Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Just in Time For Halloween, New Poems and Stories at the TTB e-zine!

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OK, sometimes I just have to rhyme…

Folks, do you want some new and absolutely free reading material? Especially from me? (As you’re here at my blog, I’m going to assume the answer is an enthusiastic “yes.”)

Well, look no further. I have a story, “To Exist within Memory,” and a poem, “Break the Dark Lens,” up at the Halloween 2017 edition of the Twilight Times e-zine. (I abbreviated it above as TTB e-zine because it’s part of Twilight Times Books.) In addition, there’s also a chapter reveal for my most recent novel, the LGBT-friendly CHANGING FACES, and there’s an author interview by Mayra Calvani as well — so if you have ever wanted to know more about me or my writing, here you go.

portrait in garden

Mind, if you like what you have read with regards to CHANGING FACES, you can go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble and pick up an e-book copy for just ninety-nine cents…and I do hope you’ll consider doing just that.

So go check out the TTB e-zine. Read some free stuff. Then go pick up your copy of CHANGING FACES today, and get to getting…who said every treat on Halloween has to be full of calories, hey?

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 31, 2017 at 8:33 pm

Now Available in E-Book: A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE

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Folks, I’m very happy to be able to finally report that my second novel — and the second novel in the Elfy duology — A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE has been released. It’s available right now at Amazon and OmniLit…the latter will be most useful if you need an e-pub version of the file.

Edited to add: Barnes and Noble link is now live as well. Now returning you to your regularly scheduled post…

ALittleElfyinBigTrouble_medIf you have never seen anything at all about the Elfyverse — or read book one in the Elfy duology, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE — this little blurb may help you with what’s going on:

Young Bruno the Elfy and Sarah, his mostly-human teenage girlfriend, are in deep trouble. Bruno’s Elfy mentor Roberto the Wise is about to be sacrificed by a Dark Elf, and Sarah’s parents have decided to help the Elf rather than the Elfy. Things look bleak and are getting worse by the minute, but Bruno and Sarah have a number of allies — human, Elfy, and ghosts — that the Dark Elf can’t possibly expect. Can young love, desperation, and great unexpected power win out despite it all?

And here’s a short excerpt — note, it first appeared here, as part of the Marketing for Romance Writers Book Hooks blog hop:

Bruno took Sarah’s hand and led her back outside. He looked with his mage senses, and felt nothing; no Elfy magic, no Human magic, and as far as he could tell, no Elf magic, Dark or Bright.

He put up a light shield that should help conceal their voices, and decided it was safe enough to talk for a bit.

“Tomorrow is Baaltinne, Sarah.” Bruno rubbed his fingers through his hair and tried not to look too hard at Sarah. Goddess, she was beautiful. But he had to stay on topic. “That’s your May Day. Tomorrow.” He shook his head and tried not to frown. “How can we get everything together in time to stop Dennis the Dark Elf?”

“I have faith in you,” she said. Her eyes darkened. Bruno felt as if he were falling, before she gently brushed her lips against his.

————————— End Excerpt ————————————-

If this has intrigued you (and of course I hope it has), but you aren’t sure you will like my book yet, I also have three sample chapters available at Twilight Times Books’ website — here’s the link for that: http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/ElfyinBigTrouble_ch1.html

A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE continues to make me laugh. I’ve enjoyed writing about Bruno, Sarah, Reverend Samuel and his family, Lady Keisha, even Dennis the Dark Elf…and I hope to write more about them, ’cause I have a hunch their stories are not over.

At any rate, most of you know the labor of love that kept me working on Elfy for years. I’m ecstatic that both halves of my novel have now been published, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.

Anyway, both novels are available now as e-books. So what are you waiting for? Go grab a copy — or copies — today! (And be sure to tell your friends. ‘Cause, really…how can you go wrong?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 21, 2015 at 7:22 pm

Welcome to the Elfyverse…

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Thank you for stopping by my blog, which is called either “Barb Caffrey’s Blog,” or “the Elfyverse.”

Why two names? Well, I figured it would be easier for people to find me if they used my name. But I’ve been writing about Elfys, Elfs, Dwarves, and more for over ten years — thus “the Elfyverse.”

As for what I do here, it’s simple: I talk about anything I like.

I’ve been blogging now for over five years. (Here’s a link to my first blog post, if you don’t believe me.) Over that time, I’ve talked writing, publishing, music, sports, current events, politics . . . anything that I feel like talking about.

So while you’re here, expect the unexpected . . . because you never quite know what I’m about to say.

Please feel free to stop by any time you like. And tell your friends about all my work, including AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE (Barnes and Noble link is here) and the first two stories of my late husband Michael’s, “A Dark and Stormy Night” and “On Westmount Station,” all available at Amazon.

And remember . . . support a real writer.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 9, 2014 at 5:21 am

My novel, “An Elfy on the Loose,” Is Now Available

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It’s been a long time in coming, but my first novel, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE (now with a subtitle of “Book One of the ELFY duology”) is now available at Amazon.com and will be available soon at all major e-book retailers.

**Edited to add: AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE has also “gone live” at BN.com (Barnes and Noble’s website), as Paul Howard told me in the comments. If you have a Nook and want to read AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, now’s your chance!

Now back to our regularly scheduled post.**

I’m very pleased that AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE is now out, even though I hadn’t expected it to “go live” on Amazon tonight, of all nights — but as it has, I figured I’d best skedaddle and get a blog post up, pronto.

For those of you who want a sample, please go here and read the first five chapters of AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE . . . then, I hope you’ll go to Amazon and get the e-book, as it’s on sale for a limited time at the low price of $3.99.

Because I’m a new author, and because I’m decidedly not well known, it is anyone’s guess as to whether or not AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE will do well enough to warrant an actual “dead tree” edition (that is, a paper edition).

For all I know, this e-book copy is all that we’re likely to get. So I hope you’ll enjoy it in the spirit intended.

In other words, if you want to read my novel because you’ve been intrigued about Bruno the Elfy and Sarah his human companion and want to know all about Sarah’s house (which is an Elfy trap of major proportions), or if you want to figure out why a Dark Elf would go to Northern California, or if you even want to know why Bruno’s mentor Roberto is worth saving despite being more than a bit of an butthead sometimes, now’s your chance.

I also hope that if you read and enjoy AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, you won’t be averse to letting people know my book exists. Because I need all the help I can get . . . and I’m not shy about saying so.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 12, 2014 at 12:34 am

Story Complete and Off to Anthology

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Folks, I promised I’d come back and let you know how my plan for writing this past week worked out.

I wish you could see the broad smile on my face, because for once I was able to write a story in about ten days. I had an idea for a few weeks before that, and did write down some prose notes; however, the story only existed in my head until I wrote everything down.

The story, as it stands now, is just under 4800 words. It’s off to the anthology’s editor now, and I’ll know what she thinks within a matter of days. She told me she was looking forward to it (as I gave her updates every time I wrote another 1K words, then when I finished it up), so I hope I haven’t disappointed her.

What this proves to me is, if I have enough time and thought and health, I can still write at a decent clip. (I took two days off, but otherwise wrote 1K or wrote/revised 1K every day last week.) Five days a week at 1K is 5000 words; 5000 words times 52 weeks is 260,000 words, which is roughly two novels and/or one novel, a novella or two, a couple of novelettes, and some short stories.

Now, why haven’t I been writing as much as this up until now?

Bluntly, I have had too many demands on my time. I’ve got ill family members to keep an eye on. I’ve also built a decent career as a freelance editor.

However, I’ve been looking for a way to write more for the past year. Now, I think I’ve found it; I have to do it when I either am just getting ready for the day, or before I edit late at night. Providing I have that block of time, I can edit and do whatever else is needful without wiping out all of my energy.

Now, will this work with the upcoming concert season with the Racine Concert Band? I sincerely hope so. But as always, it’s a work in progress…

Anyway, that’s all I know. Just figured I’d give y’all an update.

What’s going on with you and your writing? Or with your other creative pursuits? Let me know in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 28, 2022 at 4:36 am

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A Sunday Roundup: Cain DFA’d, Car Oddities, and Some Writing Achieved

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Folks, I thought long and hard as to whether I wanted to write one bigger blog, or three short blogs. As I’m pressed for time, I decided to go with the longer blog…so, here we go.

The Milwaukee Brewers, my favorite baseball team, designated CF Lorenzo Cain for assignment yesterday (or DFA’d for short). Cain was an outstanding offensive and defensive player before Covid-19 hit; he sat out 2020 (the truncated first Covid year), came back last year and dealt with injuries but still showed flashes of his old form, and then this year he never quite got on track.

Personally, I blame the owners’ lockout for that. Any athlete has his routine to go through, and Spring Training is as much about routine as anything. When Spring Training got disrupted by the owners’ lockout, that meant spring games were not played; at-bats were not taken; players were not able to do anywhere near what they’d usually do for several weeks until the owners and players finally came to an agreement, and the owners’ lockout ended.

Why does that matter? Well, an older athlete — and Cain is now thirty-six, ancient for a baseball player — needs more time to get in the groove. (Maybe some don’t when it comes to defensive play, but most do when it comes to hitting, pitching, and fielding.) It seemed to me that Cain was doing as well as anyone in Spring Training pre-lockout…but after, he wasn’t quite right.

Cain was hitting only .179 when the Brewers designated him for assignment. Considering his lifetime batting average is .283, that’s a significant drop-off.

Cain’s defense was still sharp, for the most part. He was still an exceptionally fast runner, as outfielders tend to be (they need to, in order to cover so much ground). He was taking extra batting practice, and doing everything he could to get his hitting in gear…but it just didn’t work.

Both Cain and the Brewers were classy about this. Cain said it was “a mutual decision” according to what I heard on TV and via radio. The Brewers waited until Cain had ten full years of major-league service time (that day being yesterday) to designate Cain for assignment, making sure that Cain was fully-vested with regards to MLB’s pensions for retired players down the line.

As WTMJ-AM announcer Brian Dee said on the “Brewers Extra Innings” program after the Brewers game yesterday, “The Brewers did Cain a solid.” I agree.

I will miss Lorenzo Cain. His energy was infectious. He had a huge smile, and obviously loved to play (even in the last few weeks, where it seemed like he couldn’t buy a hit). He was smart, savvy, and did everything right, even when he wasn’t hitting. (He said he wished things were going better, making no excuses for himself.)

I think it’s likely Cain will retire. But if he does continue to play, I hope he’ll find his hitting stroke again and enjoy baseball as much as he ever has.

Anyway, now we’re on to the “car oddities” part of the blog. And it really is an odd story…so, here I go with that.

I was parked in one of the lots at the apartment complex where my Mom lives. That lot is dark after 8:30 p.m. in the summer (and no better in the winter, either; in fact, in the winter it is hard to see probably after 4:30 or 5:00 p.m.), which matters. And when I parked, I was the only person in the lot with a 2010 Hyundai Accent Blue. (Yes, this matters, too.)

When I walked out to leave, there was an identical car parked next to me. I only realized it once I got in the wrong car, realizing that I didn’t have an air freshener (this car did), that the car was far too neat to be mine, and the seat was also in the wrong position.

So, I got out of the car, and automatically locked the driver’s door and the passenger side door behind me (as I always do), after I got my hand-cart out of the back seat.

Anyway, I then realized I did not have my purse. I had left it in the wrong car!

Fortunately, the passenger side doors were open (as the driver’s side ones had been, too). I reached in, got my purse, and got the Hell out of there.

However…I left my cane in that car, and I didn’t realize it until I was all the way home.

My brother is visiting right now and saw my agitation over it all. (I hate being stupid, and I really felt stupid with this.) He drove me back to the lot, exclaimed about how dark that lot is, and said anyone could’ve made that mistake with two cars, identical makes and models, in almost no lighting. And yes, he opened up the passenger side door (which fortunately I hadn’t locked), and indeed, my cane was in that wrong car.

I don’t know what the owner of that car is going to think when they go back out to their car, mind you. (I have no idea who this is. Until now, I had no idea that anyone in the complex or among the people who regularly visit had a car identical to mine.) The seat is in the wrong position for them, as I pushed it all the way back. The driver’s side doors are locked, while the other two are not, and they’d left them all unlocked.

I considered leaving a note, but I had no idea what to say.

My brother said that I should leave well enough alone. If I figure out who that person is, I’ll apologize; otherwise, he said I should leave it be as it was an honest mistake.

He drove me back home, where my father wasn’t too happy over the whole affair. (Dad has never seen that lot at night. Jim tried to tell him, but Dad still didn’t understand how this could happen. At all.)

Now that I know there is another car with the same paint job (light blue), the same make and model, the same wheels, all that, I will look at the license plate before I get into the car. (Other distinguishing features of my car were unable to be seen in that light.)

As it was, my brother had to park the car in such a way — half in and half out of the spot — and shine his headlights on the wrong car (as I had driven my own car back and left it at home) before he could see well enough to figure out if the cane was in the car. (His phone has a flashlight. My phone with a flashlight was back at home, of course. But even his flashlight app couldn’t tell him whether the cane was in there or out, and he didn’t want to open the car door unless he was sure the cane was in there.)

I don’t know if anyone else has ever had this happen before — two cars, both identical in dim light, same make, same model, same paint job, and all — but it is truly strange. (Thus, “car oddities.”)

Finally, after I’d gotten back home again, and talked this out with a few friends who live overseas in different time zones (as my good friends who live here were all asleep, as they should’ve been), I managed to write one thousand words into a new Elfyverse short story. I’d wanted to write all week long, and the time got away from me…but I figured that as I was back, and was too scattered to edit, I should do something creative in the hopes that it would help me calm myself a little.

It worked.

At any rate, I will try to schedule time to write over the next few days and see how it goes.

What’s going on with you? Anything new this Sunday? How is your writing going, for the writers out there? Let me know in the comments…especially about the car oddity.

Thinking Hard, Still…an Update

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Folks, I am still pondering, processing, or otherwise have much of my thinking ability engaged elsewhere. I think it still is because of the dual tragedies of the shooting in Buffalo at the supermarket by a white supremacist, and the bizarre awfulness that went into the Uvalde, TX, school shooting and its aftermath. (I will never understand what the Uvalde police thought they were doing there. Never.)

That said, I have a bit of an update.

I have written twenty-three bars of music, and I added 800 words to “Keisha’s Vow.” (I am now up to approximately 50K words, which is half of a standard novel for me, or maybe 2/3 of a short novel.) So I am being at least slightly creative, which makes me feel a bit better.

The other thought I had this week was this: We can’t live in fear all our lives. (Hey, I didn’t say it was an original thought, as many have had this thought before.)

None of us know the future.

This is perhaps our saving grace, as well as a source of immense frustration. We don’t know how our actions will change the future; we don’t know if they’ll change anything at all. (Who said “most lives are full of quiet desperation?” Henry David Thoreau, though I’m paraphrasing it.)

Still, we live. We all have to find our own purpose or reason for living. (As Lois McMaster Bujold’s character Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan says, “Find your own meaning, because the universe surely isn’t going to supply it.” Best paraphrase from LMB’s book BARRAYAR.)

I also know that nearly everyone at any time has thought their time was the worst era to live in. The Regency Era had the French Revolution. The dawn of the USA had the US Revolution (needed and necessary to become independent). Then in the 1860s we had the Civil War (or the unCivil War, if you’d rather). In all cases, young men were dying (and a few young women, as there have always been some women fighters and nurses). In all cases, families were forever transformed.

So, this time to live — where we’ve seen wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Ukraine, where the 1970s had “stagflation” and drivers who could only fill up on alternate days depending on the last digit of their car’s license plate, and the 1980s had “greed is good,” and the 1990s had rampant unemployment, and the 2000s had the Great Recession and even more unemployment — maybe is nothing new, compared to previous eras.

Maybe every time to live is equally dangerous.

What I do know is, we have more education now than the Regency Era had. We have more information available now to the vast majority of people than at any time prior to the advent of the personal computer. We have instantaneous communication, which is good; we have lots and lots of folks who seem to enjoy being rude and obnoxious on the internet, which isn’t.

So, there’s no excuse for ignorance anymore. Maybe there never was.

Still. There’s a type of person who’d rather remain ignorant, who’d rather believe that his garbage doesn’t stink, who’d rather believe he (or she) is unique, precious, and everyone else is lower than dirt and deserves nothing at all.

I work against that type of person. And I hope you do, too.

Anyway, I’ll keep doing what I can to create. (You do the same, eh?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 16, 2022 at 8:15 pm

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Thinking Hard…

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Folks, the events of recent days — especially all of the various awful things such as the two people wounded while attending a funeral in Racine, WI, last week, and of course the distressing events of Uvalde, TX — have brought my creativity to a screeching halt.

I am thinking very hard right now, but unfortunately it doesn’t translate into creativity.

There are so many difficulties in this world right now, with the never-ending pandemic, the seemingly everyday violence of mass shootings, the war in Ukraine, the fact that we Americans can’t seem to talk to one another anymore, and that it seems impossible to build a life that’s better than our parents’ lives before ours.

As I’ve said before, I don’t have the answers. I just have questions.

My best guess as to when I’ll be able to write, or compose music, or do much creative work besides editing, is that it’ll probably still be a few more days to a few more weeks.

The last time I felt this stupid-stunned over everything was after the storming by the FBI of the Branch Davidian compound just outside of Waco, TX, back in 1993. 75 people died, including little kids. The FBI wanted to arrest the leader of the compound, David Koresh, but were unable to get to him. After 51 days, the FBI threw tear gas into the compound, which somehow started several fires.

Only nine people — nine — lived through that.

Once I got my creativity back, I wrote a piece I called “Lament.” To date, it’s the only one of my compositions that has been performed, albeit in practice, by anyone except for myself. (I write many things as solos for the clarinet or saxophone, so I can at least hear my own compositions played. I have written other larger-scale works, but not many.) It echoed exactly how I felt at the time, and it had a spooky eeriness I liked.

I don’t know what’ll emerge from me and my well of creativity once I finish thinking so hard. But I do know that eventually I will again create, and I hope on that day that someone, somewhere, will hear my music and think to themselves, “Wow. How did she sum up what I was feeling in music rather than words?”

(Maybe that’s too hubristic. If so, I’m sorry.)

My late husband Michael once said that it didn’t surprise him that when I was very, very upset, I composed music first, and only after that could I write in words. His view was that music was my first, best language, and that everything I wrote in words was translated from the music I heard first.

As I felt that rather poetic, even though he denied it and said it was just common sense, I never forgot it.

I do hope he was right.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 7, 2022 at 5:51 am

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Where Can We Be Safe? #Updated

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Update #1: There was a mass shooting this afternoon — no deaths yet reported — at Graceland Cemetery in Racine, WI (where I live). No reason given yet, though the man who was being buried (Da’Shontay “Day Day” King) had apparently fled the police and been shot due to the pursuit.

Why anyone would want to shoot these mourners is beyond me.

In addition, as the names of the victims of the Tulsa Shooting have been released, I wanted to give a link about that. Four people died, including a pioneering Black orthopedic surgeon, Preston J. Phillips; Amanda Glenn, a devoted mother, wife, and also a receptionist; Stephanie Husen, another doctor known in the community as kind and caring; and a retired Army First Sergeant, William Love.

I have to mention two things. Dr. Husen had a devoted canine companion that is not going to understand what’s happened to his loving owner. I hope the dog finds a new forever home in honor of his brave owner. The second is this: William Love was 73. He was with his wife of fifty-five years (they married in 1967) when the gunman rushed in. He first held the door closed so his wife could get out safely, then confronted the gunman.

This meant until the end of his life, he remembered what he’d been taught in the Army.

All honor to him. All blessings to his widow.

Now to the original post, already in progress:

#

Folks, once again in the United States, we’ve had another mass shooting. This time, it was in a medical clinic, because (apparently) the shooter was upset that he still had pain from a surgery in mid-May of this year. The doctor (again, apparently) hadn’t been responsive to the shooter’s pain issues, so the solution for the shooter was this: Shoot the doctor. Shoot another doctor. Shoot the receptionist. Wound a whole bunch of other people. And then shoot himself stone cold dead.

So, let me get this straight. We’ve had shootings in the following places in the last decade: Temples of worship, churches, mosques, supermarkets, concerts (the Las Vegas country music festival comes to mind), outside basketball games (the shooting of 21 people in Milwaukee a few weeks ago comes to mind), movie theatres. People have been shot in their cars and in their homes. People have been shot in assisted living situations and in senior housing, too. There have even been shootings on buses and a few on subway platforms in the past few years. And, of course, there have been the senseless deaths at colleges, universities, and other schools, including the recent shooting in Uvalde, Texas, at an elementary school.

With all of that, I ask this question: Where can we feel safe?

Recently, I played a concert with the Racine Concert Band in a church. (Beautiful church, too.) It’s our 100th anniversary, and we’ve played free concerts in the Racine Zoo or elsewhere during all of that time. It’s certainly a setting where you’d never expect a gunman with a pistol and some sort of rifle (as this shooter at the medical clinic had today).

But as much as I enjoyed playing my saxophone with the band, I still was wary as I got out of my car and went into the building. I kept scanning the audience to make sure there wasn’t anyone suspicious or out to make trouble. (I’ve never done this before while playing a concert. Occasionally, I’ve done it in other places.) And I was glad to get through the concert, not just because we as a group played well (and I didn’t muff an extended solo as I’d feared), but because we hadn’t had our activity marred by senseless violence.

Why must we feel this way in the United States of America? Why is it that I feel as if we got lucky because there wasn’t any senseless violence where we were?

Are we as a band supposed to have armed guards around us to protect us as we play?

(If so, we won’t be playing any free concerts again anytime soon. Armed guards are expensive.)

Before anyone says this, I will: I realize that all life is risk. Every time you step outside, you are risking something. (Brushing against poison ivy or poison oak, for example. Or getting stung by a bee, which would be very bad in my case as I am deathly allergic.) Every time you get into a vehicle, you are risking your life to a degree because you can’t fully predict what other drivers will do.

Those, however, are manageable risks. They are known risks. You can, to a large degree, compensate for them.

With all of these shootings in all of these various places, they were not manageable risks. The Las Vegas shooter used a sniper rifle to kill people from a hotel room high above the festival. The recent shooting at the Buffalo supermarket was made by someone who was a racist and who wanted to kill Black people, and had scoped the area out with pre-planning. (That guy may have been evil, but he was not stupid. He didn’t even live in Buffalo, so how could anyone have predicted he’d do this?) The shootings in El Paso, Texas, a few years back, were also done by a racist who wanted to kill Latinos, and he, too, like the Buffalo gunman, didn’t live in the area and had driven from hours away to murder people for no good reason.

These gunmen were not on anyone’s radar, either, even though coworkers had mentioned that the killer of children and teachers in Uvalde recently had the nickname of “serial killer” at work. He was said to be a scary person, someone you didn’t want to cross. He also had discussed his plans with several young women online, but they didn’t tell anyone because they thought “this is just how guys are, always bragging themselves up.” (That last is a paraphrase of several comments I’ve read, and is not an exact quote.)

There is an argument in all of these shootings that they come from a culture known as “toxic masculinity.” That is, these are men (or in some cases, teenage men) who firmly believe they are right, everyone else is wrong, and because they are the “man,” they get to make the rules even if they’re against society’s covenant.

(Yes, I know this isn’t the way “toxic masculinity” is usually described, but it’s the way I think of it. I defined it this way because most men do not think this way. Thank goodness. Moving on…)

Personally, I think this is happening for three reasons. The first is because so many other shooters have gotten away with their violence in the moment that it’s emboldened other domestic terrorists to do the same. (This is one reason why I refuse to name any gunman at my blog.) The second is because local, state, and federal governments have refused to do anything — or in some cases have been blocked from doing anything — to protect people from deranged shooters. This includes prevention and identifying suspects and realizing that at least half of the domestic terrorists in the above cases were men below the age of twenty-five. (Somehow, the local, state, and federal officials need to figure out who these bad apples are and stop them before they do anything remotely like the horrid acts I’ve listed above.) The third is because people are apathetic and believe nothing can or will be done, because our politicians have made it so.

As I said, I don’t have the answers. I just have the questions.

Now, folks, you have the floor: What do you think? What can be done other than perhaps beefing up budgets to deal with people who are obviously deranged and having some sort of awareness campaign so young people will understand that a guy with the nickname of “serial killer” is not normal?

P.S. Before I end this blog, I also want to point out that most police officers, sheriff’s deputies, federal and state law enforcement, and other personnel are good people. They do the best they can with the limited resources they have. Usually, these folks are maligned when something awful happens (sometimes rightfully — at least, so it seems — as in Uvalde), but they’re the first line of defense. They should be appreciated as much as possible rather than denigrated or besmirched. They stop many bad things from happening that most of us never hear about. Which means things might be even worse without their help…awful as that seems, considering how bad it is already.

Read SF Giants Manager’s Important Words — Do It Today #MustRead

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Tonight, I read an exceptionally well-written article about gun violence from former Milwaukee Brewers player and current San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler. He explored this topic through the issue of a moment of silence on the field before every major league baseball game, and points out that’s not enough.

Here is the article: https://kaplifestyle.com/2022/05/27/home-of-the-brave

And a relevant quote:

When I was the same age as the children in Uvalde, my father taught me to stand for the pledge of allegiance when I believed my country was representing its people well or to protest and stay seated when it wasn’t. I don’t believe it is representing us well right now.

This particular time, an 18 year old walked into a store, bought multiple assault rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, walked into a school with an armed resource officer and its own police district and was able to murder children for nearly an hour. Parents begged and pleaded with police officers to do something, police officers who had weapons and who receive nearly 40% of the city’s funding, as their children were being murdered.

We elect our politicians to represent our interests. Immediately following this shooting, we were told we needed locked doors and armed teachers. We were given thoughts and prayers. We were told it could have been worse, and we just need love.

But we weren’t given bravery, and we aren’t free. The police on the scene put a mother in handcuffs as she begged them to go in and save her children. They blocked parents trying to organize to charge in to stop the shooter, including a father who learned his daughter was murdered while he argued with the cops. We aren’t free when politicians decide that the lobbyist and gun industries are more important than our children’s freedom to go to school without needing bulletproof backpacks and active shooter drills.

GABE KAPLER, “HOME OF THE BRAVE?” ESSAY
https://kaplifestyle.com/2022/05/27/home-of-the-brave

When I see something as well-written as this, whether I agree with it or not — and here, I obviously do agree with it! — I try to pass the words along.

I realize there are people who regularly read my blog who will not appreciate this post. But I urge you to read Gabe Kapler’s words anyway, in the same way I read George Will’s writing or Max Boot’s, because while I don’t often agree with either Will or Boot, I appreciate how they use language to make their points.

One, final word: Gabe Kapler articulated all of this better than anyone I’ve yet seen. Read his important words.

Read them NOW.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 27, 2022 at 7:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

My Thoughts on the Uvalde Shooting

with 24 comments

Folks, I thought about this for a few days before posting. I didn’t want to just pop off, as I felt that was unfair to the subject matter.

That said, here goes.

I’m extremely frustrated, upset, and unhappy over the recent shooting up of an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. The gunman (who as usual I will not name) was a high-school senior and he was not going to graduate. This made him so upset, he shot two teachers to death, at least 19 children to death (as there are more in the hospital, conditions unknown), and argued with his own grandmother beforehand and shot her, too. (Last I read, she was still in critical condition, but alive.)

This makes it sound like this shooter did this on the spur of the moment, but he didn’t.

We know this because he bought two guns, legally, and bought a great deal of ammunition, again legally. He did this just after he turned eighteen.

His only purpose seems to have been to create terror and heartbreak. He has unfortunately succeeded.

The gunman is dead, which somehow doesn’t seem like nearly enough punishment for what he’s done.

Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who’s running for Governor of Texas, showed up at the press conference to demand answers. I don’t know how I feel about this because on one hand, I understand why he’s frustrated and upset — and I certainly share that. (I also will point out that Beto was one of the first people on the scene in 2019 when some depraved butthole shot twenty-three people to death at an El Paso Walmart and injured another twenty-three, all because he didn’t like Hispanic people. Beto raised money for the victims and their families and performed many acts at that time that seemed quite selfless.) I also am sure that if I had represented Texas in the House of Representatives, as Beto did for years, I’d be furious at the lack of improvements in the laws of Texas.

But it’s worse than that.

Recently — within the past few months, I believe — gun laws in Texas have been weakened by the current sitting Governor, Greg Abbott (R). The weakening that angers me most is this: there used to be a mandate saying everyone who buys a gun needs to go through a gun safety course. (I agree with this. It makes sense.) Now, however, no one has to do that.

Perhaps this is why Beto went to the press conference and started yelling at Governor Abbott.

Even so, I feel it was the wrong time and the wrong place for that. The parents are grieving. The teachers — the survivors, who know two of their own are dead — are grieving. The police in that area are grieving (one policeman lost a daughter and another his wife). The people of the area are grieving, too.

While I believe the way Governor Abbott behaved was wrong (he wasn’t polite, from what I’ve seen), and am further sickened by the fact that Abbott went to a fund-raiser later that evening from various TV reports rather than stay and try to comfort the victims and their families, I still wish Beto O’Rourke hadn’t confronted him there.

I understand Beto’s anger. I understand why he’s frustrated. I understand and agree with the fact that those laws should never have been weakened.

But when people are grieving, you need to help them heal. Beto knew that in El Paso in 2019.

That’s why I wish he’d not let his anger get the best of him.

Anyway, I remain sickened by the loss of life, the loss of potential in all those ten-year-old kids, the loss of two gifted teachers, and the loss of innocence in and around Uvalde as so many people they knew and loved have died.

Wisconsin is nowhere near Texas. I can’t drive to Uvalde and offer food, or a shoulder to cry on, or lay a wreath at the elementary school’s entrance.

I feel impotent. My rage at more senseless, unnecessary deaths has no place to go, because I know most of the politicians in office in Washington, DC, will do nothing at all, even after innocent children and their innocent teachers have died.

While I of course will pray for the innocent souls, and I will not forget them, thoughts and prayers are no longer enough.

I have no answers. I only have questions.

I wish I knew what to say to put an end to this horrible, awful, grotesque, disgusting and reprehensible behavior.

But I don’t.

Now, you all have the floor: what do you think should be done about gun violence? (Is there anything we can do? If so, what? And what do you think about Beto O’Rourke’s behavior?)

Responses, as always, must be polite or they will be deleted.

My Thoughts, As A Widow, On Recent “This is Us” Episodes

with 10 comments

(What a pretentious title, huh? But it was the best I could do…moving on.)

My Mom and I have watched NBC’s TV show “This is Us” about the Pearson clan for several years. (I can’t recall if we watched it regularly until the third year, but we did watch.) I’ve had a great deal of empathy for various characters. I remember Randall (played by Sterling K. Brown), the Black man raised in a white family, meeting his biological father for the first time. That was both difficult and heartening, all by itself; when the Pearsons, en masse, decided to welcome William (Randall’s bio father), it became something more.

Anyway, the matriarch of the Pearsons is Rebecca, played by Mandy Moore. We see her when she’s young and heavily pregnant; we see her when she’s in her late twenties/early thirties, raising her kids; we see her in her fifties and sixties, after her first husband’s passed away and she’s married her second one; we see her, finally, with Alzheimer’s disease, dying with her kids and grandkids around her.

Rebecca’s story is the one that I took to the most, over time. (This is not surprising, I suppose.) She loved her first husband Jack with everything that she had, and when he died unexpectedly, still in his prime, her world collapsed.

I understand how that feels extremely well.

Rebecca, unlike me, had three children who were all teenagers. She still had to be there for them. She also had good friends, including Miguel (the man who later became her second husband), her husband’s best friend. The friends helped Rebecca and her kids accustom themselves to a life with a Jack-sized hole in it.

This was not easy for any of them. Jack was an interesting, kind, funny, hard-working, loving man who adored his wife and was so ecstatic to be a father. He had his faults, including battles with alcoholism, that he tried to hide from his wife (and mostly did hide, successfully, from his children). But his virtues far outweighed his flaws.

Obviously, Jack’s loss was hardest on Rebecca. She was still in her prime, in her late thirties/early forties. She hadn’t expected to be a widow, much less so soon. But she was one, and she had to adapt on the fly, just as her kids were starting to flee the nest.

As her kids married, divorced, remarried, had children, and lived their lives, one thing was clear: even if their spouses had been divorced, they were still part of the Pearson clan. They were still welcome at every family function. They were included, not excluded, because the Pearsons believed “the more the merrier,” which probably came from Rebecca being pregnant with triplets in the first place. (The third triplet died, which is why Rebecca and Jack adopted Randall, who was born on the same day and needed a family as his mother had died and his father — then — was completely unknown.)

Of course, there were oddities that happened to the Pearsons. (How else? Life itself is strange.)

One of them was when Randall’s father, William, made contact with Rebecca and Jack when Randall was quite young. William felt Randall was better off where he was, as William was battling a drug addiction along with poverty and much frustration; that was an extremely hard decision, but one that reaped major dividends late in life when Randall (in his thirties, roughly) found that William had known a) he was Randall’s bio father and b) where Randall was the entire time. Randall forgave William, in time, and as I said before, the Pearsons welcomed William until the day William died.

That said, for many fans, the oddest oddity of them all was the fact of Miguel marrying Rebecca. We knew Miguel was with Rebecca from the start (or nearly), because “This is Us” has always told its story in a non-linear fashion. We also knew that Miguel was Jack’s best friend, that he was appreciative of Rebecca from the start (he told Jack to make sure he married Rebecca, because “someone else” would; maybe even he didn’t know that someone else, someday, would be Miguel himself), and that while Jack lived Miguel made no moves (as a quality human being, of course he didn’t).

Because of the jumping back and forth in time effect, though, until the last few episodes it was impossible to tell when Miguel had married Rebecca. (That Rebecca had developed Alzheimer’s, and Miguel was caring for her until his own death, was something explored in great depth this past season.)

Why?

Well, Miguel didn’t get an episode revolving around him until a few weeks ago. That’s when I found out that Miguel had waited several years, had moved away to a different state, and made sure his feelings were real (and not something conjured out of pity and the deep, abiding friendship he’d always had with Rebecca while Jack was still alive) before he married Rebecca.

We still didn’t see his marriage, which was the second marriage for both of them. (Miguel’s first marriage ended in divorce.) But we saw how he took care of Rebecca. He was tender, kind, compassionate, loving, and altogether the right person for her after Jack died.

I was happy she found another good man to love.

This may sound odd, if you’ve read my blog for years. I thought for quite a few years that my heart was not big enough to admit another love — romantic love, anyway — after Michael’s way-too-early death.

While I found out that was wrong, the two men I’ve cared about in the past few years did not end up growing with me in the same way. They did not want the same things. (Or in one case, even if he had, he could not express that. He is neuro-divergent.)

The man who might’ve been “my Miguel” was Jeff Wilson, who died in 2011. Jeff didn’t know Michael, so that part wouldn’t be analogous. But Jeff knew I was the person I am because of Michael. Jeff also was my best friend of many years (seven, at the time of his death), and during his fatal health crisis said to me, with a weary yet humorous tone in his voice, “Can we please proceed to the dating phase now?”

I’ll never know what would’ve happened had Jeff lived. But I knew I was going to try, and I told him that.

Then he died, after he’d been improving; his death was unexpected, and he was only a year older than Michael had been when Michael died.

So, two men. Both interesting, intelligent, funny, hard-working, creative…both themselves, indelibly themselves, and I cared about them — loved them — both. (I did not yet have romantic love for Jeff, but I certainly was getting there at the time of his death. I definitely had agape love and philios also.)

Anyway, Rebecca’s death episode was this past Tuesday. She was pictured on a train. She saw William (acting as the conductor); she saw her obstetrician (acting as a bartender). She saw her kids, possibly including her deceased triplet (I wasn’t sure about that), at various ages. She heard the various well-wishes of the Pearson clan, including from her daughter’s ex-husband, her son Kevin’s wife (he’d only married twice, to the same woman, but many years apart), and her sons. But she was waiting “for something”…

As she’s waiting, she sees Miguel, a passenger on the train. He salutes her with his drink, and tells her she’s still his favorite person.

This made me cry.

Miguel got no more time in that episode, which upset me. I thought Rebecca should’ve gone to him, hugged him, and said “thank you.” Her mentation has been restored, on the train; she knows that Miguel helped her while she was so ill with Alzheimer’s. She also got a second wonderful husband in addition to her first, which is very rare…yet while she smiled at him, and seemed happy to see him, she didn’t go to him.

This made me even sadder.

The end of the episode came when her daughter, Kate, was able to get there (she’d been overseas). As she says goodbye, Rebecca clearly crosses over and enters “the caboose,” where her first husband, Jack, waits.

That’s where the episode ended.

I don’t know what’ll happen in the finale of “This is Us.” I do hope that Miguel’s contribution to Rebecca’s life, and to the entire life of the Pearson clan, will somehow be recognized. (Her children all told her to say “hey” to their father for them, but no one asked her to hug Miguel if they saw him. That, too, bugged me, but maybe the writers wrote it and they had no time to get it into the episode.) It’s obvious that without him in her later years (even before she got Alheimer’s), there wouldn’t have been as much acceptance and love from the Pearsons as a whole.

Anyway, my take as a widow is that I want there to be some recognition of how much good Miguel did for Rebecca, and that Jack had no problems with it as Miguel both made her happy and helped her as her mentation declined. (Miguel also still saw Rebecca as the same person, even with her mind going; her own children couldn’t always do that, as her daughter Kate pointed out in a recent episode.)

To be able to love again after such tragedy was wonderful. To not express thankfulness and gratitude for loving again…well, had it been me in that position, I hope I’d have done better.

(And yes, I know they’re all characters. Not real people. But they surely felt real, which is why I hope that Mandy Moore wins an Emmy for her portrayal of Rebecca and that Jon Huertas wins an Emmy as well for his excellent supporting work.)

Very Quick Monday Update

with 5 comments

Folks, the last week or so, I’ve been running on empty.

Why? Well, as I said, I had priority edits to work on. One has been completed, and I plan to discuss it as soon as the book comes out. Four more are in process with various authors, and one of those nears completion also.

But of course that’s not the only reason.

Last week, Friday, I walked into the urgent care clinic. I knew I felt lousy. My throat hurt so much, I couldn’t sip water without pain. I was using either Chloraseptic or Sucrets (both of which have mouth-numbing properties) to be able to swallow, and most of the food I’d eaten in the previous week consisted of soup, oatmeal, and rice.

Anyway, the rapid strep test came back negative. But as I had red spots at the back of my throat that were not consistent with a sinus infection (these people have seen me many times, possibly as much or more than my regular physician), and as I wasn’t feeling well whatsoever, I was prescribed antibiotics.

The antibiotics, in short, have kicked me in the teeth.

Perhaps that’s what I need, in order to get better. I know the next few weeks will be hectic, as the Racine Concert Band will have rehearsals before our May concert, and I know it’s very difficult for me to allow myself to rest when I have so much work left to do. (And that’s not even talking about the writing I need to do for my own purposes, much less the music composition. I was in the middle of writing a march for a good friend of mine, and that has to stay on hold, too.)

But that does not mean I enjoy feeling like I’ve been run over by a bus. (Then again, if I did, wouldn’t you have to wonder about me?)

I’ve done everything I can toward helping my family as I was able during the past week. I think things are set up well enough that I can rest and hopefully heal without having to expend too much energy. I also think it’s possible that if I do this, I can go to the rehearsal on Thursday for the RCB and enjoy playing music with them.

That said, I’m trying to rest, heal, edit when my body lets me (may it please let me today, later, as I do have that priority project waiting for a few good hours of my time and concentration), and think good thoughts.

One final thought: There is a lot of outright despair at the moment. Folks are very angry, and it isn’t getting better (the divisive issue of abortion isn’t helping in the US; for the record, I believe in “safe, legal, and rare” as desperate women used to use Lysol as an abortifacient and that was extremely hazardous). We seem to have forgotten that we’re all human, and we have more in common than not.

I urge people to find their empathy, fast.

In the case of abortion, I’ve known some very good pro-life folks who worked hard for women’s rights. One, a clarinetist I knew in Nebraska, would drop everything and go at a moment’s notice to bring one of her pregnant friends food, take her to the doctor, and helped her through her grief (giving birth when you don’t want to is not only physically difficult and frustrating, but has all sorts of other things come into play). She did this because she and her friends believed abortion was murder.

I also note, for the record, that she did not shun people who were pro-choice. She knew I was. She had no problems with me, because we both wanted what was best for the women. And we absolutely, positively agreed that women who were poor but wanted to raise their kids should get all the help they needed to find good jobs, get excellent child care, and have the nutrition they needed to help raise their families.

If we could agree, back in the mid-1990s, that these things are important, why can’t people do so now?

Life is too short for division and strife.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 9, 2022 at 9:44 am

Posted in Uncategorized

A Sunday Update

with 11 comments

Folks, I’ve been doing one of three things the past few weeks. These are, in no particular order, helping family, editing, and resting. (Yes, I include fighting migraines and other health problems as “resting.” I don’t think that’s how most people would see it, but if I’m not up and doing, I’m resting.)

I’ve also been concerned about a number of things in the news, as per usual.

The War in Ukraine continues, though the focus on it in the American media is less. It seems to have become a proxy war between Vladimir Putin and everyone else. I admire Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky, and believe he’s done as much as he can to save his country from annihilation. But if we take our eyes off that war, we run the risk of making things worse for ourselves.

In other words, reality must be faced. Even if we don’t like it. Maybe especially when we don’t like it…but reality must be faced.

That’s the only way to do anything about it.

Anyway, on to other things.

One clickbait video I saw a few minutes ago is about Amber Heard and a disgusting, disturbing “prank” she played on her then-husband, Johnny Depp. She put “poo” (feces/poop) in his bed, and called it “a prank gone horribly wrong.”

What kind of woman does this?

(No, I didn’t click on the video. No point.)

For those of you who have had weird things happen during the course of your relationships, or worse, your marriages, I want to urge you to think of this: Not everyone behaves this way. Not everyone is as disturbed as Amber Heard seems to be (and/or anyone else who thinks this is a good idea). Most people do not and will not ever behave this way.

As I’ve said before, my two marriages before I met and married Michael were awful. I dealt with a lot of stupid, petty crap, and my second marriage in particular could’ve easily been annulled. (Michael was the only keeper, and he always said that as far as he was concerned, he was my only husband. I tend to agree.)

But even my ex-husbands did not behave like Amber Heard did in this instance.

There are some lines, folks, that you should not cross. What Amber Heard did is one of them.

Anyway, I must return to my editing. Do take care and have a great week ahead. (I’ll check in at some point, with whatever is on my mind most at the time, as per usual.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 1, 2022 at 2:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized