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The Duties of Friendship

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When you want to have good friends in your life, you need to be one yourself.

This seems like a truism, something so obvious that no one could ever possibly mistake it. But I have seen, lately, some folks I care about very much being treated exceptionally poorly by their friends…and it makes me wonder if these so-called friends understand that truism above.

Without naming names, I’ll give you an example.

One of my friends recently had to have emergency surgery. She reached out to her friends, as people do when they’re in a crisis. The problem is, some of her friends just didn’t get it, while one of them — shockingly — decided to “ghost” and just not return any of her messages, text or otherwise.

Now, I got it. And I talked with her every day, sometimes many times a day, as we usually do. Because I know how it is to have a crisis and feel like no one cares.

Apparently, this one person either didn’t know that, didn’t care, or just figured it didn’t matter.

What do you think of that, hm? Is that palatable in 2018? Have we come so low as that, where we can’t even reach out to those who need help and give them any support at a time of crisis?

See, friendship has duties and responsibilities. We don’t like to think that, because it sounds transactional. And being a friend should not be about anything transitory or transactional.

But you owe your friend kindness, respect, comfort when you can give it, a sympathetic ear, caring…honesty? And you owe it to them during the bad times, as well as the good.

You should never, but never, “ghost” out of the picture. That’s just wrong.

I’m sorry. Someone who does this, who “ghosts out” at a time like this, is not worth your time. They are not your friend. They have just shown their ill worth, their lack of understanding, their lack of empathy. And you don’t need them.**

So, what should you do instead?

Even if you are under major stresses yourself, you should at least tell your friend you are rooting for her. (Or him.) And that you care. And that you want to know how the surgery goes.

Anything less is ridiculous.

What other duties do friends have? Tell me about them in the comments!

————

**If someone does this to you, I can only hope that this person, down the line, will have that happen to him as well. (Karma can be a mother.)

**And if you have done something like this, and didn’t realize it, you should make amends. Pronto. (‘Nuff said.)

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Written by Barb Caffrey

November 29, 2018 at 10:35 am

Tiredness, Writing, and Two Quick Comments on Recent Events

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I figured I’d give you a quick health update, for those of you keeping score at home. (Someone must, after all.) I’m a lot better than I was three weeks ago. I’m back to editing on a more or less normal schedule, and I can and have resumed most daily activities, with some caution. I can do more than one thing a day now, which is very good; I can also do some more extended/difficult things, like shopping for an hour-plus (always hard for me to do, considering I walk with a cane and have some back issues), without making things any worse.

That said, the Nasty Respiratory Ailment (TM) is not gone by any means. It’s just a lot better, that’s all. Not quite down to a simple respiratory ailment (or even a capitalized Respiratory Ailment, which must be worse, right?), but still enough to get in the way if I don’t keep a running calculation of how much energy I have on any given day — and how much I can, in all actuality, do.

I’ve had some folks in the past ask me why I’m so open about my health. Mostly, I think someone out there may need to know that he or she is not alone; maybe they’re dealing with health issues, too. Or maybe they’re frustrated because they’ve been sick for weeks, and they wonder if there’s any daylight on the other side, because it’s been so long since they felt halfway decent, they can hardly remember when that was.

And I know I would’ve liked to find a blog like this when I felt my worst.

It’s because of the health issues and only because of the health issues that I didn’t blog at the time about two very big stories that upset me greatly. The first was the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh; the victims were older folks, and all except for one were there to delight in the glory of God. (That last, a doctor, rushed to the scene when he heard gunfire, and was shot dead with the rest.) And the second was the unwarranted and vicious murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia; this last is compounded by the problem that the United States has not taken the lead on this despite Khashoggi being a permanent resident of the U.S. at the time. Instead, Turkey has been the one to find out the most details, and to do the most pressing on the international stage to get justice for an innocent man.

Both are horrible tragedies, and are hard even now for me to write about because I hurt so badly when I think about them. I don’t understand how a bunch of innocent people in a synagogue could be shot to death (and a doctor, rushing to help, too); I don’t understand how a writer who advocated for peace in the Middle East and for greater transparency and for the freedom of the press to do their jobs could be dismembered without the formal representatives of the country he was living in at the time, the United States (read: the State Department, the President of the U.S., the Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee, etc.), being outraged.

I am outraged by both.

So while I’m very slow off the mark to write about either thing, I wanted you all to know that I did see these stories. I was saddened greatly by them. And I hope there will be justice for the victims, because what happened to all of them should not have ever occurred.

It’s hard to heal when you see such devastating things as this. But I will continue to do whatever I can to get healthier, so I can perhaps write blogs in a timely manner when I am upset, outraged, or better yet, really happy over something going on. (Hey, it could happen.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 3, 2018 at 2:38 am

Six Things for Saturday

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Folks, I know I didn’t write a blog all week, and I’m sorry. So without further ado, here are six takes on six different things. (Why six? It’s Saturday. I like alliteration. It makes sense in my head, anyway…)

  • I’m very happy that my favorite baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers, are in the playoffs. They haven’t had a team this good since 1982, and that year, the Brewers (in the American League back then) made it to the World Series. I don’t know if this year’s team can do that or not; much remains unclear at this time. But they have had a great year, and their bullpen is the main reason, along with the play of MVP-candidate Christian Yelich.
  • I’ve thought a lot about editing this past week. Some books that I’ve otherwise loved end up with odd errors in them. One such error is “fairing” instead of the proper word, faring, as in, “How are you faring?” (Meaning, how are you doing.) I don’t know why this keeps showing up in books, except that I’m guessing the authors either didn’t have good editors or they relied too much on spellcheck and/or grammar check. (No spellcheck or grammar check in the world is as good as a real, live editor.)
  • I am far from indifferent to the political situation we have going on in the US right now. I am frustrated with the descent into tribalism. We cannot get any traction if those of us in the middle are either vilified or ignored. And yet, if you try to take a middle stance on anything, that’s exactly what happens. As I’ve said before, change usually is incremental. (Mind, it may show up, all of a sudden, as a huge one, such as when same-sex marriage was legalized in all 50 states in 2015. But it took decades of progress to get to that point.) And to get that incremental change, you need people who are willing to look at the problems — take a good, hard, rational, fact-based look — and then compromise to get the best solution possible.

Now, is this hard to do? Damn straight it is. Most people do not have the wherewithal to truly serve the public rather than themselves, or worse, special interests/big moneyed interests. Maybe they want to serve the public, but can’t figure out a way; maybe they get to state capitals (or even more challenging, Washington, DC) and get blinded by the “bright lights, big city” phenomenon.

But this is what must happen to have good, positive public service. And right now, because no one trusts anyone else politically and there’s very little bipartisanship to be had at any level, those of us who just want to fix the potholes and make sensible public policy get pushed to the side. And that’s wrong.

  • Someone asked me if I believed Doctor Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. The answer is that I did. Something definitely happened to her, and she was definitely sexually assaulted. Her behavior afterward is characteristic of that, as is the fact it took her years to put herself back together. So yes, I believed her. And yes, I believe we need to listen to sexual assault survivors, and make better public policy overall if we can in that regard, too.

(Before someone says, “But Barb! That doesn’t say Judge Kavanaugh did anything! You have no proof! She has no proof either beyond her bare word,” I will point out that I am answering only the one question. I wait for facts.)

I am very pleased Doctor Ford put herself back together, mind, and used her experiences to better inform her life, make better and more positive choices in the long run, and get her doctorate (which is a very big deal). That’s hard to do. She did it. She deserves credit for it.

And the people who are angry with her for telling her story need to show some compassion. Even if they think she’s flat wrong, they should be praying for her; they shouldn’t be doxxing her or sending death threats. (That should go without saying, but somehow, it no longer does.)

  • Weather is the last bastion of bipartisanship in the United States.

Weather is a great equalizer, you know. We all face it. We all have to deal with it. We all have to learn to live with it. And we all have to figure out ways to cope with it.

In my area in Southeastern Wisconsin, we’ve had lots of rain lately, with some of it overflowing the banks of the various rivers. That is never good. (We also are getting more rain and the ground is super-saturated already. Also not good.)

So, weather is still bipartisan, and is still a safe subject. (Hallelujah?)

  • Sixth and last, if I’ve learned anything from this life, it’s that I can’t change anyone else. I can only change me. (And that happens very, very slowly.)

Why am I talking about this? Recent events in my personal life, mostly. I have had to face the fact that no matter what I want, certain folks just aren’t going to change. I have to deal with the problem as it is (or as a golfer would say, “Play the ball as it lies”); I can’t prettify it up or hope for better.

Now, this can be depressing, if you take it one way. But it also can be liberating.

See, if you’ve done everything in your power, and nothing has affected the outcome, that just shows you’re in the wrong place. Or maybe with the wrong people.

So, going forward, I will keep working on myself, and my craft, and my art. And if I can find like-minded souls willing to walk with me on the journey, good.

If not? Well, I’m going to have to stop bending myself into pretzel-shapes, and save steps.

Any comments from the peanut gallery? (Preferably not about politics?) Let me know in the comments!

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.

 

 

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.)