A HERO'S SPARK: the final book in the Wicked Women series!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Writer's take on the Winter Olympics

Hello everyone!

It's been almost a month since the Winter Games ended.  I can't believe how time flies when you're still catching up on 72 hours of non stop curling coverage on your DVR, but maybe that's just me.

It's no secret that I'm a huge Olympics fan, especially when it comes to winter stuff.  Maybe it's because I don't like being outside in the winter and this is a great reason to stay inside for 17 days.  Maybe it's because I can swim and run (sort of) but I will never, ever be able to ski or skate or...what ever it is those snowboarder do, and I love watching it.

Or maybe it's because every single event in the Winter Olympics involves an element of death.  With the possible exception of curling (my favorite of all the sports) go ahead and name one winter sport where DEATH is not a possible outcome.

You can't.

So after hunkering down for some hardcore TV watching I've come up with a few points I'd like to make about the coverage of the 2018 games in Pyeonchang, South Korea.

Counting down from 5.

5)  Pyeonchang is hard to spell, but worth it.

I'll be honest, outside of a paper I did in high school about the Korean War (Mostly because I wanted an excuse to watch "MASH" I know relatively little about South Korea.  These Olympics were an eyeopener for me.  Their culture is beautiful, historical, and very advanced.  The US could learn a thing or two about niceness, too, from what I hear.

Bigger point in how great Pyeonchang was as a host:  While generally the Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics are awesome, the Closing Ceremonies typically are dull and over long.  Not so in Pyeonchang! The South Koreans took this last opportunity, after showing the world a thriving, joyful country, to remind us one more time that they are pretty great.  The Closing was every bit as much fun as the Opening.  Made me wish we could have the Olympics there every four years.

4)  How NBC dropped the ball

NBC has several television networks it controls and in past years Olympic coverage has been endless and massive.  This time around the coverage was...underwhelming. Maybe it's because there are fewer events in Winter than in Summer Games.  I don't know. But opening up my DVR and finding that NBCSN and NBC simply duplicated each others' daytime coverage was annoying.  

Also, let's talk announcers and color analysts.  NBC dropped the ball BIG time by hiring Olympic skier Bode Miller to do the color for the Alpine events.  Of all the events in the Winter Olympics, downhill skiing is the fastest, the most dangerous, and therefore the most awesome to watch.  Not this time around. Bode Miller, with his endless monotone droning about technical stuff and pointless anecdotes that went nowhere managed to suck all the excitement right out of the events to the point where I skipped it.  You know what I watched?  Cross country skiing!  That's right...I watched hours of coverage of people basically walking on skiis.  Why?  Because Chad Salmela LOST HIS MIND while calling every single event. Sure, Jessie Diggins of the US got a gold in cross country skiing, something that's NEVER happened. And it was a thrilling finish.  But Salmela managed to call up that same level of enthusiasm for every event he called.  (And there were a lot of them.) Oh, and he managed to NOT offend married people.  (Thank you, again, Bode.)

While we're talking about announcers, why did NBC try to hide Scott Hamilton and Taneth Belbin White on the sidelines (And on that ridiculous fake ice rink outside the broadcast center)?  I get it, Tara and Johnny are the cool kids and the Olympics probably wanted to skew a little younger and a lot whackier (that HAIR!) to draw in a younger crowd for figure skating.  I get it.  But they still let Andrea Joyce run around with her goofy interviews while two American treasures of the sport had to pretend to demonstrate skating moves on what looked like a cardboard floor.  You're telling me there wasn't room for everyone in figure skating?

3)  How NBC picked up the ball and scored.

First of all, a network dedicated every day to curling coverage. WIN.  My DVR is still full of these lovely encapsulated matches and I will be able to watch them over the coming months and fully absorb the sport.

Second: Mike Tirico.  So much better than Bob "I got a gross eye infection in Sochi" Costas.  Tirico is the Olympics wrangler for this era.  Jim McKay was the gold standard, but Mike is following closely with his eternal cheerfulness and his clear diction.  The man is gold.

Third: Hockey coverage.  The NHL did not send players to the Olympics this time around, and that's fine for me. I think highly paid professionals don't NEED a gold medal.  But having many of the NHL cover guys from NBCSN do the coverage was a good idea. No stammering over names or struggling with the rules. And who can forget Jeremy Roenick's reaction at the end of the women's gold medal game?  Awesome.)

2) Yes, they are our representatives...but they are also

Honestly I think we expect a lot of Olympians, and that's fine, but we have to remember that in many cases these are very young people. And I do mean very young.  Chloe Kim and Red Gerard, both gold medalists, are both 17.  You know what I was doing at 17?  I wasn't representing the USA on the biggest world stage in sport, that's for certain.  So yes, Chloe Kim tweeted a bunch of random things about food while she was competing and yes, Red Gerard let some colorful language fly when he realized he'd won the gold medal.  But on the medal stand, they stood up, they focused, they looked respectful and no one can fault any gold medalist for not singing along in that moment. I mean, it's a nice thought that all of our gold medal winners sing our national anthem, but unless you're Whitney Houston, you probably can't sing it well (I'm looking at you, Fergie) and maybe you should just focus on looking respectful rather than showing the world your singing face when you try to hit that note "land of the FREE."

Watching the youth of the world, especially the US, I noticed something I haven't noted in the Olympics before: and openess between competitors.  The world of sport is much smaller these days with world cup events in every sport happening all year round.  It used to be that the Olympics were pretty much the only time you saw some of these sports being done, but that's not the case now.  Now the competitors know each other well.  There's no mystery to the Russians...well, maybe there's a little mystery yet, I mean, most of them did get banned, and hey, I saw "Icharus."

My point here is, these are first and foremost real people. The buttoned up, expressionless East Germans and Soviets of my childhood no longer exist.  And as long as they don't create some international incident (Ahem, Ryan Lochte) let's not sweat the other stuff.  Let NBC figure out how to beep someone on live TV when they win the gold medal.  I like my Olympians to be real.

1)  Flag, race, color, language does not matter.

I found myself fully engaged in events where the US wasn't even a blip on the screen.  The Olympics have always given us a window into the lives of people in other nations, and that was true this time around.  I was fully invested in the story of the Jamaican bobsled team that lost their sled to their coach.  I was fully invested in the Nigerian bobsled team, the first African country to have a bobsled team.  (12 Athletes from 8 African countries participated this time around.)  And who didn't love the story of Tito Tuafatofua, the shirtless Tongan from the 2016 Rio games who again showed up to the Opening Ceremonies, again shirtless, this time as a Winter Olympian.  He participated in Cross Country skiing, and he finished 114 out of 119. Not bad for a guy who didn't start skiing on snow until 12 weeks before the games.  

There were cross county matches won by men and women from other countries with names I don't remember and probably couldn't pronounce, but in the moment of the Olympics I was their biggest fan.

Did you know that in curling the word "HARD", whether screamed by a tiny Korean lady nicknamed Pancake or a healthy sized girl from Wisconsin, sounds EXACTLY the same?

As a writer, I got wrapped up in a dozen different stories from these Games.  I laughed, I cried, I cringed. I didn't love all the sports (Can we skip long track speed skating and just give all the medals to the Dutch?  And also, "Big Air" was a little underwhelming since it came AFTER all the other snowboarding stuff.)  But I loved so many of them  (snow-cross and ski-cross...quite possibly the most hilarious thing I've ever seen on television.) and now that they're over I feel a void.

Eventually the Winter Games will be a distant memory. They already are for some people. And in another year we'll ramp up for the Summer Games which will fill our senses in 2020.  But it's going to be another four years before I get to hear Chad Salmela scream out Jessie Diggins' name or...see this...

Although, maybe, if we're really good and eat our vegetables, he'll come back for the Summer Games.

One can only hope.

So well done, South Korea, I give you an A++.  NBC, you get a B.  You've got some work to do. Maybe just let the South Koreans have the Winter Games every time?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

American Gun Violence: What's the Answer?

Good Afternoon!

The following blog is my opinion and my opinion only. I do not write this to offend or call out any group or person.  I am expressing my opinion.  If you do not wish to hear my opinion, or of you prefer telling someone they're wrong or stupid for not agreeing with you rather than having a calm discussion about differences of opinion, I would ask that you refrain from reading the following. 

By reading beyond this point you are not saying you agree with me, but that you will refrain from abusive, insulting language when expressing a different opinion.

Thank you.

Those of you who know me know I don't get involved in much when it comes to politics or expressing an opinion on world events. It's not that I don't have political views or that I'm uninformed, it's just that I don't feel the need to force my views on others. Live and let live. 

But today I feel compelled to speak out.

 What did it for me was the mass shooting yesterday at a school in Florida.  I was watching the coverage and all I could think of was, "how many more of these images of our children running out of schools do we have to have before something is done?"

It does not matter which political party you belong to, or if you don't belong to one at all.  It does not matter what religion you are, or if you don't worship at all.  IF YOU ARE A HUMAN, you should be looking at these pictures and saying ENOUGH.

Don't misunderstand me, people to have the right to own a gun if they want to and are legally able to. I don't think MORE gun laws are the answer because laws only affect law abiding citizens. Those determined to do harm and break laws will.

But something needs to be done.  I've said too often, "Thoughts and prayers."  As a Christian, my faith is in God, and I believe in the power of prayer. I also believe that God gave us brains and the tools we need to survive.  Why do we go to doctors, if God is the ultimate healer?  Because God gave the doctors their brains and technicians the skills to perform the operations and use the tools that heal.

So yes, my thoughts and prayers go to the families in Florida who have lost loved ones.  I weep for you.

But people, honestly, how much longer must this go on?

I, for one, can no longer watch the images and think, it's a random thing. It's not.  It's the middle of February and we're already near 30 mass shootings in this country (media sources vary from 20-30), 8 of which have been in schools (No one varies on that fact).

I'll give you a moment to absorb that.

Schools are supposed to be a place of learning, a place where children learn to socialize and interact with other people who might not look, speak, act, or worship like them. I realize kids are human and therefore not perfect, but honestly, the WORST thing that should be on the radar in a school is kids picking on kids, which a teacher, a parent, or a guidance counselor can deal with.

 Grief counseling should NOT be a common thing in schools.

We are so careful these days to not cause offense for any reason...but I think we're missing something someplace.  While we're building gender neutral bathrooms and outlawing bake sales, and arguing about the Oxford comma (which I'm in favor of), all for the good of the kids, we're still letting people walk into buildings and slaughter our children.

We are so divided when it comes to matters of faith, politics, ideas, life choices, lifestyles, opinions, and race, that we can't band together and figure out a way to keep people from walking into buildings and slaughtering our children.

While we're wrapped up in the latest Hollywood or DC scandal about who sexually assaulted someone (I include myself in the list of women who have been harassed and/or assaulted), we can't stop pointing fingers long enough to figure out how to keep people from WALKING INTO BUILDINGS AND SLAUGHTERING OUR CHILDREN.

The point is, I'm not belittling all the other issues we have in our society because we have many and they are serious. But shouldn't our first priority be to stop people from walking into buildings and slaughtering our children?

What's the answer?

Some will say a better mental health care system.  

I'm all for that.  But blaming mass shootings on the mentally ill is a cop out.  It's a crutch.  I have known several mentally ill people, I live with mentally ill people, and I live with my own depression.  And NOT ONCE have any of those people thought it was a good idea to walk into a school and start shooting. The vast majority of mentally ill people in this country understand that it's wrong to go into a school or a movie theater or any public place and start killing people.

But still, better mental health care is a good idea.  Maybe a system where needing mental healthcare wasn't still looked on as a failing of some kind.

Some will say, outlaw assault weapons. 

I'm totally in agreement on this.  And gun fans, don't start with the "if you take the assault rifles away, you'll start taking away hunting rifles."

It's not a slippery slope.  It's common sense. There is not ONE PERSON, except possibly the military, who NEEDS to fire off 13.3 rounds PER SECOND.  I'm not a hunter, but my guess is if you hunt like that, you're going to obliterate the animal you're shooting.  And how many targets do you REALLY need to blow away like that?  No, common sense tells me that the only reason someone wants a gun like that is to cause massive trouble.  (Go ahead, yell at me, but when the Founding Fathers said, "right to bear arms" they were NOT thinking about a gun that could potentially kill 12 people a second.)

This opinion is backed up by stats.

Some will say, outlaw guns completely, like other countries.  Or really restrict gun ownership.

Here are some facts about other countries and their gun laws.

Here's where those in favor of the 2nd Amendment get really prickly.  I'm not a revolutionist.  I'm not about banning an Amendment.

But do we all need so many guns? REALLY? 

I've heard people justify buying a gun because "Obama is going to take away our guns."  Seriously, people who NEVER in their long lives through about owning a gun have gone out and bought one because they were afraid a president was going to outlaw owning guns.

I realize Obama wasn't everyone's cup of tea.  But come on.

Back in 1999. when we were all freaking out about Y2K (wasn't that a lovely, simple time?) I suggested to my husband that we buy a gun.  He thought I was nuts.

In the years since, I realized I have no business being a gun owner.  Not because I'm a criminal or mentally ill or whatever, but because I refuse to be the person who ends someone's Time of Grace.

See, as a Christian, I believe we are given a Time of Grace by God.  This is our time to come to faith and prepare ourselves for our eternal life.  

If I die by illness, accident, or someone's hand, I know where I'm going for eternity.

BUT I refuse to be the person who ends someone else's time when they could have come to a faith that would give them a good eternity. I believe that in the eyes of God everyone is truly equal, and therefore why would I try to play God and take away someone else's life?

But, Sarah, what about your family? What if someone threatens your family?

When my children were small yes, I would have done anything to defend them from harm.  Turns out, in many ways, I was not able to because the harm they suffered ultimately came at the hands of people I trusted, and while it did not involve guns, I still wasn't able to protect them.  Now my children are adults and they have made their own choices when it comes to defense.  I do not force my views on guns on them. One child fully believes in abolishing guns, and one has a less dim view of gun ownership. That's their right.  My husband as well has a different view on gun ownership.

I choose non-lethal weapons, which is why I've picked up a childhood passion of mine in archery and started working with a hand held crossbow.  I'm not good yet, but my goal is to get good enough that I can hit a threat within forty feet and it will hurt enough that he thinks twice.

Still, I know I haven't given an answer to this question. How do we stop the violence?

I do not have the perfect answer.

I'm going to put this out there:  how about if first an foremost, we DEMAND that our government actually DOES SOMETHING?  Our federal government is made up of part time working millionaires who do not live under the laws they pass, they do not have to use Obamacare for their health care, they get to decide THEIR WAGES as well as OURS.

Hmmmm, sounds like Taxation without Representation to me. Who's ready to dump some tea in Boston Harbor?

I'm not part of the two party system anymore. I realized that both parties in power have a game plan that's quite simple:  Get us shouting at each other loudly enough so they get elected and then sit there in Congress where everyone's a pal and the only goal is to get reelected.  

It has to stop.  Our Government has to look at what is happening and DO SOMETHING.

But, my friends, we cannot wait for those who have long gotten fat off of our labor to actually work.  We have to take it upon ourselves to find a way to make the gun violence end.  And here I'm not just talking about school shootings. I'm talking about unjustified police shootings, drive by shootings, people walking into a McDonald's and shooting up the place and then killing themselves.  IT. MUST. STOP.

We are Americans. No matter what we look like, how we worship, who we love, or what language we speak, we have a long history of putting it all aside when tragedy strikes.  I don't think there's a person in this country who believes mass shootings should continue, or that it's just not that bad.  We need to figure out what we can do to HELP instead of causing a divide. If we are screaming at each other, nothing is going to get done.  We need to link arms and form a chain and say, NO MORE.

My friends, I've long a been a states' rights advocate. What works in Florida may not work in Wisconsin and may not work in New York.  I say all of you, my writer friends, those who read my blogs and my books, and those of you who simply want our children to grow up to look at what gun options might work in your community.  We cannot depend on our Federal Government to do anything, we need to depend on our neighborhoods.  One giant, sweeping piece of legislation bogged down by 100 pounds of pork isn't going to do it.

We must work together. This must end.

My thoughts and prayers are with us all.