Thursday, July 27, 2023

It's Beginning Again

 Each year at this time, teachers are called in for multiple meetings, and to get their classrooms in shape and ready for the kids, and administrators, who have been on duty all summer unless they take vacation days, are panicking to get the school ready. And for the first time in 47 years, I do not fall into any category I just listed, because for the first time after 47 years, I am retired.

It’s kind of scary when I think about it. I mean, aside from the financial hit Kim and I will take, I don’t have much to do. I will substitute here and there, but nothing permanent and nothing that calls me to “be there” each day for the next 180 or 220 days (depending upon which contract you’re looking at). Nothing.

I will take care of the house and the dogs. I will write like crazy (on the backside of book #10 as I write this), post in my two blogs, and do some reading and cooking. But when you put that all together, it’s quite a bit of solitary and solo time for me. Kim will be at her school for the next three years until she retires. Hannah will be at her school, while Alex (her husband) works from home and a nanny takes care of their newborn, Mason. Emily will continue working at her nonprofit with adults in or who have suffered trauma, while her fiancĂ©, Q, starts year two of his teaching and coaching career.

I still haven’t come to grips with all of it. This summer is the first summer I did absolutely nothing with or about school. The FIRST SUMMER in 47 years. Astonishing, when you think about that. I lasted longer than I honestly thought I would.

I will miss working with the kids the most. Yes, some gave me a hard time, but there were many, many more who made my life as an educator special. I will miss the many administrators I’ve rubbed elbows with over the years. I will miss the hundreds of teachers and support staff I’ve worked with all these years. And those of you reading this know who I’m talking about. You’ve put a smile on my face more than once or twice. You kept me going all these years. 

When I look back on my career, I know there were better teachers and coaches than I was. I know there were many teachers and counselors better than me, and I know there were many administrators better than I was. But I can look back and say I didn’t do too badly either. I think my best role was that of counselor. It made me the happiest and if I had a do over, it would be to remain as a counselor. I got to work directly with kids and their parents. I missed that when I went to administration. The kids. 

If I could impart a bit of wisdom for any teacher, counselor, administrator, or staff member as you enter this new school year, it would be to give kids the benefit of the doubt. They are scared and tender and loving- even behind the hard shell, even behind the sneer and the nonchalance and uncaring attitude they project. You can be strict and hold high standards all you want, but kids will respond to you only if they know you are fair and you care. They are doing the best they can and know how to do. Some are inept. Some will push you to the limits, and some will hurt your heart and soul. But if you think about it, they are kids and they will make mistakes. 


No kid ever came with a “how to” manual. Kids are not born with a set of directions. Parents will only raise their kids as they themselves were raised. One can only do what they know how to do. You can help break the cycle in time, eventually. Many times you will make a difference in a kid’s life, but you won’t ever know about it. That is, unless you’re lucky, and the kid hooks up with you at some point down the road and lets you know you made a difference. But unless they do, you have to believe that your words, your lack of words, your actions and the lack of a provoked reaction make and made a difference in a kid’s life. Give them a chance. They, and their parents, are doing the best they can. 

And give yourself a break too. You are doing the best you can. And please, please remember you aren’t teaching math or English, or any world language. You aren’t teaching science, and you’re not teaching PE. You are teaching kids. You are reaching their hearts and their souls much more than you will ever reach their head. You will never teach them math or science or any subject unless a kid knows you care about them and you are fair and honest and sincere. They are as vulnerable as you are. And you are really vulnerable. I know that. I’ve been there in each role I assumed.

Take it, or not, from this old guy who used to be … 

I wasn’t ever, ever perfect, and I made many more mistakes than you will ever make simply because I had more time to make them. But I also had my share of successes, just as you will. You’ve chosen the best profession in the world. Doctors help heal, and lawyers attempt to create justice in an unjust world. But it is you, just as it was me, who taught them. Something to think about …

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

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In the coming weeks, I will have a true author website up and running. Stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted.

Betrayed: Two Top Shelf Awards: 1st Place Fiction-Mystery; and Runner-Up Fiction-Crime; 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.

Fan Mail: New Release! A Maxy Award Finalist, an Eric Hoffer Award Nominee, and a Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner!  

A barrage of threatening letters, a car bomb, and a heart attack rip apart what was once a close-knit family of adopted brothers. Randy and Bobby, along with fellow band member and best friend, Danny, receive fan mail that turns menacing. They ignore it, but to their detriment. The sender turns up the heat. Violence upends their world. It rocks the relationship between the boys and ripples through their family, nearly killing their dad. 

As these boys turn on each other, adopted brother Brian flashes back to that event in Arizona where he nearly lost his life saving his brothers. The scars on his face and arms healed, but not his heart.   

Would he once again have to put himself in harm’s way to save them? And if faced with that choice, will he? 

Blaze In, Blaze Out: Best Action Crime Thriller of 2022 by Best Thrillers! A Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner! A Readers’ Favorite Award Winner! A Reader’s Ready Recommended Read! A BestThriller’s Editor’s Pick!

Blaze In, Blaze Out is Now Available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback!\

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. 

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.  

Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!

Would you recognize a serial killer if one spoke to you? Vincent and Shirley didn’t, and now they’re dead!

He blends in, is successful, intelligent, and methodical. So far, he has murdered eight people. There is no discernible pattern, no clues, and 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, and neither does their family or local law enforcement. 
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?   

Photos courtesy of Kimberly Farmer


Sunday, July 9, 2023

Dear Wil ...

 Dear Wil …

It will be nine long years on Wednesday. The last we spoke was nine long years, July 11th, when you called to wish mom and me a happy anniversary. Nine years ago, you had called on a Friday. We laughed because you weren’t sure which day was our anniversary, and you explained you were never good with dates. I knew that. So did mom and Hannah and Emily. Hannah had mentioned to us you would call her when some birthday or anniversary popped up just so you could get the right day. 

Nine long years ago …

I think back to your call often, if only to remember your voice, your smile and your laugh. That memory has always warmed my heart. Especially your laugh and your goofiness. Your playfulness.

You were excited to tell us about the new job you were to begin. You called it your dream job. A fashion photographer for a large online company. Your first job with a salary and benefits. You couldn’t wait. Mom and I were so proud of you. You struggled as many young people do coming out of college. Sometimes it’s difficult to find your ground and master your step in life, but on that Monday, you were to begin. You had conquered a small mountain and begin a new life. So proud of you, Wil.

You and Maria had just moved to Chicago. A new apartment, a new place to establish your roots. You and Maria had even talked about having children. I have to admit, I looked forward to being “Grandpa” and mom looked forward to being “Grandma.” We knew it would be a while before you and Maria settled, but getting that job, your dream job, was a first big step.

Maria spent that weekend with her sister and her family in Madison. You stayed home to finish a photo project. In hindsight, I wish you would have gone with Maria. It wouldn’t be nine long years before we heard your voice, your laugh. But that happens. Not blaming you at all, Wil. You were being responsible and finishing a project.

That day, you worked on your project. You took a break for a walk to get lunch and do some shopping for your apartment. On your way back, our lives changed. Nine long years ago.

I think back to the phone call. Mom and I were asleep in a hotel, and we thought someone had made a mistake and called the wrong room. After all, it was 12:38 am. Mistakes happen at that hour. In retrospect, mistakes happen at 3:30 pm on a street on a warm summer day. On July 12th. 

I have many, many regrets, Wil. I very much wish I would have been a better father for you. I’ll admit, I think I’m a better father now with Hannah and Emily. At least, I think I am, but Hannah and Em would know better. But you were our first, and I didn’t have a map or a guidebook to follow. I did my best, but never measured up- at least, in my mind.   

I think we both did our best. You as son, and me as dad. Still, I feel I came up short. 

What I wish most of all was that I was with you that afternoon walking along the street on that warm day, on July 12th. Perhaps the day would have ended differently. Who knows? It could have been me instead of you, and honestly, I would have accepted that. You shouldn’t have been alone. 

What I wouldn’t give for one more laugh with you, one more conversation with you. One more time to tell you I loved you and how very proud I was … am … of you. What a wonderful son and brother you were. 

I think back to that day and the court appearances that followed, the trials, seeing the photos, hearing the facts, the details, witnessing the cold, callousness of the three involved. But what I remember most about that time, that day, was not the blood on the street or the shopping bags containing the items for your apartment. No. What I remember, what has been seared in my brain and carved in my soul, was the picture of one of your flip-flops on the sidewalk. That photo still haunts me. 

It didn’t have to be, Wil. You know that. I know that. Mom, and Hannah, and Emily know that. Everyone knows that. A shitty decision by a fifteen-year-old holding a gun, whose idea it was to “take care of business” as it was stated in court. To “go wet his shirt” the fifteen-year-old was told. Cold. Callous. 

You were only walking along the street, minding your own business.

The bullet was meant for someone else. You became his shield so he could get away. Using another human being, my son, shield. 

What hurts me is that I wasn’t there for you. I wasn’t there with you. You were alone. Dads are supposed to protect their sons and daughters. I had no way of knowing, Wil. I’m sorry. You were alone.

I wonder what went through your mind as you lay on the cement sidewalk. I wonder what your last thoughts were. Were you thinking about Maria? The project you were working on? Hannah or Emily? Mom and me? Your new job that was to begin on Monday? I can imagine you smiling at those thoughts. I want to believe you were smiling at those thoughts. Happy for a moment, before everything changed. Everything. 

Wil, I came across a song that could be our song. James Blunt wrote it for his father. His father had cancer, and James wrote this song for him. I would sing it for you, Wil, but I wouldn’t get through the first line or two. No way. I would try, but I would fail miserably. Perhaps fail as I did that Saturday, July 12, 2014, when I wasn’t with you. 

Here are the lyrics for you. We’d have to tweak them to make it fit us, you and me. But you get the meaning, I’m sure. At the end of the lyrics, I attached the link to his music video. I think you’ll like it. James’s heart is in it, just as mine would be. How could it not? 

The song is titled, Monsters. A good title. Blunt says it much better than I could, though it matches what my heart feels.

[Verse 1]
Oh, before they turn off all the lights
I won’t read you your wrongs or your rights
The time has gone
I’ll tell you goodnight, close the door
Tell you “I love you” once more
The time has gone, so here it is

I’m not your son, you’re not my father
We’re just two grown men saying goodbye

No need to forgive, no need to forget
I know your mistakes and you know mine
And while you’re sleeping, I’ll try to make you proud
So, daddy, won’t you just close your eyes?
Don’t be afraid, it’s my turn
To chase the monsters away

[Verse 2]
Oh, well I’ll read a story to you
Only difference is this one is true
The time has gone
I folded your clothes on the chair
I hope you sleep well, don’t be scared
The time has gone, so here it is

I’m not your son, you’re not my father
We’re just two grown men saying goodbye
No need to forgive, no need to forget
I know your mistakes and you know mine

And while you’re sleeping, I’ll try to make you proud
So, daddy, won’t you just close your eyes?
Don’t be afraid, it’s my turn
To chase the monsters away

Sleep a lifetime
Yes and breathe a last word
You can feel my hand on your own
I will be the last one so I’ll leave a light on
Let there be no darkness in your heart

But I’m not your son, you’re not my father
We’re just two grown men saying goodbye
No need to forgive, no need to forget
I know your mistakes and you know mine
And while you’re sleeping, I’ll try to make you proud
So, daddy, won’t you just close your eyes?
Don’t be afraid, it’s my turn
To chase the monsters away

The music video for Monsters by James Blunt, who wrote this for his father, Charles, who lay on his deathbed as he battled cancer.

I’ll close now, Wil. It’s the best I could do for you. You know I think of you often and not just at this time of year. Not just on July 12th. Always and forever. 

Please know I did the best I could to be your dad, your father. And we both know that wasn’t good enough. Til we meet again. Love you, Wil. Always and forever.


Something to think about … 

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

 Photos by Joshua J. Cotton and Timothy Dykes and Unsplash.