Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Prescient observations’ Category

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!

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“Changing Faces,” the Fall Book Fair, and Transgender Men…

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Recently, at the Washington Post, I read an article about how transgender men have seen differences in how they are treated based on their outward appearance. Born in a woman’s body, and then becoming the male they feel themselves to be inside, causes them to see the world in a completely different way than others.

When I read this, it reminded me of my character Elaine Foster from CHANGING FACES.

Why? Well, here’s a quote from that article.

From Zander Keig, a trans man from San Diego:

Prior to my transition, I was an outspoken radical feminist. I spoke up often, loudly and with confidence. I was encouraged to speak up. I was given awards for my efforts, literally — it was like, “Oh, yeah, speak up, speak out.” When I speak up now, I am often given the direct or indirect message that I am “mansplaining,” “taking up too much space” or “asserting my white male heterosexual privilege.” Never mind that I am a first-generation Mexican American, a transsexual man, and married to the same woman I was with prior to my transition.

So, you’re the same person. You have only changed how you look, outwardly. And now, you’re accused of “mansplaining.” Or worse, “asserting (your) white male heterosexual privilege,” even when you aren’t anything of the sort (as Zander isn’t).

And Alex Poon (only 26 to Zander’s 52) says in this same article:

My voice has started cracking and becoming lower. Recently, I’ve been noticing the difference between being perceived as a woman versus being perceived as a man. I’ve been wondering how I can strike the right balance between remembering how it feels to be silenced and talked over with the privileges that come along with being perceived as a man. Now, when I lead meetings, I purposefully create pauses and moments where I try to draw others into the conversation and make space for everyone to contribute and ask questions.

What Alex seems to be doing is trying to strike a happy medium, but admits there are privileges here and that he’s not used to them.

portrait in gardenHow does this relate to my novel CHANGING FACES? Well, Elaine is transgender because she’s always felt wrong in her body. And yet, she’s also gender-fluid, so if she became male, what would happen to her? Would it be easier, harder, or what? And how would you be the same person — as you are the same soul — in a different body?

The way I solved this (and created more problems) was to put Elaine and her heterosexual boyfriend Allen in each other’s bodies due to a car accident. Now they’re both transgender, but as Elaine was deeply damaged due to early abuse and rape before she ever met Allen, she’s in a coma, talking with a higher being who may as well be an angel. (This being, Moe, is neither male nor female, and comes from a long line of Amorphous Masses. So Moe can be anything Moe wants to be…more or less.)

This article in the Post reminded me that the person you are stays, regardless of how you are perceived. But that perception of who you are can change everything for you on the outside…and that can be a gift, or a curse, depending. (One of the other men, who’s African-American, has said it’s much harder to be a man in some ways than a woman, due to how African-American men are treated by the police.)

I had an interesting time with Allen, once he ended up in Elaine’s body. He still wanted to be with Elaine, no matter what body she was in (providing she wakes up from the coma, of course). But being seen as a beautiful woman rather than a geeky heterosexual male was a real problem for him; he’d never had to worry before about half the things he now must, and it all but precipitates a nervous breakdown in the poor man.

My hope in writing CHANGING FACES was that people would maybe understand each other a little better after reading this. But I especially hoped, as a woman, that other women would read about Allen’s struggles and feel his plight…and be able to put themselves in Allen’s shoes. (That I hoped a few would do this for poor Elaine, too, was a given. But don’t forget about Allen, as they come as a set.)

Yesterday, Viviana MacKade’s Fall Book Fair (which I’ve talked about all week) finished up with several young adult and new adult books, including CHANGING FACES (which counts as new adult as we’re dealing with college students). All of them are ninety-nine cent e-books. And at least one of them may tickle your fancy, even if my own quirky take on LGBTQ relationships does not.

(Though I hope it’ll do some good for someone out there. Or I’d not have written it at all.)

So do take in the Fall Book Fair, even though it’s now — technically, at least — over. The post is still there. The books are still there. And there are fifty books from the entirety of the week to choose from, all priced at just ninety-nine cents.

Why Can’t We Communicate?

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been quite frustrated, I will admit.

It seems like the world has forgotten how to communicate. Left can’t talk with right, centrists like me trying to find common ground are ostracized, and it seems impossible to just talk with someone — even with the assumption we’ll disagree about nearly everything, but civilly — most of the time.

I don’t know why we can’t communicate. And it bothers me.**

The cultural assumption in the United States used to be that anyone could say anything (except yell “fire” in a crowded theatre, of course), and we’d agree they could do this. So long as people were peacefully protesting, that was just fine.

That’s what we are supposed to be about, in America. Free speech, yes, and peaceful protests, yes.

But we’re now looking at a scenario I’d never envisioned.

Instead of people agreeing to disagree, we’re mostly staying in crisis mode and assuming our neighbors will hate us unless they agree with us in every respect. (Which, by the way, is impossible, but I digress.) And the threat of violence seems so large, even the current President of the US has talked about it — though mostly in his terms, and because he seems afraid he will lose his grip on the power he has.

I live in a “purple” state. We are split down the middle, more or less, between people on the left and people on the right. Centrists, who just want to get the potholes filled and work out the remaining problems civilly and non-violently, are present, but keeping their heads low ’cause centrists are the only ones who get yelled at by all.

(“Blessed be the peacemakers,” indeed. But again, I digress.)

So, if there’s going to be violence if one side or the other doesn’t get their way, my home state of Wisconsin seems a likely target.

I don’t have any answers, mind you. But I do at least know what the right questions are, and the first one, as I said before, is “Why can’t we communicate?” Learning how to civilly disagree, without violence, used to be the first thing people learned, after all. So why is it that we can’t seem to remember that now?

————

**I do hope that people will stop getting so upset that they can’t even talk with their neighbors and/or friends about the things that matter. Politically, you can disagree with someone, but that doesn’t mean personally, morally, spiritually, or ethically that you disagree…and yet, we’ve become so tribally oriented for some reason, it seems like if you disagree at all, you’re just a non-person.

I find that so upsetting, I don’t have words to describe it. Thus this post.

Birthdays and Funerals

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Folks, on Friday, I went to my uncle Carl’s funeral. And Saturday was my birthday.

To say I feel strange at the confluence of events is understating the point. I never do all that well with birthdays anyway, as I am more like my late husband in this than not (he who famously celebrated “unBirthdays”). And today, my plans were simple.

But I was wrung out from everything else. My plans got changed; I had to rest, at home, and think, at home, and deal with the consequences of being alone, at home.

Anyway, my uncle Carl’s funeral is more important than this, so I will tell you about that instead…as he was a retired policeman, there was an honor guard around the casket until the service started. Three policemen were guarding it; two at each side, one to rotate in and out so the others could rest a bit. (Standing in one place like that is not easy.) The way they rotated in and out was like an elaborate ballet; the third officer would come up, salute the casket, turn on his heel, turn to the side, and the officer being relieved would come forward. Then the relieving officer would take the first person’s place…I’d never seen anything like that before.

Note that Carl was not much for pomp and circumstance. But I think he’d have appreciated his much younger colleagues doing this for him, even so.

There also was a 21-gun salute as Carl was a military veteran. (The young kids at the funeral were scared.) And I saw two young military women first drape the flag over Carl’s casket, then re-wrap the flag and hand it to one of my cousins, thanking my cousin gravely for my uncle’s military service. (My late husband was also a military vet, but the flag came in the mail already wrapped, with a letter from then-President Bush’s office thanking Michael for his service and, I suppose, me for being Michael’s wife.)

Carl was 88, and he’d outlived my aunt Laurice (his wife) by a little over a year. It’s hard to realize they’re both gone now, though as long as we remember them, at least a small part of them lives on. (Plus, my aunt and uncle had grandchildren, and even a few great-grands. Time marches on and all that.)

The last year or so, Carl was in and out of the hospital, and was in a nursing home. He probably didn’t enjoy that overmuch, but the folks who took care of him were smitten by his remaining charm and by how he approached life. (Even as he was dying — he had Parkinson’s, and it was at a late stage — he could still charm the socks off people if he wanted.) He may not have remembered entirely who he was at that point, but he was still the same generous-hearted person he’d always been, even to the last.

My personal view of my aunt and uncle? They came to a lot of my concerts, when I was young. They went to my high school graduation, and my aunt went to my first marriage. When I returned to Wisconsin after my late husband died in 2004, they were among the first to comfort me.

They were kind people. Smart, thoughtful, interesting…they lived their Christian faith in a way most others can’t seem to figure out.

It’s partly because of them that I kept trying, even as I was laid low by my late husband’s too-early passing. They were unafraid of my deep grief, and they were willing to listen to my memories of my husband. Carl even said to me that as fun-loving as Michael seemed to be, there would be no way Michael would want me to feel this bad for many years after his passing. (I think that is true, but my mind had its own ideas.)

Anyway, it does feel weird to be officially another year older. My aunt and uncle are gone. My husband is gone. My best friend is gone. My grandma is gone. Some of my other good friends over the years have dropped by the wayside, too, and I feel terrible about that even though I don’t know how to repair what became broken.

I’m fortunate that I do have family left. Good friends left. And a strong mind, a willing heart, and at least a dab of creativity here and there to make things a wee bit better.

I love them, and they love me, even if they don’t always understand me. (Well, I don’t always understand others, either. Maybe love transcends that in some way. I’m not sure.)

So, I’ll keep going, and remember those who’ve gone before me. And do my best to honor them, and their memories, all the days of my life.

Because really, what else can I do that’ll do any good?

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 19, 2018 at 12:06 am

Yes, We Need Freedom of the Press

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Folks, today is a day for action. As a writer, I feel it’s important to let you know that hundreds of newspapers have written and published editorials about the importance of the freedom of the press, due to constant verbal battering by President Donald J. Trump calling any news he dislikes “fake news.” (If you want to know more about it, take a look at the New York Times editorial from today, and then click on a few of the associated publications that are listed. And those aren’t all of them; those are just the ones the Times knows about, as far as I can tell.)

See, the 45th President of the United States complains that all news is fake. Or at least all news that he doesn’t like must be fake. And he constantly proclaims this from the highest mountaintop, letting everyone know he hates the press, he hates everything they say (unless they fawn over him, of course, as they often do on Fox News’ morning programs), and that supposedly the press is “the enemy of the people.”

Um, no, Mr. President. They aren’t.

As a writer, I want you to know where I stand on this.

We need the First Amendment to hold, and as such, we absolutely must have freedom of the press to operate as they will, to find out what they can, and to hold the powerful accountable. (Is that emphatic enough? Do I need to add emojis? GIFs? Frowny faces? Or will this do?)

(Moving on…)

I’ve written for a few newspapers in the past. (Two college papers, and freelance articles in a few other places, to be exact.) We took what we did seriously. We researched. We wrote. We edited. We checked our facts. And then we wrote and edited some more…yes, sometimes errors were still made, but we did our best to correct them. (Something President Trump doesn’t seem too worried about doing, if you ask me. But I digress.)

As today’s Kenosha News‘ editorial put it (this being the closest paper to me that’s taking part in the nationwide effort; my hometown paper, the Racine Journal-Times, did not, which shames me):

Presenting news that you disagree with is not “fake news.” We work hard to inform, serving as watchdogs of government and institutions, while also celebrating the good in the community. This has been going on for decades.

Absolutely correct. And without watchdogs, what would we learn except spin, spin, and more spin?

Here’s why we need the free press: They find stuff out everyone needs to know when the bigwigs in state, local, or federal government (or, perhaps, the very, very wealthy corporations) don’t want anyone to find out.

How would we have learned about big problems that led to the meltdown of Three Mile Island’s nuclear reactor without the press? (Wouldn’t the government have just spun everything, and said everything was fine?) How would we have learned about the Flint water crisis, and all the problems with the pipes, without the press? (Especially as the Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, did his best to obfuscate and “happy talk” the problems away until they got so big, they had to be dealt with publicly? Not that they’re over by any stretch, but at least we know about them now.) How would we have known at all about the problems of Senator Joseph McCarthy (who was from Wisconsin), if not for the press? (Wouldn’t Senator McCarthy have continued his reign of terror, accusing people of being Communists willy-nilly, and ruining even more people’s lives, reputations, and livelihoods thereby?)

And those are just three examples. There are many more. (For my conservative friends, think about how Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky would’ve been covered up if there were no journalists. Linda Tripp could’ve spoken until she was blue in the face, but if there was no one to publish what she had to say, other than the folks in her limited circle, who else would’ve known?)

This is why I urge you to please remember that the press is not the “enemy of the people,” no matter who says it, no matter how many times that person says it.

And start thinking about why someone who holds the highest office in the US of A keeps nattering on about “enemies of the people,” hm? Because shouldn’t he have bigger fish to fry, like North Korea? Or better yet, trying to make sure hackers don’t shut down our power grid in the middle of winter?

———–

P.S. And yes, dammit, the Russia investigation needs to be fully investigated, if for no other reason than to find out once and for all what happened. We need to know.

And if nothing happened, well, we need to know that, too. (I wait for facts. But the way this President has behaved, including his atrocious behavior in Helsinki alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin, makes me wonder just what he’s trying to hide. Surely I can’t be the only one?)

Thoughts on Forgiveness

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It’s Sunday, so it’s time for another bit of reflection…enjoy.

The topic today is deceptively simple: How do you forgive, especially when you’ve been badly hurt by someone’s actions (or, perhaps, deliberate inaction)?

I’ve thought a lot about this over the years. Because when you refuse to forgive someone else, you’re potentially holding your hurts way too close to you. And those hurts can poison you, if you let them; at best, they hold you back and make you less than what you need to be.

The thing is, how do you forgive someone who either doesn’t ask, won’t ask, or can’t ask you for your forgiveness?

I don’t know the answer to this, and I wish I did.

My husband Michael told me any number of times that it’s impossible to fully forgive someone if you’ve not been asked for forgiveness. While I agreed with him at the time, and still mostly agree with his assertion now, I think it’s better to try — and, potentially, fail — to forgive someone, even if he can’t or won’t ask.

“Ah, but you didn’t say anything about someone who doesn’t ask!” you cry.

That’s because I am still working on that particular problem.

Someone who can’t ask, or won’t ask, is someone who fully realizes that problems have occurred between you, nine times out of ten. So there is an awareness there of wrongdoing, or at least of a significant disagreement that led to a major falling out. But someone who doesn’t ask may be willfully ignorant of what he or she has done, and that willful ignorance will get in the way of anything you try to do on the forgiveness front.

The reason Michael and I talked about this issue with regards to forgiveness is because we had some folks we knew who would make the same mistakes, over and over again, ask forgiveness, and then go out and make the same mistakes again and not care about hurting the same people. They felt they could ask for forgiveness over and over, and that they should automatically be granted forgiveness, without any work on their part, or any true remorse, or any acknowledgment of the pain and suffering they’d caused over the years.

That sort of person does not deserve forgiveness, at least until some hard thought goes into why this pattern repeats over and over again, and effort is made to reduce — or better yet, eliminate — that pattern by the person in question.

I do think most people realize that they will make mistakes. (I know I’ve made my share.) And that sometimes, those mistakes cannot be undone; even if forgiven, the hurt is there, and will always be there, unless both people work to eliminate that pain and figure out how to deal with each other on a more even footing.

So, forgiveness. It’s tough. Sometimes you can’t do it unless someone asks. And even then, you may be unready to forgive, or perhaps unwilling…sometimes, as I’ve said before in this blog (and elsewhere), all you can do is admit that you can’t forgive and leave it up to the Deity.

But I do think you should try, especially if asked. Because holding unnecessary pain inside will poison you, and no one needs that.

What are your thoughts on forgiveness? Share ’em in the comments, and let’s discuss!

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 5, 2018 at 3:02 am

Why Friendship Is Important

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Some days, it’s hard to get by. The world seems like it’s gone crazy. Politics make no sense. Current events show that people are overstressed, overstrained, and are getting into arguments–some deadly–seemingly at the drop of a hint.

It’s on days like that I definitely need the help of my friends. (Hey, it wasn’t just the Beatles who believed they’d get by, providing they had the help of their friends.)

Why? Well, they help keep me grounded, for one…for another, I value their perspectives, their voices, and themselves so much, it takes me out of my own head and makes me realize I’m not all alone in the world.

To me, being someone’s friend means more than “I care about you.” It means, “I care, so I’m going to tell you what I can. Show you what I can. Help you all I can.”

Anything less than that is not enough.

Now, are there different levels of friendships? Sure. You have folks you’re just getting to know, you have folks you’ve known a long time, and you have folks somewhere in between that continuum.

But with all of them, the point remains: if I care, I will do everything I possibly can do to show that I care. And that means if they have a problem, I listen and try to help. If they have a success, I rejoice with them. If they are frustrated, I let them vent; if they are buoyant, I allow myself to be lifted up by them, even if it’s been a horrible day on my end.

See, you have to try to see the other person’s viewpoint, or you’re not truly a friend.

Will my friends and I have differences of opinion? You’d better believe it. But we’ll at least try to agree to disagree because that is what friends do.

(No, they aren’t clones of you. If they are, you’re doing it wrong.)

Lately, I’ve been battling a great deal of frustration. My friends know this. They try to give me hope, or at least give commiseration, understanding, and support…they listen, they empathize, they care, and they make a huge difference thereby.

But I’ve also had to come to the realization — one I truly didn’t want to come to, mind — that there are some people in this world who will profess friendship, but honestly do not mean it. Or they maybe mean it some of the time, but not all of the time, and when the chips are down, they will not listen, they will not help, they will not empathize, and they will not understand.

There’s nothing I can do about people like that. The only thing I can do is remove myself from their consequences, and keep on going, with the friends who’ve proven true and trustworthy by my side.

So, on this Sunday morning, ask yourself the following question:

How can I be a better friend today? (I ask this question of myself all the time.)

Then, when you come up with an answer, go ahead and do whatever you need to do to be that better person.

Because you can choose to do better. You can be that better person, living up to the Golden Rule and treating people the way you, yourself, want to be treated.

And when you make mistakes, as you inevitably will?

Admit to them. (Even when it’s hard.) Apologize for them. (Even when it’s almost impossible.) And be determined to do better, and at least make different mistakes the next time.

That way, your friendship can go forward. And that way, your mistakes won’t weigh you down forever, either…so it’s a win/win.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 15, 2018 at 2:06 am