

I can never imagine myself in another profession. I touched lives- kids mostly, but also parents and adults. Hopefully, I was able to guide and mentor a few of them. I mentioned a couple of kids, now grown up with kids of their own, I’m sure. There are others. Probably many I’ve forgotten.

The thing about being a teacher, being in education is that we shape lives. Our words, our actions sometimes become the words and actions of the kids we work with. We are “on” all the time, 24/7. It’s hard to shut down. Lesson plans. Test scores. Sub-groups. Data. Worrying about pay. Worrying about the lack of sleep. Worrying about the lack of sick days. Sacrificing our own lives for the good of the kids, for the people who work alongside us. Teaching during the day, grading papers at night, and then planning the next day’s lessons. Over and over. Weekdays and weekends.

About 44 Years!

I will miss the kids the most. Their handshakes and fist bumps as they walk through the doors each morning as they get off the bus. Sometimes the hugs. Asking if I was coming to their game, their match, their concert, their play. Watching them with pride as they push themselves. Celebrating with them as they win, consoling them when they lose. Congratulating them as they walk across the stage picking up their diploma. Having them come back after their graduation and while in college or the military or the world of work to check in and say hello. All special. All meaningful. Great memories.

I take a lot with me. I worry if I’ve taken more than I’ve given. In a helping and serving profession, I think many of us worry about that. Yet all in all, I’m satisfied that I’ve done what I could, when I could, knowing that I missed a time or two along the way. That happens. To you, to me, to all of us. I’m happy I was able to serve and rub elbows alongside some of the best, some of the very best. About 44 Years! Yes, I think it is time. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
My new book, Betrayed, will debut Nov. 12, 2020! It is a contemporary psychological thriller using some of the same characters from my previous work. It takes place on the Navajo Nation Reservation in northeast Arizona. I will post parts and passages on my author page on Facebook.

Connect with me on Social Media:
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor


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. 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.
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 Linda Arney

Friday, March 6, 2020

The Budding





I like spring. It is a beginning, a start an awakening. It signals an end to the cold (mostly, not quite totally) and some of the dreariness that winter is sometimes known for. I get tired of being cold. It seeps into my body more so than it did when I was younger. I also find that the gray and the cold seeps into my heart and soul a bit. 

We have our roller coaster of temps from day to day, but even the dips don’t seem as low as they have been. Yesterday, I noticed the flowering of trees on our street. I saw and heard a few more birds sitting on our back deck rails singing whatever song pops into their head. I think birds sing because they can, and that’s not so bad, is it? 

Spring announces an awakening. What was once asleep and thought to be dead and gone, rises and grows. Witness the ghostly trees of winter budding and flowering. I see bags of mulch in my neighbors’ driveways and a few hearty souls on knees in their flower beds. I know the time will come when Kim drops hints about how we need to spend our upcoming weekends.  

We plant seeds in each other, especially kids, don’t we?  

Sometimes, we see the budding and the sprouting quickly. Sometimes, we wonder if anything will take root and grow. And at times, sometimes nothing grows despite all we try, all we do. 

My brother, Jim, is four years older than me. I admire him for all he’s done, for all he’s been through. You see, Jim didn’t take to high school and I don’t think high school took to Jim. Part of it was because he followed Jack, who was the first boy in the family after five girls, and part of it was because he followed Kathy, who was the last girl of six. Tough shoes to fill. 

Jim tried college and he didn’t take to that either. Then he tried a tech school and he didn’t take to that. I think as a last option, Jim enlisted in the Air Force. He served a hitch in Vietnam on a flight crew, but because he was a mechanic, he had to fly with troops into hot spots to make sure the aircraft got in and out safely. 

He served his hitch and enrolled in college. It took. He graduated with honors with a double major in art and architecture. Who would have thought? 

Jim is proof that kids get it, that people in general get it. Not necessarily on our time, but in their time.  

Did you know that the seed of the bamboo plant doesn’t bud for five years after planting? Five years! 

We plant seeds in our kids and in each other each day with the words we choose, our acts of kindness. We also plant seeds in our kids and in each other with a lack of thought, with meanness, with a lack of care and concern, with a dismissive attitude. And, those kids grow, too.
We are witnesses to that budding in kids and in others.  

Those buds, those flowers aren’t as pretty or as pleasant as the buds and flowers planted with care, with love, with compassion, kindness and tenderness. Yet, just as we reap the fruits of what we sow and plant with love, we reap the fruits of what we sow and plant with indifference, with a lack of patience, with a lack of . . . 

We can do better, you and me. We need to do better. 

Last week, I wrote about the Choice of Words. Sometimes, with those words or lack of words we give off an air of negativity, of indifference. Sometimes we convey that someone is less than. If I’ve done that to you this year, this month, this week, I am sorry. I don’t want to plant any seed that produces the flower that results from that. If I used a careless word or no word at all, I am sorry. Again, I don't want to plant any seed that produces the flower that results from that. 

So today, I will once again correct my own behavior. Fridays and the end of the week are good for that. It’s a day we can examine what we did or didn’t do, perhaps what we should have done. And, if I have to keep working to correct my own behavior, I’m willing to do that.  

I ask you, too, to reflect on where you are with your words, your actions, the seeds you have been and are planting. Will they result in the buds and flowers you want to see and enjoy? Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
My new book, Betrayed, will debut Nov. 12, 2020! It is a contemporary psychological thriller using some of the same characters from my previous work. It takes place on the Navajo Nation Reservation in northeast Arizona. I will post parts and passages on my author page on Facebook.

Connect with me on Social Media:
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor


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. 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.
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 Ryan Yao and Unsplash