Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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

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

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

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

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

I understand how that feels extremely well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

I was happy she found another good man to love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This made me cry.

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

This made me even sadder.

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

That’s where the episode ended.

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

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

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

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

Updates on Ukraine, the Empathy Gap Essay, and a Discussion of Muslims, Cigarettes, and Virtue-Signaling

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Folks, I wanted to write a blog today about Ukraine along with updating last week’s blog about the empathy gap. I also veer into a discussion of smoking that may surprise you. So do keep reading, OK?

Sometimes, a news commentator utterly surprises.

Why am I saying that? Well, Malcolm Nance, a longtime MSNBC analyst, has joined the international force doing their best to push Russia right back out of Ukraine. He is a Navy vet, and he said that he was “done talking.” Therefore, he went to Ukraine, where he’s been now for over a week, and has been doing whatever he can to aid the fighters there.

I’m glad Ukraine continues to resist Russia’s stupid and pointless invasion. (Well, not stupid and pointless to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President. He wanted the Ukrainian bread basket, as the land is exceptionally fertile there. And rather than pay for the grain like anyone else, he thought he’d just take the country, so he would just get the grain as well.) But it saddens me to see the destruction of once-beautiful cities like Kyiv and Mariupol.

Not to mention the loss of human lives, which is utterly incalculable.

I hope that whatever Malcolm Nance continues to do over there works. He has always struck me as a highly intelligent man, though I didn’t always agree with him. (I don’t always agree with anyone. Even with my late husband Michael, we had an occasional disagreement. Spice for the mix, I always thought, especially as we made sure to “fight fair” and not drag up old and dead issues over and over.)

Anyway, the next piece of old business has to do with my essay on empathy a week-plus ago. Paul, a regular reader, asked why I didn’t bring up someone on the left who’s sparked my ire as much as Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert have on the right. Another reader, Kamas, mentioned Maxine Waters — a very able legislator in her way, but also someone who seems to enjoy verbal conflict and hyperbole from time to time. And I’d brought up two other D legislators who seem to get into trouble on a regular basis, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

Rep. Omar is in the news right now for calling out a double standard on airplanes. Apparently, a church group that had just come back from working with Ukrainian refugees sang a Christian hymn on the plane. This upset her, as she believes Muslim groups would be shut down from singing on planes. (Maybe this has happened to her, but if so, she hasn’t said so specifically.)

My view of this is simple. The folks who went to Ukraine or the borders of Poland and Romania and elsewhere that border Ukraine, and did good work, deserve to celebrate any way they like. If their song wasn’t bothering anyone else on the plane, let them sing.

Mind, I’d also say the same thing for a Muslim hymn. There are many uplifting Muslim hymns, I believe, but we almost never hear of them — much less hear them — because Muslim in the US tends to equal “Shia or Sunni rebel” rather than pious person doing their best for God and country.

Still, why Rep. Omar waded into this one with both feet, I don’t know.

Centuries ago, the Muslim people were often literate, learned, urbane, and often had no trouble with other “People of the Book” (meaning Christians and Jewish people). The Muslims came up with algebra, created music and art and poetry and architecture, and did many wonderful things.

We tend to forget all that with the current crop of fundamentalists over in Iraq and elsewhere. Those rigid, ruthless sorts are not what being a Muslim is all about, any more than, say, the so-called Christians who helped burn down Minneapolis and Kenosha and other places in the last few years have anything to do with most actual Christians. (The Christians who protested are fine. The ones who burned for the sake of destruction are not. We forget about the former because we have had to dwell on the latter in order to rebuild.)

I have an online friend, a doctor, who’s a proud Muslim woman. She lives in India. I’ve known her now for several years, while she’s been at university, then started medical school in earnest (from what it sounds like), to studying for boards (which sounds harrowing) and being a medical resident (which, like the US and the UK, consists of many hours of work for not that great of pay, and is exhausting).

Tajwarr, my friend, loves makeup, loves to dress up, does not wear a hijab (not in the pictures I’ve seen of her), and writes poetry. She has many gifts, including that of putting people at ease. She is unfailingly polite, and does her best to be cheerful with patients, family, and friends without losing one ounce of authenticity.

I admire her.

In India, where she lives, Muslims are being persecuted. Hindus, by far, have the upper hand there. And like anywhere else, the folks with the most seem to lord it over those with less. So the populous Hindus have made it harder for Muslims — an ethnic minority in India, I think — to enjoy being themselves and to enjoy their own culture, religion, music, etc.

I say all this to point out one, simple thing: You can’t put all people in a box. Not all Muslims. Not all Christians. Not all Neo-pagans. You just can’t stereotype people like that.

One of the folks I know, who I worked with on Hillary Clinton’s campaigns in 2008 and 2016, worked on behalf of Joe Biden in 2020. She is a Black woman. Very smart, able, all that. She knew Biden would not be perfect, but she worked for him anyway. Part of the reason for this might have been that Donald Trump signed a bill that raised the minimum age to smoke from eighteen to twenty-one. She felt that was no one else’s business, and that if you’re old enough to go to war, you’re old enough to smoke.

(Even though I don’t smoke, I agree with her.)

My friend has always smoked menthol cigarettes, such as Newports. But Biden’s FDA banned menthol cigarettes citing their “adverse affects on Black Americans.” (This was often the phrase used by journalists and TV analysts when this happened last year.) Menthol, you see, masks some of the harshness of the tobacco, and it apparently opens up additional nicotine receptors. (I have never smoked, so all I can say is apparently.)

At any rate, my friend was absolutely furious about this. She felt it’s her body, her choice. Alcohol is allowed in many flavors, and alcohol kills many more people than cigarettes.

She also was deeply unhappy, and remains deeply unhappy to this day, about how people who smoke get treated like second-class citizens. Being a smoker is now worse than being a drinker, and that’s just wrong.

I’m not saying any vice is good. But I have two vices of my own: lottery tickets, and diet soda. (Well, three if you add in Snickers bars.)

Most of us have at least one vice, and for most of the time, this vice is harmless or reasonably harmless. (Some folks, knowing that I am a plus-sized woman, probably would tell me that a Snickers bar is not harmless in my case. Too bad. I definitely agree with my friend regarding “my body, my choice.”) Those who drink in moderation are not shamed in the same way as those who smoke in moderation.

My late husband, and my late grandmother, and most of my grandmother’s family before her, were all smokers. My grandma lived to be 89 years old. My husband’s heart attacks were almost assuredly not caused by smoking (this from the ME at the time), though it probably didn’t help. Most of grandma’s family lived to be 75 and up…they drank, smoked, gambled, some of the men probably wenched, and they enjoyed life to the fullest until the day they died.

Look. I am asthmatic. Smoke and smoking can cause trouble for me. Michael, my husband, knew it, and did his best to smoke outside. The smell on his clothes was minor that way. He used breath mints and did his best to keep the nicotine taste out of his mouth so when we kissed, we had a better experience.

In short, he did his best to minimize the effects of smoking. Plus, he was trying hard to quit — he tried at least six times during our marriage (we only got two-plus years together as a married couple, remember, so this is actually rather impressive), and was down to only four cigarettes a day from a pack-and-a-half habit. (He could not use the patch because of his skin issues. He didn’t do well with the gum because of his dentures. And the only other option for him, nicotine water, was so foul that he could not stand it. I didn’t blame him.)

Therefore, I cannot and will not censure any smokers. And, quite frankly, I do not understand anyone who does unless they’re “virtue-signaling.” (Yes, me, a left-of-center more-or-less liberal person, is using that term.)

We all have faults. We all have vices. We all have “Achilles heels.”

Lording it over anyone because you do not like their legal vice is not just stupid, pointless and wrong. It’s also cruel. So if you’re someone who’s told yourself, a non-smoker, that smoking is evil and have forgotten all about how the cigarette companies did everything they could to keep people hooked by altering the levels of nicotine, etc. (look up the old “60 Minutes” episode if you don’t believe me), and have decided to blame the smoker rather than the cigarette company, you need to stop doing that.

Right now.

Moving Along…and Discussion about the Esquire “Best Fantasy” List

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Folks, the last few weeks at Chez Caffrey have been unusual, to say the least.

Somehow, I came down with a middle-ear infection. This has caused me a great deal of trouble with regards to moving around or doing much of anything, unless it’s of a mental nature. (Fortunately, as a writer and editor, most of the work I do is exactly that.)

I had two pressing edits along with several more that are urgent, and I didn’t want to say anything until those two most-pressing edits were done and “in the can.” (An aside: if our work on the computer is made up solely of electrical particles, can we actually say something is in the can anymore?)

Why?

Mostly, because I didn’t want my clients to think I was going to bail on them. But partly, I was conserving my strength and stamina to finish up the work I had to do, and to prepare for the next urgent edits. (There are three more on the table, and only one will be knocked out by the end of the weekend. The other two are longer and larger projects that I’ve devoted a good deal of time to in the past, but still require more from me before I can send them on to their authors.)

Anyway, the middle-ear infection has left me feeling weak, shaky, off-balance, and more than a bit nervous. I’ve never had this happen before, as usually I will get sinus infections or have asthma attacks or some sort of weird allergic reaction/response.

Fortunately, I have been able to think and work. And I am on the mend, finally, which is why I’m even talking about it today.

Otherwise, I wanted to mention the Esquire “50 Best Fantasy Books of All Time” list. (If you haven’t seen this yet, take a look after I’ve written the next part, and see if you agree with me.)

That half of them are books that don’t appeal to me or frankly aren’t SF&F at all (including the wonderful book CIRCE; it’s a great book, and I recommend that you read it, but it truly is not SF&F) is part of the problem. That many of these authors are not all-time greats is the rest of the problem.

Anne McCaffrey’s not on this list. Stephen R. Donaldson’s not on this list. David and Leigh Eddings aren’t on this list. Mercedes Lackey isn’t represented, either. Neither is Andre Norton. Nor is Marion Zimmer Bradley, Patricia A. McKillip, Ray Bradbury, Terry Pratchett, or Poul Anderson. (Edited to add: Where are Philip K. Dick, Philip Jose Farmer, and Roger Zelazny? Shouldn’t they all be there?)

And what about Margaret Atwood? Or Connie Willis?

The worst and most egregious contemporary writer missing from this list is Lois McMaster Bujold, who is a grand master of SF&F. (Hint: There are at least five more grand masters above on this list that were not represented at all.)

And if you’re going to mention contemporary SF&F authors, where’s Katherine Addison? Where’s Jacqueline Carey? Or the even heavier hitter, J.K. Rowling?

As for other authors I know and read regularly, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller aren’t on this list. (Arguably, the Liaden Universe books could probably be called fantasy by some, and I’d rather have something much closer to fantasy than Circe.) Rosemary Edghill isn’t on this list. Neither is Katharine Eliska Kimbriel.

So, you may be wondering which books I felt should be on there. Because I believe books should be able to stand the test of time, I have excluded anyone who hasn’t had a twenty- to twenty-five year career in SF&F. (If I went with writers who’ve been active, say, for ten years or thereabouts, I’d have some editorial clients to put on the list. And that isn’t exactly unbiased…)

At any rate, here are the books I’d put in my personal top fifty from the Esquire list linked to above (or at least the author):

Ursula K. LeGuin — their pick is A Wizard of Earthsea; mine is The Lathe of Heaven

Octavia E. Butler — Kindred

C.S. Lewis — their pick is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; mine is The Screwtape Letters

George R.R. Martin — A Game of Thrones

Susanna Clarke — Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

J.R.R. Tolkien — The Fellowship of the Ring

L. Frank Baum — Ozma of Oz (it’s hard to pick just one Oz book)

Robert Jordan — The Shadow Rising

Neil Gaiman — Stardust (I’d put his and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens on this list instead)

Friends of mine would agree with Brandon Sanderson’s selection on this list, and Gene Wolfe’s, and probably a few others. (Kelly Link is another fine choice.) I don’t disagree with these authors and their books as they’re interesting and worthy, but those are not the books I turn to most of the time. That’s why I didn’t add them into the mix.

So, I agree with nine of the authors and six of the choices they made for the self-same authors. I have no trouble with another three of the authors, and agree they should be represented somehow in the “best of” fantasy list.

But I’d personally add these:

Anne McCaffrey — The White Dragon (included in the omnibus The Dragonriders of Pern) and/or the Harper Hall YA trilogy (first book is Dragonsong)

Stephen R. Donaldson — A Man Rides Through (I’d not quibble with any of the novels about Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, either)

Katharine Eliska Kimbriel — Night Calls

Lois McMaster Bujold — Paladin of Souls, The Curse of Chalion, many more

Rosemary Edghill– Paying the Piper at the Gates of Dawn (a short story collection that’s currently out of print, but used copies are available), or anything else she’s ever written. (She has a wonderful new novella available in Dreaming the Goddess that I’m quite keen on.)

Mercedes Lackey– By the Sword, the Vanyel Trilogy, Oathbreakers, or the original Heralds of Valdemar trilogy featuring Talia (or better yet, all of them)

J.K. Rowling — Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (my personal favorite of the HP books)

Patricia C. Wrede — The Enchanted Forest Chronicles and/or Sorcery and Cecilia with Caroline Stevermer

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller — I Dare, Mouse and Dragon, or anything they’ve ever written

Edited to add:

Diana Wynne Jones — The Chronicles of Chrestomanci series (Volume 1 is here), and/or Hexwood (How did I forget her?)

Roger Zelazny — This Immortal

Philip K. Dick — The Man in the High Castle

Philip Jose Farmer — To Your Scattered Bodies Go (available in the omnibus Riverworld)

Andre Norton — Ice Crown (available in the omnibus Ice and Shadow), Forerunner Foray (available in the omnibus Warlock)

Poul Anderson — Brain Wave, Boat of a Million Years

Margaret Atwood — The Handmaid’s Tale

Ray Bradbury — Fahrenheit 451

Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth — The Space Merchants (not currently available in Kindle)

Connie Willis, Doomsday Book

All of the above authors are excellent. You can’t go wrong if you pick up their books. If you’re like me, you’ll read them again and again, too.

What are your favorite fantasy and/or SF&F novels? Did you agree with the Esquire list? Disagree with it? Partially agree but mostly are disgusted? Let me know in the comments!

Figure Skating’s Black Eye, 2022 Edition

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Folks, I’ve written about figure skating before. I love the sport. At it’s best, it can be both artistic and athletic; it also can transport in the same way as music, dance, or literature.

So I don’t enjoy writing posts like this. But it must be said.

Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva, who’s all of fifteen, failed a recent drug test before the Olympics started. However, this only came out in the past week.

After several days of dithering, the various places that debate such things — as a fifteen-year-old has less responsibility by rule, apparently, than an older person — have decided that she should still be allowed to continue to skate at the Olympics despite her failed drug test.

Now, Ms. Valieva is the best female skater in the world at the present time. She has a few quadruple jumps — four revolutions in the air after takeoff — and is also excellent artistically. She’s someone who doesn’t need to cheat, in other words, and when the word came out about her positive drug test, most people were shocked.

The drug she tested positive for is a heart medication. She’s fifteen and does not need this medication. Supposedly, taking it will give her greater endurance than someone who isn’t.

Have I mentioned yet that she doesn’t need to cheat?

Anyway, her coach, who I will not name as I am disgusted with her, is known for pushing her young athletes too hard. The young Russian skaters basically are used up in four or five years. They have multiple injuries and skate anyway. Some, including Julia Lipnitskaya, end up retiring in their teens with numerous bone breaks. Lipnitskaya herself, along with the bone breaks, also has apparently had depression and a serious eating disorder. (The heavier you are, the more difficult it is to jump. That’s the excuse given to force these young skaters to eat almost nothing; that it is true at base, but wrong as we all need to eat, just makes me even angrier.)

Quite a number of athletes, including former US figure skaters (and Olympians) Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski (herself a former Olympic gold medalist), have come out and said this decision is flat-out wrong.

See, Russia, in general, has had doping scandals before. That’s why Russia, the country, is not allowed to compete. Instead, it’s the “Russian Olympic Committee” that’s competing.

Same coaches. Same skaters. Different name.

And, unfortunately, the same old outcome, which is this: Ms. Valieva gets to skate, will almost certainly win the gold medal, and her other Russian compatriots — also very young, with quadruple jumps in their skating “arsenal” — will probably be second and third.

That is not right. That is not just. And it should not be allowed to stand.

It cheapens the sport of figure skating. It cheapens the entire Olympics.

And it does look, as track athlete Sha’Carri Richardson said today on CBS TV, as if there is a different standard for Caucasian athletes than Black ones. (She was held out of the Olympics for testing positive for marijuana. That’s not a performance enhancer in any way. She had extenuating circumstances in that her mother died, and she was grieving, and she smoked around that time. It didn’t matter; she was out of the Olympics.)

So, where is the justice here? I, for one, don’t see it.

I have sympathy for Ms. Valieva. She is young. And I’m sure that she didn’t cheat on purpose.

That said, she still cheated, and she should still be out of the Olympics.

Anything else is flat-out wrong.

Had a Covid-19 Scare, but I’m Fine

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Folks, last week I was preparing to play a concert with the Racine Concert Band. I was looking forward to the concert (which was held this past Saturday evening) as it was going to be the first time I’d played in a concert since the beginning of the pandemic.

However, my health did something weird. I ended up going in to urgent care, and they thought it was Covid-19. They tested me…

And I’m fine. I do not have Covid. (Whew!)

However, I still did not play the concert as I missed the two rehearsals beforehand due to the medical scare. I felt awful, missing out on the concert as I did.

That said, I did the best I could with the information I had. (Sometimes, adulting is hard.)

Right now, if you get a fever, or chills, or in my case, both, any reasonable person has to assume they have Covid until it’s proven otherwise. (Unless your state or country doesn’t have that much of a problem with Covid, of course. Right now, all of Wisconsin’s counties have a big problem with it.)

And yes, I’ve done everything right. I’ve gotten the two vaccinations. I’ve had the vaccination booster shot. I wear masks when I go anywhere outside of my car or my parents’ homes. (I have to take my rescue inhaler far more often with a mask on than without it, as I am asthmatic, but I still wear the masks as long as I can.)

Still. The point remains, I will not give someone else Covid if I can help it.

There are folks out there who do not believe Covid is that big of a deal. I have to say I don’t understand that. Even if you just — just! — see this as akin to a bad case of the seasonal flu, the seasonal flu can kill you. (It most often kills those with depressed immune systems — immunocompromised — or the very young or the very old, granted.)

As I’ve said all along, I hate wearing masks. I don’t know how much good a normal mask does. (A N-95 or a Korean N-94 is different, but I can wear them for even less time than a more normal medical-type mask.) But I do know that at the beginning of the re-opening after the first pandemic shutdown, two hairstylists (I think in the South somewhere) went to work not knowing they had Covid. They cut several people’s hair that day, and neither of them gave Covid to anyone else.

(That’s the main reason I keep trying to wear my mask. But I digress.)

Anyway, the point of this blog is that I do not have Covid. I am very, very glad not to have Covid. I hope I never do get Covid, because I’ve worried all along about my parents and friends, and I do not want to spread Covid to them or anyone else.

Have any of you had any issues with regards to Covid? Are you as worried about it as I am? If not, why not? (Aside from politics, that is. I still don’t know how politics got messed up in medical care.) Please tell me how you feel in the comments.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 31, 2022 at 6:50 am

A Quick Thursday Update…

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Folks, I figured I’d better write something to y’all today, as I’ve been quiet now for close to two weeks.

Longtime readers of this blog probably know what that means, but…there are usually two reasons I don’t blog. One is that I’m overwhelmed (with work, with life in general, or all of the above). The other is that I’m ill.

Unfortunately, in this case, it’s the latter reason. I am indeed ill.

The problem is, no one can figure out exactly what’s going on. The best guess is that I have some sort of untreated allergic reaction, so I saw an allergist earlier today. (Very thorough, competent doctor, too. I liked her.) She made several suggestions, and I am going to take them to heart.

In addition, she felt my asthma was not as controlled as it should be, so I now have a new medication to take that I hope will work better.

Overall, she felt the reason for me being ill has to do with being sick so often over the past year-plus with multiple (read: recurrent) sinus infections, so I don’t have the energy or stamina from that. Add in the allergy issues and my asthma not being as controlled as all that, and it’s added up to me being incredibly ill for about four months now.

She did request some blood work, and of course I had my blood drawn. (Fortunately, it was not a fasting blood draw, or I would’ve had to wait until tomorrow.)

I do feel heartened from seeing the allergist today. I really hope she’s right, and that if I do some commonsense things (like get enough sleep) in addition to the new meds, my energy level will rise soon and I’ll be able to take up all the threads of my life again. (I most especially want to play my saxophone and clarinet, as I haven’t played at all in months. But I also want to write, both music and words, and finish up some long-delayed stories and novels.)

For the moment, that’s all I know. But as it’s more than I knew prior to today, I will count it as progress and call it good.

What’s going on with you? Tell me about it in the comments…please?

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 18, 2021 at 6:48 pm

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When the Going Gets Tough…

with 8 comments

Folks, I wanted to stop by and let you all know that I’m starting to get a little better. I’m weak, somewhat dehydrated, and and extremely tired, but the symptoms of the food poisoning are finally gone.

As I said before, I think what happened is this: The Irish sausages I ordered were not fully cooked, as they were cold when they got to the table. Even eating the half-portion I ate was enough to put me down for the count for the past week.

So, now I am going to try to slowly ramp up again. I hope to do some writing (fiction included). I hope to do some editing. I also hope to play my sax and maybe my clarinet soon…there’s a concert scheduled for late January with the Racine Concert Band that I want to take part in, and I want to be ready to go before the first rehearsal for that starts in mid-January.

I don’t know how tough I am, mind, but I do know I’m committed, determined, and persistent.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s the only way to be.

Let me know how you’re doing in the comments.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 9, 2021 at 2:34 am

Aaron Rodgers, Covid-19, Personal Responsibility, and You: A Sunday Thoughts Post

with 15 comments

Folks, if you are a sports fan — or even if you’re not — and you live in the United States, you’re probably aware of the foofaraw around Aaron Rodgers. (I do like that word, foofaraw. Anyway, I digress.) He said when he reported to the Packers in August that he had been “immunized” against Covid-19, but he hadn’t actually been vaccinated. Instead, he had some sort of holistic treatment (also known as a homeopathic treatment) meant to raise his overall antibody count.

A few weeks ago, his team, the Green Bay Packers (the Wisconsin state-wide team, for lack of a better term; the Packers are also one of the most recognizable American football teams in the world), had a couple of their best wide receivers out due to Covid-19. One, Davante Adams, was vaccinated. The other, Allen Lazard, was not.

I say all this because we learned, at that time, that NFL players are treated differently depending on whether they’ve been vaccinated or not. Lazard had to miss a minimum amount of time, and could not be tested until that minimum time (ten days, I think) had passed, even though he was only listed as a “close contact” of Davante Adams and didn’t directly have Covid at the time. Whereas Adams, once he tested negative for Covid twice, would’ve been eligible to play. (There also was a scheduling hiccup where the Packers had an especially short week in that they were the Thursday night game of the week, which did not help anything. I mention this for completion/emendation more than anything else.)

So, this past week, Rodgers himself tested positive for Covid-19. Because he is not vaxxed, he has to sit out a minimum of ten days. This is due to an agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA (player’s association). At that point, if he tests negative, he’ll be all right to play again.

In the meantime, he’s had the monoclonal antibodies. (He said this on a 45-minute long talk show appearance.) He also took the controversial drug ivermectin, which is used to treat parasites, including some roundworm infections. There has been no proven benefit to ivermectin as of this writing with regards to Covid, but some swear by it.

Now, do I like it that Rodgers took ivermectin? No, I don’t. I think taking ivermectin for Covid is silly and stupid.

But it’s his life. His body. His choice. His responsibility.

Where I get more frustrated with Rodgers is that in not getting vaxxed, but saying he was (i.e., “immunized”), he skirted the truth. He plays a team sport where all 53 guys on the team are in close proximity during practices and games. Not being vaccinated meant he could spread Covid more easily than a vaxxed person (even though — and I know someone’s going to think of this — it certainly is possible for a vaccinated person to spread Covid also with some of the variants. The trick is, they should not be spreading as virulent of a variant. Try to say that five times fast. It’s not easy. But again, I digress.)

I think “your choice, your responsibility” ends when you can conceivably hurt someone else — a loved one, a personal friend, a co-worker — due to being unvaccinated.

Now, Rodgers is going to be protected from Covid for a time due to the monoclonal antibodies. He should not get it again for several months. By that time, if he wishes, he can get one of the easily available Covid shots. (He said he’s allergic to two, the Pfizer and Moderna.) The Johnson and Johnson shot was not available for a week or ten days in the summer, so that apparently unnerved Rodgers. (No one, yet, has asked Rodgers, who has plenty of money as he’s a multimillionaire, why he didn’t just hop on a plane to the UK and get the AstroZeneca vax that’s in use over there.)

I still think “tempest in a tea cup” here, for the most part, because Rodgers is a sports star. While he’s of a more intellectual bent than many football players, he’s still not a nuclear physicist. Nor is he a doctor, much less an infectious disease specialist.

What he is, as I think he’d admit, is an intelligent layman.

I think he did do research. I don’t know why it led him into what to me seems like a blind alley. But his error was more of omission than commission. That doesn’t make it right. But it may remind us all to pause, and think hard about who’s giving us advice about our health.

As Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett put it in a recent press event (my best paraphrase), you pick a health expert to tell you about the virus. You only pick a football expert like Rodgers to either play or explain football.

But I did mention you in the above title, and it’s time to get down to brass tacks.

The upshot, for you, with the Covid-19 vaccines is simple: Who are you around everyday? Are your loved ones immunocompromised? (Maybe they have to do kidney dialysis. Or they’re undergoing cancer treatment.) Can you safely be around them, masked or unmasked, for long periods of time if you haven’t had the vaccine yet? And if you don’t like or trust masks — many don’t, myself included (I wear them, but I definitely don’t like them) — are you willing to bet your loved ones’ lives in this matter?

That’s your basic risk/benefit calculation, right there. And it’s what I considered, myself, before getting my first shot of the Covid vaccine (Team Pfizer, if you must know). I knew I have weird allergies, and I told ’em right off the bat about them.

So if Rodgers is allergic, he has a reason not to get Pfizer and/or Moderna. (If he tried and had an allergic reaction, I mean.) But if he was worried about an allergy, as I was, all he had to do was sit there for a half-hour rather than the standard fifteen minutes after he got the shot, and see how he reacted. I know I did that both times, and I will be doing it again when I get the booster shot soon.

Anyway, what you need to know, this Sunday, is simple:

Make your best choices. Do your research. Be prepared to defend your choices, if need be. (That goes for the entirety of life, not just whether or not you get the Covid-19 vax.)

But don’t obfuscate about it, as the obfuscation in this case is what got Rodgers into trouble in the first place.

And for the love of little green apples, please stop putting sports stars, actors, musicians, and other public figures on pedestals. They’re like anyone else: fallible and mortal.

As we have just seen with Aaron Rodgers.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 7, 2021 at 3:13 am

And now…food poisoning?

with 7 comments

Folks, in my last blog I told you I’d been dealing with some ongoing issues for a couple of months. Mostly, it’s been my sinuses; there has been a recent suggestion of different allergies than I’m used to having, so I have to get an appointment with the allergist soon.

The one bit of good news I had was that I was going to see my friends from Colorado, who I haven’t seen in at least five-six years, while they drove through Wisconsin on their way back home from seeing family elsewhere.

Murphy’s Law, however, has bit me again, as the restaurant we chose to eat at gave me food poisoning.

Now, some of you are probably sitting out there going, “Barb, how do you know it was that restaurant?”

Simple. I was coming out of a migraine. I had eaten nothing the previous 24 hours, at all, save one sandwich while I was at my good friend’s in Racine (she came with and met my friends, and we all had dinner together). That sandwich could not have possibly given me food poisoning, as everything was at the proper temperature. (My friend is a very good cook, and she takes pride in that, as she should.) I’ve also had this particular sandwich many times (as it’s very good), and it’s never set me off before.

So, we went to this restaurant. I had Irish white sausages called “bangers,” as Michael used to make them. However, the way he made them — which was superlative — and the way this place made them (in beef broth, with veggies; oh, the horror!) was not anywhere close. Because of the way they were cooked, it was impossible to tell if they were cooked all the way through. And the food was slightly cold, which means those bangers were the most likely way I came down with food poisoning.

Most of us who cook at all — like me — know that if food is not hot when you get it, and it contains any type of sausage, be wary of it. Fortunately, I was wary, and I did not eat more than half of the meal.

Eating that half of the meal, though, has put me down for the count now for three and a half days.

That means no fiction writing has taken place. Fewer manuscripts have been looked at than I’d planned on, too. And I’ve had to go much more slowly than usual, as my concentration has been broken by having constant fevers and chills.

Before anyone asks, yes, I did go to the Urgent Care clinic. I was worried this might be a case of the flu as this was considered to be all wrong for Covid. (Thank the Goddess for that.) The nurse practitioner I saw said she’s seen no flu yet, and my symptoms were not the ones she’d expect. But she thought I was wise to go right in, because if it had been flu, they could’ve given me Tamiflu (something that will shorten a flu cycle; it also can be given only in the first two days of the flu’s onset, or it will not work well).

In a case of food poisoning, all you can really do is wait it out. Drink lots of water. Eat bland foods, for the most part. Get your rest. And live to fight another day.

So, now I’m waiting out the case of food poisoning. That obviously wasn’t on my bucket list for the year, but…I’ve no choice in the matter.

Once I feel well enough, I will be contacting the restaurant in question to let them know I had food poisoning. I don’t think anything will get done, but I do have to let them know.

Has anyone else reading this blog had a case of food poisoning? How long did it take to go away? When did you start feeling well again? Please tell me in the comments, if you have anything to share…as right now I definitely feel like I’m shouting into the void (or at least the wind tunnel) again.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 4, 2021 at 4:31 am

Another Day, Another…

with 2 comments

I figured I’d best drop a wee “bloglet” here, to let you all know I’m still alive.

While I’ve had many things that I’ve wanted to talk about, I’ve simply been running out of time lately. I finished one edit, and am working on several more. (As for most people, work comes before everything else.) I’ve also been dealing with my health. And the best guess any of the doctors I’ve seen has as to why I feel so lousy beyond the usual suspects (which include fibromyalgia) is that I may have an acute allergy of some sort.

Now, I’ve lived with a particularly bad bee sting/wasp sting allergy for years, so I know allergies are no joke. (Michael also had some allergies to egg whites, banana skins but not the bananas inside providing there was no skin or oil left on the banana, and tree nuts, so I’m aware of these issues as well.) I also get the “free and clear” laundry detergent, use the “free and clear” fabric softener (though I have found one of the Downy regular ones — the extra-large sheets — doesn’t set off any skin issues), and try to avoid things that give me indigestion on the off chance it may also be some sort of allergy. (Thus my avoidance of artichokes.)

So, next week I get to talk with the allergist’s office to see about setting up an appointment to be evaluated there.

I’m also taking a low-dose oral steroid (as the doctor feels my infection is gone, but everything remains inflamed in there), working to tolerance (oh, how I hate that phrase), and hoping I’ll regain enough energy soon to play my musical instruments as well as write fiction and poetry again.

I’m also looking forward to seeing some old friends over the weekend, as they’re passing through my neck of the woods on a driving trip. It’ll be good to see them, as I haven’t seen them in several years.

So, for the moment, I remain in a holding pattern, health-wise. I will try everything the doctor suggested, though, to get my sinuses to stop giving me fits…and hope that the allergist has some guidance for me (as I already take OTC allergy meds) that will do some good as well.

What’s going on with you and yours? Tell me about it in the comments! (That way I won’t feel like I’m shouting into the void again.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 30, 2021 at 2:36 am