Saturday, September 5, 2020

A Valley

I was in seventh or eighth grade the first time I saw the Rocky Mountains. My dad, mom, little brother and I traveled west to see Yellowstone and Glacier National Park. We drove through the Bad Lands, found a ghost town or two. A great trip and it is one of my fondest memories of my early teen years.

I remember traveling through the relatively flat terrain of Wyoming and seeing what I thought were unmoving clouds on the horizon. As we grew closer, I realized that the clouds were mountains. The first I had ever seen.

We traveled upwards at a steep grade. We pulled a travel trailer, so we couldn’t go as fast as other cars or trucks on the road. It didn’t matter to me. In awe, I remember staring up at the rugged beauty. Hairpin turns enabled us to look down into valleys and crevices. I remember my mom sliding over next to my dad. She didn’t care for heights and back then, we traveled so close to the edge.

Later, when I taught history, I would talk about the Oregon Trail, the early wagon trains traveling east to west, and how they had to hoist wagons, animals, and cargo, up and then down the mountains to reach the west coast. Folks died on that trip. People lost loved ones, precious items they brought from home, only to leave it on the side of the trail to make the load lighter.

There was a sense of false relief, I’m sure, as they reached a valley, because they realized that soon, there would be another mountain to climb.

These past two weeks, I’ve been a long-term substitute as a third grade teacher. First of all, I’ve not been in the classroom in thirty-five years, and when I was, I never taught a grade lower than seventh. I spent most of my career in and among high school kids: teacher, coach, counselor, and administrator. Other than having my own kids as third graders once upon a time, nothing I did in my career prepared me for life as a third grade teacher.

Couple that with our present virtual classroom, I not only have to learn a brand new curriculum, but I have to learn a vastly different technological way of teaching. Talk about being stretched!

I did the best I could, and am doing the best I can. The team of teachers I’m working with are phenomenal. They’ve provided me with lessons and my mentor guides me. I feel, in many ways, like an anchor to them. I sat in a planning meeting with them yesterday on our day off, and I had little to contribute. I don’t know third grade. I don’t know the curriculum, and the technology and platform the district is using is new to me- to them- though they had two weeks more than I had to learn it.

It’s frustrating to not be at my best. I don’t want to let the principal, a friend of mine, down. I don’t want to let the kids and their parents down. I don’t want to let the third grade team of teachers down. I follow blindly what my colleagues have given me. Tuesday, we begin a new week, new lessons, and for the first time this year, we begin teaching reading, writing, and math.

Like the folks traveling in covered wagons over the Rockies, I have to trust those I’m working with. I have to trust my instincts, limited as they are in this arena.

And on top of it all, I’ve been finding my way slowly in retirement. Struggling with it. I don’t know, didn’t know what to expect. My last post, Titles and Identity, talked about finding myself once again. Still struggling with that. While I try not to show it, I’ve been down. Sad. Frustrated and scared.

I think about those who traveled on those wagons. The loved ones buried along the trail. The possessions strewn along the way. The relief of the valley after having crossed one side of the mountain, only to gaze up at the next mountain to cross. Knowing that in the end, it will bring joy to have reached their destination. Like those travelers, I, too, am in that valley. Maybe I’m still climbing up that mountain. Not sure. I only know that I’ve not reached my destination just yet. I only know that I will show up on Tuesday with my best smile and will do the best I can. I will push play and repeat on Wednesday, and on Thursday, and on . . . for as long as I’m needed. I will do my best, and at some point, I’ll get out of the valley and over the mountain and I’ll arrive. Not sure when. Not sure where. But for sure, I will arrive. I always have. We always do. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

For My Readers:

Kindle Lovers! Now is your chance! Caught in a Web, the PenCraft Literary Award Winner and named “One of the best Crime Thrillers of 2018!” by Best Thrillers is available for only .99 on Sunday, 09-06-20. Find it at:  

Spiral Into Darkness, a Recommended Read by Author Shout Reader Awards, is available for only .99 on Tuesday, 09-08-20. Find it at:

Connect with me on Social Media:
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Betrayed is now available for Kindle preorder to KDP Select at Amazon at:

A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, and no one is talking.

“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.

“Betrayed is at once an emotional chapter in author Joseph Lewis’ continuing coming-of-age story and an intriguing thriller. Following both law enforcement and a group of teens searching for a missing boy on Native American land, Lewis’ latest also provides a unique view into Navajo culture. A layered story that explodes into a bullet-riddled climax.”
— Rick Treon, award-winning author of Deep Background and Let the Guilty Pay

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.

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.

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.                                  

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.                                     
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.   

Photo Courtesy of Simon Fitall and Unsplash   


  1. Thank you. I appreciate you stopping by.

  2. I remember this trip, dad got a flat going into and back out if that ghost town and wasn’t very happy about it either!

  3. Yup, that's the one! Thanks for stopping by.


Thank you for your comment. I welcome your thought. Joe