Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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When Love Disappoints, What is the Point?

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img_8906The title, above, is the main question at the heart of CHANGING FACES, my new fantasy romance set in modern-day Nebraska featuring a bisexual and gender-fluid woman, Elaine Foster, and her heterosexual boyfriend, Allen Bridgeway. These two have overcome much to find each other, fall in love, and now want to get married — but Elaine’s been keeping her gender-fluidity secret, as she’s desperately afraid Allen will not be able to understand it.

The problem is, when you don’t have open communication, love has no way to grow and becomes less sustaining and fulfilling. Ultimately, if you are holding a big secret inside, as Elaine is at the start of CHANGING FACES, it starts to poison your relationship…that secret has to come out, or you end up with the question I posed above: when love disappoints, what is the point?

See, you need to share all of yourself, when you’re in love with someone else. The good stuff, the bad stuff, the in between stuff…it all has to come out, or you aren’t truly joining with someone else. (That “two shall become one” Bible verse is not just about children, after all.) You have to be willing to be vulnerable, to open yourself up to potential ridicule — though someone who truly loves you isn’t going to do that, we are all human and we all worry about such things — and to hope that your love will grow, change, and flourish over time.

In the case of CHANGING FACES, Elaine is worried that Allen can’t possibly understand her gender-fluidity, as she barely understands it herself and she’s lived with it her entire life. She also was a child of the foster homes, as was Allen…while Allen was able to find a loving adoptive home after a while, Elaine never was, and worse, Elaine was raped while resident of her last foster home by five young men. It’s because of this atrocious act that Elaine can only barely accept Allen’s love for her in the first place, and it adds stress to an already stressful situation.

You might be wondering why Allen keeps trying, hey? Well, he truly is in love with Elaine. He sees who she is, even if he doesn’t know about her gender-fluidity (he doesn’t care about her bisexuality at all; he figures he looks at women, she looks at women too, and they only go home with each other so that’s fine), and he loves her indomitable spirit. He sees her, entire, sees her soul, and loves her for who she is.

But of course, when she finally tells him about her gender-fluidity (and how she believes she’d rather live as a man, maybe get the surgery down the line to become a man outwardly, even though she’d always think of herself as a woman — did I mention that Elaine is a feminist scholar? No?), Allen is completely thrown.

Who wouldn’t be?

I mean, you live with someone for seven years, right? You love that person wisely and well, knowing how much she’s been hurt, appreciating that despite it all, she’s willing to turn to you and give you everything she has…and then you find out this secret.

Allen’s a very good man. He wants to be with Elaine so much, even though he doesn’t understand any of this, he prays that she won’t leave him (as she’s confused, hurt, and upset, and is about to do that very thing even though she still loves him every bit as much as before).

And his prayer is answered by two quirky, shapeshifting angels…

Look. My view of love is very simple. Love matters, period. You have to have communication and trust and honesty, or love can’t flourish as it should. (I think it dies, personally, if you don’t have those things, but maybe that’s just me.) The right person at the right time in your life can work wonders — refer back to everything I’ve said about my late husband Michael if you don’t believe me (I have a category for it, even, if you haven’t read anything about Michael before, on the side of the blog) — but you have to be open and vulnerable and real and tell the truth about yourself, or love will be ultimately less than fulfilling and highly disappointing.

Telling the truth and being vulnerable is a big risk. That’s why it’s so hard to do. And it’s even harder when you’re someone like Elaine who’s been badly hurt and who doesn’t really know how to explain who and what she is…she’s not lying to Allen, but she’s not able to tell him everything, either, and thus, a wedge grows between them.

A wedge that can only be fixed by the two quirky angels and their solution of changing Allen and Elaine’s faces (that is, putting Allen in Elaine’s body, and Elaine in Allen’s, so they’re now both, in effect, transgender in every sense).

As I’ve said in the past several days, I believe in love. I believe in honesty. I believe in miracles, faith, optimism, second chances all unlooked for, and I think we need more of it in this world.

I’m proud to have written CHANGING FACES, and I hope you will enjoy it as well. Do let me know what you think…especially about how you, yourself, have transcended the disappointments you’ve found in your own love relationships (as trust me, every single one of us has been disappointed in a love relationship one way or another — it seems to be part of the human condition).

********

Edited to add:

Here are all the places you can find CHANGING FACES…Chris the Story-Reading Ape put it in this format (so thank you again, Chris!):

Barnes & Noble

Amazon:

USA  –   UK  –  CA  –  AUS  –  IN

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 12, 2017 at 12:35 am

Election 2016: My Personal Essay

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Folks, I’m going to try to do something that right now is hard for me, but necessary.

If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you know I am a left-leaning Independent voter, and that I’ve supported Hillary Clinton’s life and career for years. I believe she’s an honest, hard-working, capable, and extremely intelligent woman who’s been badly misunderstood over the course of her lifetime. I was proud to vote for her in 2008 in the primaries, and again this year in both the primaries and in the general election.

I am deeply saddened that we will not have Hillary Clinton as our next President.

There is much about Donald J. Trump that scares the willies out of me. That he has no experience at all running a government is the main objection; that he can say intemperate, rude, vulgar, sexist, and bigoted things are my main secondary objections. I did not believe he was fit to be President. I also believed the American people would reject him.

They did not.

Instead, they have largely embraced him. Which to me feels utterly alien, because I had thought we’d gotten past much of what Mr. Trump embodied already.

But we obviously haven’t.

At this point, I hope that Donald J. Trump will prove to be a far better person than he’s ever shown, and that he will somehow become a better President than I fear.

I admit that I am scared. I am a low-income, disabled, widowed woman writer, already without much in the way of a safety net. Trump by the words he’s mouthed over the course of the primaries and general election will take what little safety net I have and rend it asunder.

He does not appear to care about people like me, at all. I’ve known that all along. That’s why I opposed him, strongly.

Instead, I believed in Hillary Clinton and her promise of incremental change. Change usually does come by increments; you have to work hard for change, for improvement, for anything at all.

As a writer I know that; I start out with a blank page, and by the end of my efforts, I have something brand-new. But it takes time, thought, effort, more time, thought, and effort; write, rewrite, edit, rewrite, edit, write, edit, etc., until the final product is in and done.

I understood how hard it is to make any positive changes whatsoever. I thought the United States, as a country, understood that as well.

Either they didn’t, or the hatred of Hillary Clinton was a much bigger factor than anyone ever thought.

Anyway, Donald J. Trump is a very wealthy man. He has never stood in my shoes. (Hillary Clinton hasn’t, either, but I at least felt she could empathize.) He does not know how hard it is to get from day to day, what happens when you have only one car and it has a major repair you can’t pay for (thank you to all who backed me in 2014 so I could get my car repaired, BTW; without GoFundMe and some very good friends, I’d have been completely out of luck then). He doesn’t have any idea what it’s like to lose a home to foreclosure, or to lose your whole retirement because of the 2008 stock market crash (as many did), or to have to struggle and scramble and fight, day after day after day, so you can continue to do what you believe you were born to do.

So, my analysis is simple: I’m going to keep doing what I need to do. I’ll create, and write, and hope for the best. I will continue to do my best to spread optimism, light, and help to all I can, because that’s how I’m made.

I realize even a President Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have been able to help me with much of that. But her policies would’ve led to a more optimistic country, by and large; I firmly believe that.

Now, all bets are off.

This is not what I’d hoped for, and I am afraid.

But I will keep going.

My late husband Michael and my late best friend Jeff would not expect any less.

 

Housing End-Game

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Folks, I really didn’t want to write this blog. But things have gone sour, again…and my blogging is likely to be interrupted for a few days or weeks, so I figured I’d explain why.

As I said months ago, my housing situation went critical. I can’t fully explain this because it’s not my story to tell; all I can tell you is that I knew, at that time, I’d not have much longer where I was.

That was back in April, and I’m still in the same place. It was like being in limbo, and it certainly slowed up my creative efforts. But I have been warm, and safe, and with my dogs.

Now, the housing situation is about to be radically different. I will be put out of my home of the last five years within the next seven to ten days, as something called a “writ of assistance” has been requested. Once that’s executed, I will be put out of this situation, and am not sure what will happen afterward.

For a time, I know I will go to my father’s house. But long-term, that is likely to drive him and I both nuts. I won’t be able to bring the dogs, and that worries me greatly, because I don’t know what will happen to them — and they’re good dogs. They don’t deserve this uncertainty.

And that doesn’t resolve the rest of the situation, that I can’t explain, that I wish I could explain (except it’s not my story to tell, yada yada yada).

Over the past six months, I’ve had various friends ask me why I haven’t left already when things have been so up in the air. It has to do with caring about my family, and wanting to make sure they are safe and happy and well. I’ve also been worried about the dogs. One of my friends told me a long time ago she could take me, but not the dogs; another can take one dog, if need be, but she has cats. A third friend lives in Canada and I’d not be able to bring any of the dogs there, if I could somehow miraculously get to him…this is a big, fat, freakin’, unruly mess. (Insert string of profanity here, if you feel the need. I know I certainly do. I’m just too polite to subject you to it.)

And, if I’m honest, a lot of why I haven’t left has to do with CHANGING FACES. I’m so close to finishing up that novel — the revised and final version, after editing — and I just didn’t want to have to uproot my entire life as moves tend to do if I could somehow hang on until the novel was finished.

I am about three chapters, perhaps less, from the end. But I don’t know if I can finish up what I need under all this stress. I’m having a number of unusual stress reactions already, and I have to be careful, or I’ll land in the hospital and I’ll be even slower to finish things up…dammit all.

Anyway, all I know is that it is likely I will be put out in the next seven to ten days. I can’t get a hard date as to when I will definitely be put out. I have already moved some stuff to my father’s across town, and will be moving more in the upcoming days as I’m able, but I remain worried.

If for some reason you feel the need to help me, I do have a Paypal account. Type Barb and Caffrey together (as all one word, lowercase) AT Yahoo DOT com (take out the at and dot, of course), if you want to help at all with the frustrations and vexations of this move. Because in some ways, this couldn’t happen at a worse time…honestly.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 19, 2016 at 1:14 pm

Death and the Miami Marlins

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Folks, before I begin this post, I figured I’d explain where I’ve been the past four-five days. (No, I didn’t fall off the face of the Earth, nor did my in-progress novel CHANGING FACES swallow me up.) It’s a simple explanation — my computer adapter fried — but it’s the third or possibly the fourth time in the past year my adapter has done this. I have a new adapter now, thankfully, and am back online…and will be looking for a way to purchase a backup adapter soon. (Can’t yet, but it’s at the very top of my priority list.)

Now, to the blog.

When the news broke on Sunday that Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernandez had died in a boating accident, I was stunned. Fernandez was only twenty-four years old, and was having an outstanding year…his personal story of escaping from Cuba (he had to try multiple times before he successfully got out), his infectious joy, and his youth all touched my heart.

For several hours on Sunday, I had a hard time thinking about much else, other than Fernandez’s early death. Bad enough to die at twenty-four, but worse yet when your girlfriend was pregnant with your child.

It was a devastating loss on every level, that Fernandez was gone, suddenly and without warning. And the Marlins clearly felt it, postponing Sunday’s game.

After that, on Monday evening, the entire team wore Fernandez’s jersey number (16) as a tribute. Leadoff hitter Dee Gordon stepped into the opposite side of the batter’s box to honor Fernandez, and took a ball. (Opposing team New York must’ve known something like that was likely, I’m guessing.) Then, after stepping into the batter’s box  the usual way, Gordon did something he hadn’t done all year long.

He hit a home run.

The Marlins romped to a win, but that wasn’t why Gordon’s HR was so meaningful. It was the way he did it. He made it clear from the get-go that Fernandez was on his mind, and so did the rest of the Marlins, including all the coaches (manager Don Mattingly was particularly teary-eyed) and front office personnel.

And the classiness didn’t end there.  Even the Mets’ players cried after Gordon hit the homer, and during the seventh-inning stretch (where a trumpet played a solitary version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in a muted, moody tone). And they, along with many other teams around major league baseball, hung Fernandez’s jersey up as a show of support.

The Marlins win on Monday night was cathartic for fans, players, the management, and around baseball. It helped ease the pain a little, and helped honor Fernandez the best way the Marlins had to offer — by winning, and talking about their lost teammate, and wishing he were back with them.

All that said, I want to say a few words about the two others who died during that tragic accident, Emilio Macias and Eddy Rivero (both twenty-five). They had gone to Fernandez’s boat late at night because according to this article from Fox News Latino, Fernandez and his girlfriend had argued that evening. No one’s talking much about Macias and Rivero, but they were doing what good friends are supposed to do during a time of crisis — they were supporting their buddy, and they were trying to calm him down.

Their friendship mattered, and I honor them.

I do not understand why these three young men died that evening. I wish I could do something, anything, to bring them back. But it’s good that people are remembering Fernandez’s life and career.

Now, my hope is that people will also remember Macias and Rivero.They both have GoFundMe pages (go here for Macias and here for Rivero), as their families need help with burial expenses. If you can help them, please do it — and if you can’t, say a prayer for them, and for the loved ones they left behind.

Because that helps, too. Even if it’s not nearly enough.

Thoughts After Watching”The Life of Donnovan Hill”

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As most of you who read my blog know, I am a regular watcher of ESPN’s Outside the Lines program (henceforth shortened to OTL). Recently, OTL featured a story about a young man, Donnovan Hill, who’d become paralyzed as a result of being incorrectly taught how to tackle by a Pop Warner football coach. Donnovan Hill went from an active, athletic, and energetic young teen to a quadriplegic, and no one took responsibility.

Granted, some might see what happened to Donnovan Hill as “an act of God.” Many others on his team were also taught this inaccurate technique, and they did not become injured (much less paralyzed for life).

But what I saw–and what I internalized–was a young man who’d loved to play football, and had been bright, gifted, and doing everything he wanted to do.

Then, one day, it was all gone.

His friends mostly melted away, being unable to conceive of Donnovan’s life as a paraplegic (much less deal with it). His coaches tried to help, at least until they realized Donnovan’s mother was going to sue them; then, they also faded away.

So it was just Donnovan and his mother, living a life without any sort of help for either. Donnovan could not brush his teeth, and had to work very hard to regain enough feeling in one hand so he could put on his own pair of glasses. While his mother had to do everything for him — feed him, get him to the toilet, brush his teeth, carry him to and from the car (as they didn’t have a motorized wheelchair or handicapped accessible van, this was a huge problem for both).

It was obvious that both were heartsick, exhausted, and extremely unhappy with what had become of Donnovan’s life. But there were compensations.

First, the bond between Donnovan and his mother was extremely close. The love was palpable in the story between them, even though no words were spoken.

Second, Donnovan turned to poetry and music to express his inner thoughts and feelings. And he had a gift…one that, had he lived longer, might’ve brought him fame of another sort…the sort a young man wants to have, that of accomplishment against the odds.

Third, after the original OTL story aired, many people stepped forward with offers of help. Two handicap-accessible vans were donated. A better, disabled-friendly apartment was offered. A motorized wheelchair was given to Donnovan…so life got better for them both, due to them being willing to discuss publicly what had happened to him after getting hurt so badly.

And finally, former Pro Bowl OT Kyle Turley reached out to Donnovan as well. The two became friends, and that friendship had worth and value.

Donnovan Hill died at age 18, just after his mother had settled the lawsuit with the Pop Warner organization. Kyle Turley sang a song he and Donnovan had written together, using one of Donnovan’s poems…the church was full, and at least one of Donnovan’s former coaches did attend the service.

So, after watching “The Life of Donnovan Hill,” I am left with a deep and overarching sadness. This was a young man with great potential and a gift for poetry that was truly inspirational. I wish he’d lived longer…but the fact he lived, and kept trying so hard after being paralyzed in a Pop Warner football game, was meaningful.

Milwaukee Burning

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Folks, I started this evening by watching a Brewers game on TV, and am ending this evening watching live footage of at least three small businesses in Milwaukee go up in flames. There’s currently looting, burning, and much vandalism, and firefighters have had trouble getting to areas to fight the fires because of the crowds on the street.

I am horrified.

All of this started because earlier on Saturday, an officer stopped two people in a car. One went left, the other went right. The policeman followed one of them; that person ended up getting shot, and then later died. All of this was caught on camera, as the policeman was wearing a body camera.

A young man, who says he’s a relative (a brother) of the young man who was killed, says the police have failed to protect the people of Milwaukee, and that’s why the rioting, looting, and burning is going on. He says the police must do a better job keeping the peace — this is my best paraphrase, as I just heard the young man speak on CBS 58’s live newscast at approximately 1:45 AM CDT — and certainly seemed extremely upset.

Basically, this area is a powderkeg.

I live about twenty-five miles from the area that’s going up in flames right now. But I have to admit that I am deeply frightened.

When people become mobs, and mobs become violent, that is an extremely scary situation.

There are legitimate, long-standing problems in this area with poverty, underemployment/unemployment, a lack of education, and a lack of positive opportunities. I understand all of that, and agree fully that all of these problems must be addressed.

We need opportunities. We need positive change. We need help, and support, and healing.

Looting, rioting, and burning does not help any of that.

Now, fewer people will have jobs than before. What good does that do?

Some people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time will probably end up injured, perhaps may even die; how does that highlight economic inequality?

And at best, innocent people who probably don’t have much in the way of financial resources will lose their vehicles to the fires, as some already have. Lose their livelihoods, as a few already have. Or may even lose their homes.

How is this right or just?

Tonight, at least four small businesses and a bank branch have been either torched or seriously vandalized (to the point there may be no point to ever reopening the store that was once in that location). There’s much more looting going on than that; there’s much more destruction going on than that. I have seen traffic lights vandalized and bus stations completely demolished.

As the anchorwoman on WTMJ (channel 4 in Milwaukee) just said, these people are destroying their own neighborhoods. And that’s what is the saddest part of all.

My hope now is that we will somehow be able to stop the violence, stop the destruction, rebuild the businesses and heal the injured…but it’s extremely awful to see all of this happening.

My heart hurts.

Pray for Milwaukee, folks. Because I don’t know anything else that might do any good right now. (And when will the national news figure out that Milwaukee is burning? So far, they’re not paying any attention whatsoever…damn them. We’re not just flyover country!)

#PrayforOrlando — My Thoughts

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Folks, it has taken me over a day to codify my thoughts, because I’m so enraged by what happened in Orlando, Florida last evening.

For those of you who don’t yet know, there was a horrific mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida during the wee hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016. So far, fifty people are confirmed dead, and there are fifty-three known to be wounded…but the death toll could still go up. Because the gunman — someone I shall refuse to name as I believe he forfeited his right to a name the moment he opened fire — was anti-gay and supposedly pledged allegiance to ISIS on a 911 call, and because Pulse was friendly to the LGBT community, this act was not only a hate crime, bad as that is.

No. It was even worse.

It was an act of domestic terrorism.

My heart is aching, as I write these words. I do not understand how anyone could do this, for any reason. I do not appreciate the fact that someone so hateful was an American citizen, and most of all I do not like it that I have no outlet whatsoever for my rage other than to post this flag — a gay pride rainbow flag at half-staff — in this post as a symbol of my solidarity with the LGBT community:

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I wish I could do much more than this, because I am enraged.

Enraged that this horrific, senseless act could happen in the United States.

Enraged that someone so twisted had been able to qualify as a security guard, for pity’s sake. Because the shooter was a security guard, he had weapons, and he used them brutally and callously to take life for no reason whatsoever except his own, obnoxious self-aggrandizement.

Enraged that my LGBT friends, gentle souls, all, now have to worry that they could be next, victims of copycats eager to get their repellent names and mugshots on television…because as usual, the media splashed the name and picture of the domestic terrorist in as many nooks and crannies as they could, as this is standard operating procedure.

Enraged that there isn’t more focus on the innocent and tragic victims who died or were wounded at the Pulse nightclub than there is on the excrescence that was the allegedly human being who decided that he knew better than God/dess as to who should live, who should die, and who should be irrevocably wounded, body and soul, for the rest of their days by this abhorrent attack.

Enraged that once again, on American soil, we’ve had a mass shooting.

Enraged that once again, our politicians will do nothing.

Enraged that once again, our hearts are broken, and no one seems to care about mending them.

So, because of that, because of all that, I urge everyone to think good thoughts, send positive energy, and/or pray for the people of Orlando right now. Somehow, some way, help love to win — the love of our fellow men and women of all genders, sexual preferences, colors, creeds, and religions. Somehow, some way, remember those bright souls who died, and help those who survived the massacre to heal as much as they possibly can…

In other words, make love stronger than hate. Please.

And give extra care to your friends and neighbors right now, most particularly to those in the LGBT community. They need to know their friends are with them, and that we will never forget this horrible day for as long as we live…much less that we will work for better days and brighter futures for us all.

That’s all I know how to say right now.

———

Edited to add: One of my Facebook acquaintances just pointed out that when he turned on CNN yesterday afternoon, they said, “We will only name the shooter once this hour.” After they named him, they took down his picture and said something to the effect of, “Now, let’s concentrate on the much more important people — the victims.”

Thank you, CNN! (Now can everyone else in the media get behind this idea? I was once a student journalist, and I know the people I worked with all felt the same way as I did. But standard operating procedure is to name the gunman over and over, it seems…we must change this, and start doing what CNN did yesterday.)