Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for June 2022

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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.