Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘heartbreaking stories’ Category

Heat Wave…and Mike Shinoda’s New CD Post Traumatic

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For much of the day, it was too hot for me to think.

We had a heat advisory for much of the day, in fact, so I am spending the evening somewhere air conditioned. (Thank goodness.) That way, I can think better, breathe better, and also rest a whole lot better.

Because of that, I can do what I’ve wanted to do for a few days now: discuss Mike Shinoda’s extraordinary album (or CD release, if you’d rather), POST TRAUMATIC, in greater depth than I used in my review at Amazon.

Why?

Well, as a musician, and as a grieving widow, I understand a good deal of what Mike Shinoda has done on his CD.

For those of you who don’t have any idea who Shinoda is, he is a musician, rapper, producer, and one of the surviving members of the alt-rock band Linkin Park. Last year, their lead singer, Chester Bennington, killed himself.

At the time, I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know much about Linkin Park’s music then, save perhaps “In the End.” So I’d heard Bennington’s voice — one of the more distinctive voices in rock, as he could go from very soft to very loud/screaming in what seemed like the drop of a hint — and had heard Shinoda rap, but not much else.

Since that time, I’ve listened extensively to four Linkin Park Albums, HYBRID THEORY (their debut, from 2000), METEORA (from 2003), MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT (2007), and ONE MORE LIGHT LIVE (2017). I’ve heard a number of songs I think are extraordinary, including “What I’ve Done,” “Battle Symphony,” “The Little Things Give You Away,” and “In Pieces.” These aren’t as bombastic as early Linkin Park songs, but they contain much heart and emotion and empathy, along with solid musicianship and interesting lyrics.

As a woodwind musician, I respond to excellent musicianship much more than I do to lyrics. (Though don’t get me wrong; I enjoy lyrics, too.) And I could tell the craftsmanship of how these songs were put together the first time I heard them.

So, yeah…”Numb” and “Crawling” are great, and there are all sorts of other songs that had a lot of airplay that are fine, too. But to me, “The Little Things Give Me Away” or “What I’ve Done” pack a huge emotional punch along with their craftsmanship and musicianship, so they’re probably my favorites of LP’s work. (At least, the work I’ve heard. I still have more albums to listen to, of course.)

Anyway, I told myself months ago that I’d buy Mike Shinoda’s CD when it came out. I knew it would be emotional, along with having good, solid musical underpinnings and of course the rapping Shinoda’s known for. (Any CD that’s named POST TRAUMATIC obviously know what it’s about, after all.)

The CD starts off with “Place to Start,” which deals with Shinoda’s sadness, frustration, incomprehension, and perhaps a bit of rage after Bennington’s suicide. Because all of a sudden, Shinoda’s in a place he never wanted to be. His bandmate is dead. And his group, LP, will not be the same without their lead singer, especially as Bennington had a huge range (like Chris Cornell) and the ability to sing any style required.

The suddenness and unexpected nature of Bennington’s death reminded me very much of what happened to my husband Michael. (Michael died of several heart attacks in one day, without warning, mind.) And Shinoda’s reaction to it reminded me very much of how I responded after Michael died; by incomprehension, numbness, anger, rage, sadness, frustration…and wondering how I’d ever manage to create again, considering Michael was my co-writer as well as my partner in life.

The next song, “Over Again,” deals with the run-up to the benefit concert LP did after Bennington’s death along with the aftermath for Shinoda personally. And the chorus, which says, “Sometimes, you don’t say goodbye once…instead you say goodbye over and over and over again, over and over and over again,” resonated very strongly with me.**

Other songs, including “About You” (featuring Blackbear), talk about how when you do finally manage to find a bit of peace, someone else brings up something that reminds you again about how you are grieving, and relates it back to the sudden death you have just endured. (“Even when it’s not about you, it’s still about you,” goes the verse. Yep. Ironic sometimes, and the literal truth other times. Works on every level.)

“Promises I Can’t Keep” and “Crossing a Line” both deal with the problem of how do you go on afterward. You need to do whatever you can, but you can’t do it the way you did before, and you may break promises even when you do your best, because your best alone is not what your best would’ve been with your creative partner (and you well know it). And to get to a new creative place, you may well need to cross a few lines…in Shinoda’s case, he has four other bandmates who have to be wondering about the future of Linkin Park every bit as much as Shinoda obviously is, and Shinoda seems rightfully worried that if he succeeds in his solo venture (as I sincerely hope he does; his message is powerful and his music is equally powerful), his bandmates won’t appreciate it much.

(I’m guessing they won’t have a problem with it, personally. But I can see why he’d be worried, sure.)

There are a few songs that are harder for me to handle than others, mind, because of the raw, emotional, and sometimes deeply profane lyricism. But that’s just another color in Shinoda’s palette, and I get it, artistically; this is what’s authentic to him, and as such, it works. And works very well.

In short, as I said at Amazon, POST TRAUMATIC is a heartbreakingly beautiful album. It goes through so many different emotions, moods, and feelings, all of which rang true to me. And the music itself is superb, with “Brooding” (an instrumental) probably my absolute favorite cut of all.

If you are grieving, if you’re a fan of alternative rock with electronic elements and rap mixed with solid musicianship and outstanding emotional lyricism, or if you’re a fan of Linkin Park, you need to hear this album.

Mind, you may not always like it, ’cause it’s a tough album to listen to due to its subject matter. But stick with it. It’s cathartic, raw, emotional, and real…and as such, it might be the most important album of 2018.

—–

**Edited to add: The dangers of writing when you’re tired got to me earlier. I mistyped the lyrics, and have now corrected them. (Sorry to all who read this sooner than I realized I needed to correct ’em, or read in their e-mail.) The error is mine alone.

 

 

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Frustration as ICE Detains Families at Border, Separates Children from Parents

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Most of this past week, I’ve struggled to put into words just how frustrated I am by what I’ve seen regarding what ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is doing at the United States border. And while I’m still not sure I have the words, the time has come for me to do my best anyway…so here goes.

The current Presidential administration of Donald J. Trump has put a premium on keeping refugees out of the United States, including those seeking asylum legally. And one of their most potent weapons toward this is the current ICE protocol that says children should not be kept with their parents or families; instead, they should be separated out. And put into confinement.

It’s almost as if these kids, who did not and certainly could not have crossed the border on their own, are being punished with jail. And that is inhumane.

Worse yet, there have been reports of children being ripped from their mothers’ arms, including at least one child who’d been breastfeeding.

(I don’t know what is worse than that, considering we are all supposedly civilized here in the Western World.)

This has happened whether the people coming in are legal (seeking asylum) or illegal, according to most sources I’ve heard or read about. And it’s being used as a sort of negative reinforcement, in the apparent “hopes” of keeping refugees out of the U.S.

Thinking about this sickens me. But I feel I cannot look away, either, because if I bury my head in the sand, I feel as if I’m silently assenting to such horrific treatment — and that I absolutely, positively refuse to do.

Yes, immigrating to the United States should be considered a privilege, and not a right. Yes, it should be done legally.

But how does it help anything to separate children from parents? Especially when you’re talking about children under five (or worst of all, infants under the age of two)?

That’s a bureaucratic nightmare. Because those kids can’t tell you who their parents are. They can’t tell you their own names, in some cases (especially if they’re under the age of two). They don’t have any idea where they came from, except “there,” and they have no idea where they are now, except “here.”

Keeping these kids with their parents should be the priority, not the reverse. Even if the parents and kids get sent back because the parents were trying to enter the US illegally, at least they are still a family, are still together, and can make their way back at the same time. And they’ll know where everyone is the whole time.

Now, I ask you: Why would anyone think that separating parents from their children is a good idea?

Put yourselves in this situation, if you would. Think of yourself at age four or five. The world is a huge, scary place. You don’t have any idea where things are or who most people are, except for your own parents and maybe a few of your cousins or aunts. And you’ve just traveled somewhere (we’ll say, for the purposes of discussion, Guatemala) for the first time, going into the unknown…and then someone takes your parents away and you’re left alone?

Do you honestly think you’d be happy? Especially if they put you behind a bunch of barbed wire with a whole lot of other kids of various ages? And you had no idea what to do next, much less where your parents are?

So, if you’d not be happy with some other country doing this to you, why do you think these parents should be happy with the US as it’s done to them?

Somehow, we citizens of the US must rise up and say, “No.” And insist these kids and parents be reunited. Because kids in tent cities, by themselves, with barbed wire around as if they’re criminals, is just wrong, wrong, a thousand times wrong.

We have to be better than this.

Really.

Why Do We Feel So Bad When a Celebrity Suicides?

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Over the past week, two celebrities — handbag designer Kate Spade, and chef Anthony Bourdain — died in apparent suicides. And the grief when someone in the public eye kills himself (or herself) can be overwhelming. Whether that person is an actor, a sports star, a chef, a politician, or anything else that somehow brought that person to the heights of fame, the fact that person has a fan following before passing away so suddenly and abruptly by his/her own hand seems to magnify the outpouring of grief.

Or, at least, it seems to magnify how much that grief is being felt, because now the grief that people feel over the celebrity’s passing is also being covered in the news. And has become news in its own right.

Is this wrong?

Possibly, but not covering the grief people feel when someone they saw on television or the internet passes in such a sorrowful way also would be wrong.

See, these folks — who don’t know most of us from Adam or Eve — become like our friends. We get to know them. We care about them. We enjoy seeing them. And we want to believe, somehow, that their moment on the public stage will last forever…even though we know that’s impossible.

Lest you think I don’t understand why people feel terrible when people they knew (or at least knew of) ended their lives, I need to give you some background.

A very good friend of mine died by his own hand when I was in my early twenties. He was a smart man, a kind man, a caring man. He played organ in the church. He owned a home, which he’d inherited from his mother. He was a huge football fan. And he was a particularly gifted bowler, to the point he could’ve — and quite possibly would’ve, had he lived — made the Professional Bowler’s Tour.

(Yes, there is such a thing. Though there is a regional circuit to handle, first. And that takes a while to navigate. But I digress.)

My friend was only thirty-eight. And he felt he had nothing to live for, because he didn’t have a romantic relationship; he didn’t seem close to his family; he didn’t believe he should impose upon his friends.

So, one day, he told me and my then-husband one story about where he was going. And he told another good friend a different story. By the time we sorted out the stories, my friend had been dead for a few days.

He died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

He’d battled severe depression for quite some time. And he was in immense, enormous pain. His emotional state had gotten to be so dreadful, he couldn’t reach out anymore. And he didn’t want his friends to worry; he didn’t think we should worry.

That’s why he did what he did.

And to this day, I can’t think about my friend, and wonder about why he wouldn’t reach out to me. But I also know that he just wasn’t capable of doing it at the time; he was too upset, too hurt, too confused, maybe too angry with himself…just not in the right frame of mind, and couldn’t understand that he truly did matter.

I think, honestly, he didn’t believe anyone would remember him past the hour of his death. But he was wrong.

Getting back to the two celebrities who just passed away — I didn’t know Kate Spade personally, though I knew of her designs. (Very clever handbags, and quite attractive ones.) I didn’t know Anthony Bourdain either, though I read some of his writing (good stuff, with a visceral, meaty undertone; perfect for the chef he was), and saw at least parts of a few of his shows. I know they were creative people, and they did the best they could in their lives to maximize their creativity in a positive way.

And their deaths leave a big hole in the world, because they were known to have done this.

Of course their friends, their loved ones, their work mates, and everyone who held them in high esteem are devastated. How could they not be?

So, in a way, I can answer the question I posed above, regarding why we seem to feel a celebrity’s suicide so much stronger than a “run-of-the-mill person.” (Not that there is any such animal, but again, I digress.)

I think we do this because of our common humanity. And because many of us do know at least one person who has died, suddenly, because the pain got to be too much for him or her…and all we can do when we see that someone else has died in that same, sudden way is to extend our hands in sympathy.

We do this because we’re human. And it’s the best part of who we are, that leads us to mourn, even for those we didn’t know.

———-

P.S. No matter what you think when you’re at your worst, about your own personal shortcomings, or about the things you haven’t managed to do yet, or the people you feel you’ve failed — you matter, gentle reader.

Yes. You do.

And if you feel like you don’t, please get yourself to a counselor, a physician, a psychiatrist, a priest…whoever you can reach that has at least a little training in how to deal with someone in a major life-crisis (depression certainly is that, though most don’t seem to believe so). (Please?)

For Shooters of Students, Can Forgiveness Ever Be Obtained?

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The title thought is what has been going through my mind, ever since I heard about the latest school shooting. Because I just don’t understand why, over and over and over again, we have shooting after shooting, killing after killing, and nothing at all seems to be getting done to prevent it from happening with such great frequency.

I don’t know if forgiveness can ever be obtained for people like the latest shooter, a seventeen-year-old boy (who, as per my policy, I will not name). Someone that young, that troubled, that upset, or that evil, is someone I don’t know how to help and don’t know how to reach.

Among those who are confirmed dead in this latest shooting (this time at Santa Fe High School in Texas) are a foreign exchange student from Pakistan, two teachers, and a number of other young students. They all had worth and value to their families, their friends, and to the world in general, whether they knew it or not…they helped to make up the fabric of our society, and were perhaps the best of what we are.

Questioners. Students. Learners. Teachers.

I have no way to forgive the latest shooter, in my heart. I just can’t do it.

In fact, the only thing that’s given me any solace regarding the latest in these series of deadly school shootings is Linkin Park’s song “What I’ve Done.” I first heard it years ago, when I didn’t know who the band was, or why they were writing it, but the song struck a chord in me then that was so powerful, I remembered enough of the song to find it again now, when I needed it the most.

 

In this video of “What I’ve Done,” there are all sorts of unforgivable things referenced, along with a few good things. This helps to remind you that no matter how bad things have gotten, and no matter what evil may have happened, the sun will come up tomorrow and there will be at least one good thing there to brighten your day if you look hard enough.

While I think that’s true, I also know that it gets harder and harder to look for those good things.

Now, does that mean you should stop looking for them? Absolutely not.

We have to keep looking for positive things. We have to believe that tomorrow will be better than today, or at least different…we have to believe that somewhere, somehow, someday, we will find a way to prevent at least a few of these horrendous actions, so more people will live, and less people will have to face up to their truly unforgivable actions.

But for now, all I can ask, again and again, is the title question: Can forgiveness ever be obtained for those who shoot up schools? (Or movie theaters, or concerts, or any place innocent people assemble, who just want to be living their lives in peace and without fear of random gunmen.)

If you have any answers for me, let me know in the comments. (Thanks.)

Redemption, Tonya Harding, and Chris Nuttall’s newest novel, THE FAMILY SHAME

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Redemption. It’s one of the strongest words in the English language, or at least it should be. It means to be saved from sin, evil, or error. Or to save yourself from the past consequences of bad or immoral actions…or, perhaps, it means this:

Living. Learning. And improving yourself, because you can’t live with the person you used to be.

My friend Chris Nuttall wrote a book recently based around this theme called THE FAMILY SHAME, set in his Zero Enigma universe. (I was one of his editors, so I got to see the book early and often.) In it, young Isabella Rubén has lost everything she once had, all because she trusted the wrong person. She’s only twelve, but the person she trusted plotted treason against the powers-that-be, and Isabella knew about it — and didn’t say anything to her father, or anyone else. Worse yet, she actively collaborated with this person to commit treason, mostly because she saw it as her only reasonable way to obtain political power due to what amounts to her family’s benign neglect of her talents (she’s a female magician and her particular family can only be led by male magicians).

the-family-shame-cover-revised

See, Isabella, in any other family, probably wouldn’t have done this. Every other family in the city of Shallot (where she’s from) picks their leader from everyone, male and female alike, based on a combination of magical and political ability. But her family, the Rubéns, don’t.

But she did it. She feels terrible about it, but she did it, and she can’t take that combination of deliberate non-action (in not telling her father or any of her teachers) plus actively aiding and abetting the treasonous older “friend” along the way.

And she is paying the price, as she has been exiled to Kirkhaven, an old, ramshackle estate about as far away from Shallot as you can get by horse. She’s also been told not to send letters to her father, mother, or brother, as she’s now “the family shame.”

So, not only has she lost everything — family, friends, wealth, schooling, political standing (which she did care about, even though she was only twelve as she was quite precocious in some ways) — she now has to deal with this ramshackle manor. Two adult magicians live there, Morag Rubén and Ira Rubén. (No, they’re not married to each other.) Morag is a cook, while Ira is a type of experimenter who admits he wants to find ways to make Dark-inflected spells work for good. And both of them, too, are exiles…

Did they want young Isabella around? The answer is a resounding “no.” But there she is, and now she has to figure out how to deal with them (not easy), how she’s going to continue her schooling independently (definitely not easy), and how she’s going to deal with the loneliness of this deserted, remote place (almost impossible). All while wrestling with the problems that brought her to this place, which she knows she created and cannot change.

When she manages to befriend a boy around her own age, Callam, her life starts to improve a little. But she has to keep the friendship secret, as she’s not supposed to leave the grounds, nor is he supposed to be on the grounds himself. (It’s a very innocent friendship, as is befitting for their respective ages.)

It’s getting to know Callam that helps to slowly but surely make Isabella realize just how badly she behaved before, and avow that she will find a way to do better.

I don’t want to give away the plot, so I’ll stop there with a plot summary. But I’ve given you this much because I wanted you to think about just how hard it’s going to be for Isabella to redeem herself in the eyes of society — and worse, how hard it’s going to be for Isabella, herself, to redeem herself in her own eyes.

Redemption, you see, is hard. People judge you by your past actions, and no matter what you do, no matter what you say, no matter how much you might apologize, and no matter how much you’ve actually changed, there are still going to be some people who will hate you, and not give the new version of you — the better version, the one tested in the fire — the time of day.

We see that in contemporary life every day.

One of the most current examples is that of figure skater Tonya Harding, who’s now nearly forty-eight years old. But when she was only twenty-four — in 1994 — she somehow failed to stop an attack on fellow figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, then not quite twenty-five. Kerrigan was hit on the knee by thugs sent by Harding’s then-husband, and one of those thugs was Harding’s bodyguard. Harding, herself, was sentenced to probation, given community service, and ended up being banned for life by the United States Figure Skating Association.

What Harding did back then was awful. That she had a rotten childhood (she truly did), that she came from abject poverty (she did), that her husband was mean and abusive to her as far as the public could discern, and that figure skating was her one gift (she was the first American woman to land a triple axel in competition, and was known for her athleticism, her jumps, and her footwork passages) may ameliorate things slightly, but the fact remains that she could’ve apparently done something to keep Kerrigan from being harmed. (I must say “apparently” because the facts are not completely in evidence. What we know is that Harding took a plea deal.)

But did she deserve to be ostracized the rest of her life for this?

Is the assumption going to be that Harding can’t learn, can’t find a way to be a good person, and that it’s supposedly OK for her to never use her one, true gift ever again, even to teach young kids how to skate?

See, that’s the quandary my friend Chris’s protagonist Isabella is in, too. Isabella is a gifted magician, but she misused her magic and hurt people. She knows it was wrong. She has apologized (as Harding, back in 1994, 1995, and 1996, apologized multiple times to the best of my recollection). But she was ostracized, cast out, exiled.

Isabella does find redemption, or at least finds a way toward redemption.

I would like to think that Harding also has found some sort of redemption, too. (Being on TV’s Dancing with the Stars surely has given her an athletic outlet, and may help pay for her son’s education down the line for all I know.)

But what’s sad about the quest for redemption, and what’s sad in both cases I’ve discussed here, is that some people will never forgive you no matter what good you might do. And no matter how much you might’ve changed. And no matter how much you might want them to forgive you…they just won’t, and you have to learn to live with it.

That Harding still has people, even to this day, leave feces (yes, actual feces) on her doorstep or rude messages on her phone or random people on the street swearing a blue streak at her, twenty-four years later, illustrates just how hard it is to seek redemption, even if you do it privately and out of the public eye.

You pay a heavy price, when you do something wrong, bad, or something that society judges immoral or flat-out evil.

But you still have to learn to live with yourself and your talents, and use them to the best of your ability. Which is what I think Harding is trying to do, as the older, presumably wiser version of herself…and it assuredly is what the young Isabella Rubén is trying to do in THE FAMILY SHAME.

I’m proud to have edited Chris’s new novel, and I hope you will find it a fun read, as well as an instructive one.

And personally? I think redemption is definitely possible. I just wish people would learn to see others for who they are today, not for how they hurt them yesterday, or how bad they behaved the day before that (or twenty-four years ago). Don’t forget it, no, as that’s revisionist history and unnecessary. But do forgive, if you can, at least as far as to say, “If I lived that person’s life, I can’t say for certain I wouldn’t have done the same things.”

That is the best way to be a decent human being, bar none.

We Must Do Better and Insist on Better Health Care (A Collaboration with a Purpose Post)

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Sorry ’bout the lengthy title there, folks…on with the show, er, I mean blog.

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I am especially cognizant this year of World Health Day due to the myriad of health problems my family has suffered over the past year. Because of all the times we’ve been to the doctor, or in the hospital, or in the rehab center, I am more aware than ever about how we need better quality health care in the United States. (I can’t speak for the rest of the world, though my fellow bloggers have done so brilliantly. Links will follow at the end of this post.)

What I’ve seen shocks me. (And I thought I was unshockable.) A woman who needs hearing aids was in one of the rehab centers my family member dealt with this year, and can’t get them because she can’t afford them. She is over sixty-five, is retired, has Medicare–meaning, she does have state-sponsored insurance that’s subsidized by the federal government–and she still can’t afford hearing aids.

This affects her quality of life.

This affects how she can interact with her family, her grandchildren, and those working with her to help her heal up so she can go home.

There’s something wrong with a country that doesn’t find a way to help someone who needs hearing aids find a way to get them. (She is willing to pay, mind. Her daughter told me that. But it’s a matter of making it affordable so she can, and still eat, pay her bills, and afford her medications.)

Or how about this? I, myself, have dealt with a problem trying to get any help with my vision. I have Obamacare. I am eligible to be seen and get glasses, which would be subsidized (but not free)…yet every time I try to set up an appointment, and I’ve been trying now for over two years, I am told there are none.

So, I continue to wear glasses that are over two years old. My backup pair is over ten years old. My vision hasn’t changed much in all that time, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have a checkup or get another pair of glasses that is perhaps a little bit more up-to-date than my backup pair.

How many other people are out there who can’t afford to pay full price for glasses, thus wait to be seen, and then never get an appointment because it’s supposedly always full?

Then, there’s the problem of paying for medication. My family members have radically different insurance. One has no help at all to pay for her prescriptions. Another has some help. But when your medicines can cost over $300 per month — yes, one of the cardiac meds my mother takes is at least that expensive — the co-pay is still plenty high. And when you’re on a fixed income, in retirement, coming up with that high co-pay is damned difficult.

Why is this considered acceptable?

Then, there’s the problem of getting doctor’s appointments when you’re sick. (I know first-hand about that one, too.) Getting your doctor’s office to even call you back is a pain in the buttinsky. And then, if you do get to talk with a nurse, they just send you to urgent care anyway, so why did you waste your time?

In short, there are major problems with health care.

Right now, we have a proliferation of forms, a proliferation of HMOs, PPOs, and all sorts of other alphabet-type agencies, that basically boil down to, “No, we’re not going to help you.” And that is utterly unacceptable.

Mind, there are wonderful people in health care. I’ve met more great nurses and doctors (much less PAs and CNAs) than I can shake a stick at. These people genuinely want to help, but they are overwhelmed by paperwork and there aren’t enough slots to see everyone who needs to be seen. And nothing at all seems to get done whatsoever about fixing these systemic problems.

The World Health Organization has done this World Health Day since 1948, to call attention to the need for better health care for as many people as possible. (Preferably, it would be for every single last one of us, and that is indeed their goal.) And this year, their slogan is called #HealthForAll.

I think we badly need to be reminded that health must be cultivated. We have to have enough resources to help people get hearing aids when they are on fixed incomes. Or afford expensive cardiac medicines when they are on fixed incomes. Or have access to doctors, nurses, and appropriate care, while being treated as the human beings we are rather than an inconvenience or worse, someone to be brushed off and ignored.

So I’m pleased that the Collaboration with a Purpose group wanted to talk about World Health Day this year. It is something that is close to my heart. And it is something we desperately need — better health care, for as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible, so we all can live better and happier lives.

Because if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.

Period.

Now, please go check out my fellow Collaboration with a Purpose group members, as they all have interesting takes on the subject. (Links will be added as their posts go up.)

Of Shouts into the Void…and Cats

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Earlier tonight, when I was about to go to sleep (as it was very late night, or very early morning, depending on your point of view), I got a call from a distraught friend.

You see, he’s a cat lover. He has a cat — a rather feisty, elderly cat that doesn’t like other cats, or too many people, either. He treats this feisty, elderly, cantankerous cat like royalty (my other cat fancier friends are no doubt adding, “As the cat deserves”).

But the reason he was distraught was also because of a cat. A stray, that had once been a well-kept house pet — my friend said he could tell — and was still willing to believe a human being would help rather than hurt.

My friend couldn’t bring this stray cat into his home, even though he desperately wanted to. (I know this because he called me, and we discussed it at great length.) His own cat would’ve hurt this littler, younger, gentler one, he thought. And he, himself, is disabled, and has recently come off some medical treatment that made him a bit weaker than usual. (And usual isn’t exactly strong anymore, though I hate to point that out for the sake of my friend’s machismo.)

What he did do, though, was take some cat food out, some water out, and went and held the cat for an hour while it ate and drank. He petted the cat. He tried wracking his brains to see if he could find anyone in the Tampa, Florida, area who might be able to foster a cat, as this one needs some medical attention as it recently looks to have gotten into a fight. (Perhaps with a raccoon, perhaps with another cat.) Its eyes were affected, and my friend was very upset at leaving a half-blind cat outside, at the mercy of the elements (as it’s chilly tonight in Tampa — perhaps more temperate than my own Wisconsin, but cold by their standards, and not good for a cat that really shouldn’t be out in the darkness, alone, when it doesn’t seem to be seeing very well).

I told my friend he did all he could. He did more than some would do, considering his levels of physical limitations, and considering his own very ornery and unruly cat. (I know he’s not going to like me calling her that, but his cat definitely is.)

But that doesn’t help this particular stray cat. Not enough, anyway…though the food and water my friend gave the cat may help the poor little guy survive another night alone, outside. (And I devoutly hope it does.)

My friend was also livid that a pampered house cat — which this must’ve been at one time — had been tossed to the curb like so much garbage. He said that in his area, there aren’t many shelters that will take animals for very long without euthanizing them (though there are a few shelters that are no-kill, or at least want to be, he said they are overcrowded, overloaded, and underfunded). And he’s worried that a cat like this one — providing it sticks around (and he checked on it four or five times in the next several hours, and the cat had stayed right there, waiting for him, which broke his heart, and mine, all over again) would be euthanized immediately due to the recent fight and the damage to at least one eye.

This is where the “shout into the void” comes in, folks. Because I’m with my friend on this one. I do not understand, at all, why anyone would treat a pet like that. And thinking about anyone treating a beloved family pet that way just makes me want to scream.

Maybe it won’t be heard, thus the “shout into the void” concept. But it makes me so angry, to think about this poor little guy out on the streets, way too far away for me to drive to, to rescue the poor dear, and no way to know if the cat will survive this night — or not.

Rather than kicking a beloved pet out, do the responsible thing if you can no longer take care of your animals: Give that pet a good, loving home somewhere else.

I know that years ago, my mother and I adopted a very elderly dog that, like this cat, had been abandoned in the middle of winter. This dog had cataracts in both eyes, couldn’t hear, and was so matted when it was brought in that the shelter people had no idea whatsoever what type of dog it was. (It was a Lhasa Apso.) We were horrified that a dog like that had been abandoned at such an old age, left to fend for itself in the middle of a Wisconsin winter…that the dog had survived its ordeal was wonderful, but why did it have to go through it at all?

(Needless to say, that little dog was better off with us, and had a couple of good years where he was pampered, well-fed, well-treated, and basically lived the life of Reilly.)

I know that there are many stray animals out there in need of loving homes. There are more cats, dogs, and other assorted pets that have been left on the sides of roads or maybe ran away and couldn’t find their way back home.

My hope is, that by writing this blog, you will think about how you can help the neglected animals in your area. Many are loving, affectionate, and really want a “forever home.” But for whatever reason, they are out there, alone, in the dark, without food, without water, without shelter…and I find that so unconscionable, I just have no words for it.

So please. Do whatever you can to help the less fortunate among us, including the animals. Because they often get forgotten, and they can’t speak for themselves.

We must do it instead.