Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Prescient observations’ Category

Memorial Day for Sale: NFL Teams Take Money to ‘Honor’ the Military

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Is Memorial Day truly for sale?

It sure seems that way, after finding out that 14 NFL teams have actually taken money to “honor” military veterans — including my own favorite team, the Green Bay Packers.

I found out about this last Friday (May 22, 2015) by watching Keith Olbermann’s ESPN2 show. As quoted from the website PoliticsUSA.com:

In a lengthy monologue on Friday’s broadcast of ESPN2′s Olbermann, host Keith Olbermann took NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to school over the recent revelation that the National Football League has taken millions of dollars from the US military to promote the armed forces of this country. Over the past few years, it has been estimated that the NFL has received $5.4 million since 2011 to ‘honor’ members of the military at games and other events. As Olbermann pointed out, the main issue isn’t that the league took money, but that it pretended that it was honoring the soldiers out of true patriotism rather than love of money.

This disturbs me for more than one reason.

First, veterans of the armed forces deserve to be treated well without teams being paid to do so.

Second, that teams have been pretending they’re doing this out of the goodness of their nonexistent hearts rather than some sort of business-oriented motivation is incredibly hypocritical.

It is especially upsetting because fans are expected to be both patriotic and uncritical of the teams they follow. So when we see teams giving what surely look to be deserving shout-outs to serving military members (or honorable veterans), we think it’s genuine.

We don’t expect these “Hometown Heroes” shout-outs to be merely a matter of public relations.

But they are. And that’s wrong.

Olbermann isn’t the only high-profile person angered by this behavior. Arizona’s two United States Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, are also appalled. In an article from the Washington Post, McCain was quoted as saying:

“I think it’s really disgraceful that NFL teams whose profits are at an all-time high had to be paid to honor our veterans,” he said Tuesday (via ESPN)..

Agreed. (To the Nth power.)

Taking money in order to salute these real hometown heroes is wrong. Just ask U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, as quoted in the Washington Post article:

“You go to a game and you see a team honoring ‘Hometown Heroes,’ and you think it’s some sort of public service announcement, that the team is doing it out of the goodness of their heart,” Flake told ESPN on Monday. “Then you find out it’s paid for? That seems a little unseemly.”

This, right here, encapsulates why I’m so steamed.

Look. According to Olbermann (see his YouTube rant here), the Green Bay Packers took $600,000 from the Department of Defense for this practice.

But even if the Packers hadn’t taken any money, I’d still be upset.

As a fan, I’ve always seen military members get shout-outs. They are feted, get tickets to games, often are highlighted on the scoreboard, and the impression is that the teams are doing this because it’s the right thing to do.

Sure, it’s all public relations. We know this, deep down inside.

But we don’t expect that teams would actually be crass enough to require payment.

That these 14 NFL teams have done so is truly shameful. A recent editorial at Jacksonville.com said:

…the Department of Defense and 14 NFL teams deserve boos over revelations that the federal agency paid the clubs $5.4 million over a three-year period to feature military members during games. According to the Defense Department and the 14 teams, the payments were merely part of mutually agreed “sponsorship deals” designed to promote the military in a flattering, high-profile manner. But in truth, the deals were simply “crass” and “disgraceful,” as Sen. John McCain — a military hero who bravely survived captivity during the Vietnam War — so aptly put it.

(Preach it, brothers and sisters.)

Why the Packers ever thought it a good idea to take money to salute the military makes no sense.

NFL teams make money hand-over-fist. They do not need to take money from the Department of Defense or anyone else to salute the hard-working men and women who comprise the United States military.

That they did was absolutely reprehensible.

******
P.S. Because it’s come out that 14 NFL teams have taken money to salute soldiers, it makes me wonder…are teams in Major League Baseball also taking money for this practice?

Have the Milwaukee Brewers actually taken money over the years to salute these “Hometown Heroes” in order to put them on the big scoreboard in centerfield?

I sincerely hope the Brewers haven’t.

Milwaukee Brewers Chatter: Will Smith Gets an 8-Game Suspension

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Folks, I’ve been head-down in my final edit for A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, so I am a bit behind-hand in discussing what’s going on with the Milwaukee Brewers lately.

Let’s rectify that.

A few days ago (on Thursday, May 21, 2015), Brewers reliever Will Smith came into a game against the Atlanta Braves and had something shiny on his forearm. This substance was something to help him better grip the ball on a cold and somewhat windy day, and many pitchers use it for exactly that. But they don’t put it openly on their arm; they attempt to conceal it.

Smith, because he did not conceal this substance, got thrown out of the baseball game after Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez complained. And Smith was irate.

After the game, Smith answered some questions from reporters (this was shown on Fox Sports Wisconsin’s postgame show). Smith said he’d put that substance (identified as a mix of sunscreen and rosin) on his arm in the bullpen to help with his grip. He said he wanted to wipe it off, but forgot…and then he got thrown out. Smith pointed out that many pitchers do this, and they do not get thrown out.

On Friday, Smith was suspended by Major League Baseball for eight games for using this illegal substance.

Of course Smith is appealing the suspension, because both Smith and the Brewers management think that eight games is too long, considering the cold weather and the fact that Smith is a relief pitcher. (Why does the last part matter? Well, a starter who’s suspended for 10 games misses two starts. But a reliever who misses eight games misses eight potential opportunities to pitch.)

Smith is allowed to keep pitching until his appeal is heard (probably sometime early next week).

What do I think of all this as a Brewers fan? I think Smith was at best absentminded, at worst incredibly foolish, to have that substance openly on his arm. But I don’t blame him for wanting to get a better grip on the ball considering the conditions, especially as the Brewers have had several players hit in the head this year — most notably Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura.

(Of course, Smith hit a batter anyway. So I don’t know what good that substance actually did him. But I digress.)

Ultimately, I think the suspension is likely to be reduced on appeal. It’s possible MLB could reduce it by a couple of games, maybe even three…which will leave Smith with a five- or six-game suspension rather than the current length of eight games.

Let’s hope that Smith can use his impending time off wisely. (Maybe he’ll study up on just how to properly conceal the same substance so he’ll not get thrown out of the game next time. Or am I being too cynical?)

Whither Writing, or, How to Stop Getting in Your Own Way

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Folks, I keep meaning to write this little bloglet about writing, and time keeps slipping away.

Why? Well, I’m still ensconced in my final edit of A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE. Were my hands a bit better — I’ve been dealing with a flare-up of my carpal tunnel syndrome for the past few months — it would’ve been done by now.

So I thought to myself today, “Why am I judging myself by other people’s standards?”

Writing is an individual pursuit. Anyone who writes knows this. We all have different styles of writing, different ways of writing, and different habits away from writing, all of which adds up to one thing: we are individuals, doing individual pursuits.

Before you say it…I know this is obvious. But sometimes, you must point out the obvious.

Especially when you tend to forget about it, as most of us do.

So here’s my thought: We are all individuals, right? So why do we try to judge our writing progress by anyone else’s standards?

I know, I know. There are some standards that seem irrefutable.

But if I try, say, to judge what I’m doing by what my friends are doing, I’m going to lose.

Then again, if they judge themselves by what I’m doing, they might lose, too. Especially as I don’t know what their standards are; only they do.

Look, folks. You have to judge yourself solely by what you do. And you have to allow yourself to be yourself: an individual voice doing individual things in an individual way.

That’s how you stop getting in your own way, as a writer or in life.

Think about it.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 9, 2015 at 12:42 pm

Bruce Jenner, Gender Identity, and You

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Last night, Bruce Jenner sat down with Diane Sawyer and discussed his lifelong struggles with gender identity and self-acceptance. He said this will be the last time he speaks as Bruce (with the subtext that this also will possibly be the last time he accepts the male pronoun), and said that inside, he’s always felt like “She” (that’s the only name he has for his female self).

Or in other words, Bruce Jenner is a transgendered individual. Inside, where it matters, Jenner is female. And apparently has known it for a long time, despite being married three times and siring six children.

What Jenner discussed most was his difficulty in accepting himself. Early on, he knew he wasn’t the same as other boys. Instead, he identified more with the girls. But he pushed that aside, became a well-known athlete, and did his best to celebrate his masculinity instead.

Because that’s who he was on the outside.

But who he was on the inside was far different. And he had to really struggle to figure himself out.

Being who you are is a powerful thing, you see. But first, you have to accept yourself for who you are before you can embrace it. Being in the public eye, as Bruce Jenner has been for decades, is likely to make that struggle for self-acceptance much more difficult. And so he intimated to Diane Sawyer.

All of this is relevant, topical, and may actually help to bring about a dialogue about sexual identity, gender issues, and how people come in all gender varieties as well as various shapes, sizes, colors and creeds.

However, what I’m already seeing online is a bit worrisome. It seems that some commentators are focused on the more salacious aspects of Bruce Jenner’s lifelong struggle — his three marriages and his six children. They again are only seeing the outward aspect of Jenner, or what he’s shown to date as his outward aspect, anyway…and are discounting the person who talked to Diane Sawyer entirely.

And that completely misses the point.

Whatever name Bruce Jenner decides to use from here on out, whatever gender he identifies with, the person inside — the soul, if you will — is exactly the same.

That’s what Jenner was trying to tell Diane Sawyer.

Now, how can you learn from Bruce Jenner’s struggles?

Somehow, some way, you need to learn to accept yourself. Warts and all, you are a unique individual, and you bring something to the table that no one else has. Your experiences matter, you matter, and you need to remember that.

We all have our differences inside, you see. We all struggle to become our authentic selves, though most don’t have to do it in the public eye like  Jenner.

So if you feel like no one understands you, and no one ever will, you are not alone. Because most of us — if not every single last one of us — has thought that at least once in our lives.

Remember, the most important thing is that you understand yourself.

“But Barb,” you protest. “People aren’t even giving me a chance! They think I am something I’m not, because I look different than I am…remember Leelah Alcorn?”

Yes, I remember Leelah.

My point is that you have to accept yourself, whoever and whatever you are, and be confident in that self. It takes time to do this. (It took me until I was well into my thirties to accept all aspects of myself, for example.) But you should do your best to persevere, because if you give yourself time, you will find at least a few people who like and understand you for who you are.

Because you also will like and understand them for who they are.

Remember, we’ve all faced many of the same struggles in trying to form some idea of who we are. Though having a gender identity that does not match your outward physical self certainly complicates things, it isn’t the only reason that you can be confused.

(If it were, psychiatrists would have far less work to do. But I digress.)

So if you have someone in your life who has something different about him or her — whether it’s religion, politics, race, creed, gender identity or anything else — what I want you to do is simple:

Embrace that person’s diversity.

Don’t shun it.

Anything less is, quite frankly, uncivilized.

Driver, Bystander, Shot and Killed in Milwaukee After Trying to Save Baby that Ran Into Traffic

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Folks, I have rarely been this angry over anything in my life. But this story, of a man, Ricky Chiles, who shot and killed a driver, Archie Brown, Jr., and his own nephew, Rasheed — all of fifteen years of age — because Brown had accidentally run over two-year-old Damani Terry after the little boy had run into the street is absolutely horrifying.

In this case, the driver, Mr. Brown, was described as “distraught” by several news reports here in Milwaukee (including at WITI Channel 6 and the channel I linked to, WTMJ Channel 4). He stopped and apparently attempted to revive little Damani. And the little boy’s uncle, Rasheed, also came out to try to see if there was anything either one of them could do to save Damani’s life. But as they were on the ground trying to figure out what was going on, the uncle of Damani, Mr. Chiles, came out and shot Mr. Brown — the driver — to death. In the process, he also gravely wounded his own cousin, Rasheed.

Then, of course, Mr. Chiles fled.

Look. As a licensed driver, I have seen many children run into the street before. I’ve always been able to swerve around them or stop before I’ve hit the child. Occasionally, I’ve waited until a parent or guardian can get there to make sure the child is in safe hands before I drive onward again. And I’d be surprised if anyone in the United States who drives a car — much less any driver in the known world — hasn’t had the same exact experiences.

Little kids don’t know that much about the world yet, you see. They have to be supervised for their own protection. Yet parents and family can sometimes lose track of their energetic little ones; it happens all the time. It doesn’t mean the parents or other family members are neglectful; it just means the little kids are so energetic, they can momentarily escape.

And that momentary escape is all it takes, sometimes, for a two-year-old to wander into the street. That’s what happened to little Damani Terry.

Words cannot express how angry I am over this tragic chain of horrifying events.

I said this on Twitter earlier today, but I’m going to reiterate it now: If you see an accident like this, call 911. Do not take the law into your own hands.

No matter how angry you are, call 911.

No matter if it’s another family member who’s lying gravely wounded in the street, call 911.

This did not have to happen. For all I know, that little boy might’ve been saved if 911 was called right away. But even if Damani was already dead at the scene, the other two — the driver, Mr. Brown, and the nephew, 15-year-old Rasheed — should not have been killed over this. Most especially as they were both trying, by all accounts, to save the little two-year-old’s life.

So please. For the love of all you hold dear, do not take up a shotgun and kill anyone after a car accident. Instead, call 911 and let the law handle it.

That’s what we pay taxes for.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 15, 2015 at 7:35 pm

Monday Inspiration: How “The Grit Factor” Can Work For You

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Recently, I read “The Grit Factor” by Bob Carney in Golf Digest. “The Grit Factor” talks about many qualities that are needed for self-improvement, including mental toughness, resilience, and a willingness to work on all parts of your game — not just the easy stuff that you already know you can do, but the toughest things, too.

After I read this, I had one of those “aha!” moments similar to when I read The Inner Game of Tennis years ago. “The Grit Factor” has many of the same precepts, to wit:

  1. The real struggle is inward, with yourself, rather than outward against other players.
  2. Your principal obstacles are self-doubt and anxiety; once you can get a handle on those, or at least are prepared to deal with them, you can concentrate better on what you’re doing.
  3. You must believe that everything you do, no matter how long it takes, leads toward your goals.

Mind, there’s a lot more going on with “The Grit Factor” than that, but those principles seemed to make the most sense in a writing and editing context.

Consider that writers spend a great deal of time lost in thought, working either outwardly or inwardly on our works-in-progress. Because we don’t have a way to measure how well we’re doing at any given time, it can be easy to give in to self-doubt (“Is what I’m doing worth anything?”) or anxiety (“Will releasing my next book make any difference?”). So it seems obvious that managing these things is essential…or at least acknowledging these things exist could be beneficial.

Why?

Well, if you think that you’re the only writer on the face of the Earth who sometimes struggles with anxiety or self-doubt, it’s easy for that self-doubt or anxiety to stay inside you. Internalized, it sabotages your creative process at a deep level, and it can be hard to get away from that.

What I’ve found that works for me is to admit that yes, I’m anxious about certain things. (For example, right now I’m worried about how long it’s taking me to go over my final edit and come up with a revised first chapter for my second book, A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE.) But so long as I’m making any progress, even if it’s very slow and I can’t necessarily always see it, I have to count that as a win.

Providing I can admit that I’m nervous, I’m able to do a great deal more than when I try to shut it off and just refuse to talk about it. And that’s something I learned way back when I first read The Inner Game of Tennis.

Mind, that doesn’t mean “everything is awesome” (hat tip to The Lego Movie) when it comes to writing. There is a need for honest criticism. Without that, you can’t improve. (“The Grit Factor” discusses how just giving people ego-gratification all the time doesn’t help, though the author puts it a completely different way.) But you don’t need to beat yourself up while you’re working your heart out to improve, either.

If you take away one thing from today’s post, please remember this: As I’ve said before, writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. Be resilient, be persistent, don’t give up, and keep working on your weakest areas.

That’s the best way to win, as a writer or at life.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 9, 2015 at 6:43 am

Why Leelah Alcorn’s Suicide Matters

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Only rarely do I find it necessary to talk about a previously unknown individual’s suicide, but the death of Leelah Alcorn (born Joshua Ryan Alcorn), 17, has touched me deeply.

Leelah, you see, was transgendered. Apparently her parents, especially her mother, did not like this. At all.

And that is upsetting, for more than one reason. Parents should love their children as they are, not as they want them to be –whether someone is heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered, that person deserves to be loved by his/her parents. Period.

Unfortunately, Leelah Alcorn did not feel that love. And because of that, she committed suicide.

Why has her death touched me? Partly because of her suicide note on Tumblr, which I’ll get to in a bit. Partly because she was a human being who obviously felt she’d be better off dead. And partly because one of my novels, the forthcoming CHANGING FACES, discusses transgenderism in an unusual way, so I’ve at least considered the issue before.

Here’s some of Leelah’s own words in her suicide note, published posthumously (her words were as she wrote them, but I did bold one section for emphasis on my own):

When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.

My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.

When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.

Ultimately, Leelah Alcorn believed that she would never be happy in this world. Because she couldn’t start transitioning, because she was continually called “Josh” or “Joshua” when she already knew she was Leelah inside, because her parents believed that “good Christian values” meant that she should be happy as God (monotheistic, male) made her — as a male, not as a female — Leelah Alcorn took her own life.

This young woman knew in her heart that she was female, just as I’ve always known my entire life that I, too, am female. The only difference between me and Leelah is that I was born female. I never had to fight to become who I was in that regard (fight in other ways, yes, as we all do to become ourselves). And I never had to worry about saving enough money to start the transitioning process, or any of the other things Leelah was obviously worried about in her suicide note.

This is a heartbreaking story, one of the most heartbreaking I’ve ever read. Leelah clearly believed nothing she would ever do was right in her parents’ eyes, and she clearly believed that not being able to transition until age 18 or later (after she’d saved up enough money) would make it impossible for her to find love.

What bothers me most here is that she obviously didn’t know some of the stories I do from pop culture. The role model here that strikes me the most is Chaz (born Chastity) Bono, because he came out to his parents as lesbian early on, but only came out as transgendered (and male) much later. So why didn’t Leelah know the entirety of Chaz’s story? (My guess is that Leelah only had seen Chaz’s “It Gets Better” commercial and maybe one of his dances with pro dancer Lacey Schwimmer on Dancing with the Stars and that’s about it. But it’s only a guess.) Why didn’t Leelah know about Christine Jorgenson, born George? Why didn’t Leelah know about transsexual tennis star and ophthalmologist Renee Richards?

All of them — all — transitioned to their proper sex later than age 18. And all did so successfully. All found at least a few lovers and friends who accepted them. And all of them, eventually, found their faith — whether it was in themselves or in God/dess is immaterial.

Leelah Alcorn did not have to die. She did not have to feel like a failure to her parents. She did not have to believe she’d be “Satan’s Wifey” (the original name of her blog on Tumblr, though apparently later she changed it to Lazer Princess) by dying and declaring exactly who and what she was.

She did not have to feel unloved, unwanted, bereft of hope and friends.

And for those who dismiss this as a typical teen suicide story and believe she would’ve grown out of it — well, you’re probably right, but how does that change anything?

A young woman is dead today at least in part because her parents apparently would not accept her for who she was. Her friends were not strong enough to accept her, either. And she, herself, was ultimately not strong enough to stand up to years of unrelenting criticism from her parents, so-called friends, and idiotic “therapists.”

Somehow, as Leelah Alcorn herself said, we must do better than this. No more LGBT youth should be treated this way. Ever.

Lest we have even more heartbreaking stories like this.

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