Sunday, February 27, 2022

On The Outside

I worked with many staff members and kids over the years. 46 years, to be exact. In my various positions, I’ve heard many stories. Happy. Sad. Tragic. Hopeful. Despondent. Loving. When I think I’ve heard it all, I’m astounded to find yet another story I hadn’t heard.

Eileen, a teacher, had a son who died. Seemingly normal one day, then went downhill slowly at first, only to reach his end in a rapid and unexpected fashion. To look at her, to interact with her, to watch her with colleagues and kids, one would never know she struggled daily, sometimes hour by hour.

I remember one day, she stopped in my office and asked if she could just sit a minute. “Of course,” I said, “Yes. No problem!” I told her. “Take as much time as you need.” She apologized with a sad smile and said she would only need a minute or two. After a few minutes, she thanked me and went on her way. I checked on her later in the day, and she smiled and said, “I just needed a moment. Thank you.”

Nina’s husband passed away after a long medical fight. Nina is a counselor. She knew how to take care of herself, yet we made sure to discreetly watch over her. I would check in with her often, asking how she was doing and if she needed anything. She cared for the kids on her caseload, her own two sons, and herself without showing how much she was hurting.

At one of my schools as a counselor, a young man, Ricardo, witnessed a gang execution and testified against the shooter. Ricardo’s parents moved him to a different school, my school, to keep him safe. But my fellow counselors and I, and our supervising assistant principal, wondered how safe he really was. You see, the gang member who committed the execution had tentacles in our school, too. It was only a matter of time before they found him.

Ricardo went to school. He worked in the classroom. His grades were above average, and in some classes, way above average. Quiet and shy, Ricardo was nervous, but smiled. He knew what we knew. It was only a matter of time. He lived with that fear. The year ended, and Ricardo moved again. I lost track of him, and to this day, I don’t know what happened or if anything happened to him.

Three stories of three different people. Something tragic and ugly happened in their lives, and they coped as best they could each day, each moment.

In July 2014, our son was shot and killed as he walked home from lunch and a bit of shopping. Approximately two blocks from his new apartment, one gang recognized a rival on the street walking just ahead of Wil. A fifteen-year-old was handed a gun and was told, “Go wet his shirt.” He and a companion got out of a car and followed the rival.

The rival spotted the tail, saw the gun, and used our son, Hannah’s and Emily’s brother, as a shield. Wil was struck once in the back and died. Ten shots were fired and one shot hit someone. That someone was Wil, an unintended victim of collateral damage.

Kim and I, our daughters Hannah and Emily, and Wil’s young wife, Maria, learned to exist. We had a celebration of life, and after, we came back home and went on with our lives. We went about our day. I was a principal, Kim a teacher, Hannah a student in college, and Emily a student in high school. To watch us each day, we did the best we could. We smiled often. We kept ourselves busy. We worked hard to not let anyone know the pain we went through.

Emily played soccer and did the things a normal junior in high school would do. Her friends watched out for her. Hannah was away at school. She pulled good grades and eventually graduated and is now a teacher. Kim and I talk often about that time and that year, and neither one of us can remember much about that school year. It is like there is a hole in our lives. A lost year in many respects.

I mention these people and I mention what happened to our family because often and every day, there are people around us who interact with us, who smile and laugh, and we think, “They have it together. They are doing so well.” In reality, they, like we and the people I mentioned in this post, were just hanging on. We lived day by day, and sometimes, moment by moment. We tried to not let others see what was happening to us, how “life” was eating us up and spitting us out.

Like the photo used to introduce this post, what seems perfect on one side is nothing but chaos on the other side. What seems pretty on one side is rather ugly on the other.

I ask that this day, and every day, we remember that our actions, our words, can have either a positive or a negative impact. What we say or do can mean the difference between someone doing well or someone crashing and burning. Our words and our actions have power to heal or to hurt. I hope we will do our very best to heal where and when we can. I hope we will do our best to be kind any way we can, as often as we can. Please. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference! (Please!)

To My Readers:

If you have read one of my books, I would like to ask a favor. If you could go online and write a review or, at the least, give a rating on the book, it would be of great help. Both a review and a rating would be wonderful. The review could be one or two lines. It doesn’t have to be long. Just let others know you read it, and hopefully, enjoyed it. Obviously, 4s and 5s are the best. Thanks for this consideration.

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Blaze In, Blaze Out: A Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner! A Reader’s Ready Recommended Read! A BestThriller’s Editor’s Pick!

Eiselmann and O’Connor thought the conviction of Dmitry Andruko, the head of a Ukrainian crime family, meant the end. It was only the beginning. They forgot that revenge knows no boundaries, vindictiveness knows no restraints, and ruthlessness never worries about collateral damage. Andruko hired contract killers to go after and kill O’Connor and Eiselmann. The killers can be anyone and be anywhere. They can strike at any time. They care nothing of collateral damage. Andruko believes a target is a target, and in the end, the target must die.

Betrayed: A PenCraft 1st Place Winner for Thriller-Fiction! A Maxy Award Runner-Up for Mystery/Suspense! A Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner! A Reader’s Ready Recommended Read Award Winner! A Reader’s Favorite Honorable Mention Award Winner for Fiction-Crime-Mystery!

Betrayed is Now Available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback!

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

Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!
He blends in. He is successful, intelligent, and methodical. So far, he has murdered eight people. 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, do not know they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement.

Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner! Named “One of the Best Thrillers of 2018!” by 

Caught in a Web is also Available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback!

They found the bodies of high school and middle school kids dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. A violent gang, MS-13, controls the drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors. They send Ricardo Fuentes 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.  
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 live in separate parts of the country, the lives of 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 Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their futures grow dark as each search for a way out.
Book One, Stolen Lives: Editor’s Pick by BestThrillers! Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner! A Crime Thriller finalist in the 2021 Best Thriller Book Awards!
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 will end up like the other kids they found- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. To make the investigation that much tougher, Kelliher suspects that one of his team members might be involved.  
Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:
The boys are home, but now they have to fit back in with their families and friends. Their parents and the FBI thought the boys were safe. They were until people began dying. Now the hunt is on for six dangerous and desperate men who vow revenge. With no leads and nothing to go on, the FBI can only sit back and wait. A dangerous game that threatens not only the boys, but their families. 
Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
Three dangerous men with nothing to lose offer a handsome reward to anyone willing to kill fourteen-year-old Brett McGovern. He does not know that he, his younger brother, and a friend are targets. More than anyone, these three men vow to kill George, whom they blame for forcing them to run and hide. A fun vacation turns into a nightmare and ends where it started, back on the Navajo Nation Reservation, high on a mesa held sacred by George and his grandfather. Outnumbered and outgunned, George will make the ultimate sacrifice to protect his adoptive father and his adoptive brothers- but can he? Without knowing who these men are? Or where they are? Without knowing whom to trust? Is he prepared for betrayal that leads to his heartbreak and death?  

Photo Courtesy of Facebook and my friend, Michelle.


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