Putting things in perspective

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

Sorry it’s been awhile. I’ve been so busy trying to get ready for a vacation that I’m not even going to take that I’ve hardly had time to breathe, much less think about keeping up with my blog.

Take yesterday, for example. On top of trying to meet an impossible –albeit self-imposed — work-related deadline,  long laundry list of things to do. Literally.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

So I grabbed some money, two full bags of dirty clothes, detergent, and trundled everything across the street to the neighborhood laundromat. Inside, I loaded my favorite washing machine and then got some quarters from the only functioning change dispenser.

Back at the washing machine, I began dropping quarters into the slot one by one. Clink, clink, clink, clink… I didn’t think much of it when one failed to register, and deposited another one. But that one got stuck, too. Slightly aggravated, I pushed the coin return button. And… nothing happened.

Then I got that sinking feeling. You know, the one you get when you’ve dumped a whole bunch of coins into a vending machine and it either gets stuck or the item you want doesn’t pop out. Then I got really mad. I could see the quarters — I just couldn’t reach them. And I didn’t have anything with me that I could use to dislodge them.

So before I went back home, I asked if anyone in the laundromat had car keys or a paperclip that I could borrow. One of the guys asked what was going on and offered to help. As it turned out, it was a good thing he was there, because he had just what I needed, a utility knife with a long, thin blade. Working quickly, he easily freed the quarters, and then waited while I inserted a different quarter.

For some strange reason, the rest of the quarters registered with no trouble, averting any additional drama. I thanked the man for his help and we went our separate ways.

And that was that. A random, yet ordinary encounter between two strangers on an ordinary day. One needed help. The other was willing and able to provide it.

Oh, I almost forgot. The guy who helped me is black.

Just something to think about the next time you hear a news report about racism and hatred in America. After you’ve given that some thought, ask yourself why the media is promoting that narrative. Who stands to gain from it? And who stands to lose?

That is what is known as critical thought. And that will go a long way towards healing this country.

Eli says: take a breath, America

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

Eli hates it when I’m angry.

He doesn’t even like it when I raise my voice.

There’s no doubt about it.

Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

He makes his feelings on the subject perfectly clear.

If I raise my voice for any reason, but especially in anger, he bites me. Repeatedly.

I don’t know why he does that, but I think it probably has a lot to do with the abuse he took before I adopted him. Or perhaps it was the violence that he witnessed…

At any rate, he has very sharp teeth, so it gets my attention. Believe me.

So perhaps I should turn him loose on the rest of the country. He could just go around biting anyone who’s yelling about something, or yelling at someone else, for that matter.

It would get their attention. Believe me.

On second thought…

But then again, that’s a huge responsibility for huge responsibility for one cat.

I mean, let’s be honest. It seems like everyone in America is angry about something these days. It seems like everyone is yelling. People are yelling on TV. People are yelling on radio talk shows. People are yelling on social media. People are yelling about politics, politicians, and anything remotely political.

And there’s only so much Eli could do. It would take him a long time to bite everyone.

So maybe it’s time to take a collective breath, America. And maybe it’s time to take a take a good, hard look at ourselves, our behavior and the way we treat others. Maybe it’s time to take responsibility for our actions, and our words. Because that old line about “sticks and stones” is a myth.

Words are incredibly powerful. Especially when everyone is screaming invective at the top of their lungs.

Some unsolicited advice…

For what it’s worth, here’s how I keep my temper in check online and elsewhere.

  1. If I’ve got to vent I do it in private.
  2. I repeat the following until I am calm enough to have a rational, civilized discussion: I am an adult. I am in charge of my feelings. No one has the power to make me feel anything. Only I can decide how I react.
  3. If I see an offensive comment online, I count to 10 before I decide whether to engage, and how to engage with the person who made the offensive comment.
  4. l remind myself to respect everyone’s right to their opinions, even if I don’t agree.
  5. If all else fails, I take a deep breath and count to 10, and remember what my mother taught me at a very young age: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all…

Football controversy and a wealth of ignorance in Greenwich, Connecticut

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

As someone who lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, I am proud to say I defy every stereotype about this place. As someone who has lived in Greenwich for most of my life, I am also happy to say I defy the stereotypes about Greenwich residents.

I am not filthy rich. My family isn’t filthy rich, either. I don’t live in a McMansion. I don’t drive an SUV or crossover, or even a luxurious car. The only time I go overseas is to see family and I haven’t done so since 2015. I don’t work in New York City and I don’t have a house in the Hamptons.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

I am not a snob. I am not fake. In fact, you won’t find anyone more forthright, honest, or genuine than I am — if I do say so myself. What you see is what you get. And what you get isn’t always perfect. But for the most part, I’d like to think I’m a fairly decent person.

Having said all of that, perhaps you’ll understand why I’m not only ashamed of what’s been going on around here — I’m disgusted.

According to recent media reports, a Greenwich High School football coach decided to use some rather “unique” signals to counter certain defensive formations. Under his direction, the team used “Stalin” to signal an offensive line shift to the left, and “Hitler” to signal a shift to the right.

No, I’m not kidding.

In an open letter to the community recently posted on the school district’s website, the interim superintendent of schools said the following:

“The shift is called at the line of scrimmage. There is no defensible reason for using those two names. The coach clearly displayed bad judgement, but it was not intended in any way to be an anti-Semitic remark and there is no ‘Hitler’ play. This is not an excuse, only an explanation. It was a bad decision because of its insensitivity. But it is also important to understand that these were not slurs that were directed at anyone. It was an inappropriate use of names that have a horrific history attached to them and we should have been mindful of that. Our coaches should know better and it should never have happened.”

Understandably, the use of Hitler’s name spurred the most visceral reactions and received the most emphasis in Interim Superintendent Salvatore J. Corda’s public apology.

Frankly, as a first-generation American of Eastern European descent, I am outraged by the use of Stalin’s name. And no one has apologized to me.

For those of you who don’t know, Joseph Stalin was just as ruthless as Hitler. And just as evil. Although the exact numbers may never been known, some estimates indicate he may have been responsible for up to 20 million deaths from the time he seized power in the late 1920s until his death in 1953.

A brief summary of Stalin’s “achievements” on history.com includes the following:

“Stalin ruled by terror and with a totalitarian grip in order to eliminate anyone who might oppose him. He expanded the powers of the secret police, encouraged citizens to spy on one another and had millions of people killed or sent to the Gulag system of forced labor camps. During the second half of the 1930s, Stalin instituted the Great Purge, a series of campaigns designed to rid the Communist Party, the military and other parts of Soviet society from those he considered a threat.”

What’s even more disgusting than the repeated use of the names “Hitler” and “Stalin” by a high football team is the community’s reaction to the ensuing controversy on social media. You can read more about that here.

For people outside of Greenwich, it is simply a wealthy New York City suburb. But all this goes to show is that there’s a wealth of ignorance here, too.

And that’s a shame.

Hate begets hate

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

If just half of the information that has surfaced about alleged Dallas cop killer Micah Johnson over the weekend is true — and I do stress if because I would really rather not get sued — one thing is for sure. This was a sick, warped, twisted young man.

“We’re convinced that this suspect had other plans and thought that what he was doing was righteous and believed that he was going to make law enforcement and target law enforcement, make us pay for what he sees as law enforcement’s efforts to punish people of color,” Dallas Police Chief David Brown said in published reports.

Brown also said that recent police shootings that claimed the lives of black men in other parts of the country prompted the rampage that injured seven law enforcement officers and killed five.  When police tried to convince him to surrender after the shooting, the alleged gunman indicated he wanted to kill even more police officers, Brown added.

Black and white photograph of New York Police Department barriers taken by Alexandra Bogdanovic
NYPD barriers. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

If that’s not twisted, I don’t know what it is.

It’s also sad. Very sad. But in all honesty, it’s not surprising — because that’s what hate does. The ugliness hardens your heart. It messes with your mind. Before you know it, you’ve been consumed by it — and there’s no going back.

Now, some of you may be wondering what a middle-aged, middle class white woman from Connecticut really knows about hate — or discrimination for that matter. Trust me. I know plenty.

If I had a dollar for every misogynist comment I heard while working as a police reporter, I would be independently wealthy. Every time I got upset, one of the guys asked whether it was “that time of the month.” Every time I showed any emotion, one of the guys said it “must be a woman thing.”  I had a strict rule about dating guys in the agencies I covered. I never did it. Ever. But if you think that stopped the “locker room talk,” think again. I guess it’s just the price I paid for being “one of the boys.”

As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, I never made as much as my male colleagues. And my male bosses — who were easily intimidated by an assertive woman — routinely treated me like garbage. Not that I put up with it at all.

But yes, I know a few things about gender discrimination.

I know a few things about hate, too. Back in the 1990s, my father received death threats because of his ethnicity (and a Letter to the Editor he sent to The New York Times). Things got so bad we had a wire tap on our phone and FBI agents in our house.

I was the one who answered the phone when one guy called and asked for Dad. When I asked what he wanted, he said something about a furniture order. When I told him (in no uncertain terms) that I had no idea what he was talking about, he told me to “tell that effing Serb his coffin is ready.”

Yes, I remember that phone call to this day. And yes, I know a few things about hate.

I also know we all have choices. Ultimately we determine how we react to discrimination or hate. We can choose violence, or we can find another way to defeat those who are determined to bring us down.

Some of the greatest men in history found another way. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Nelson Mandela. Mahatma Gandhi. All three suffered. All three fought for what they believed in. All three advocated for change through nonviolent means.

I’m not exactly a “sit around the camp fire and sing Kumbaya” kind of girl. I don’t agree with everything these men espoused. But I do believe we should all strive to follow their lead.

Because at the end of the day, hate begets hate. Violence breeds more violence. And nothing will change.

The truth about Dallas

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

“The term ‘domestic terrorism’ means activities that—

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

(B) appear to be intended —

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

18 U.S. Code § 2331 – Definitions

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. By that definition the Dallas shooting that claimed the lives of five law enforcement officers and injured seven others on Thursday night was an act of domestic terrorism. Whether anyone in the Obama administration cares to admit it or not.

It was also a hate crime. Whether anyone in the Obama administration cares to admit it or not.

As defined by federal statute, “hate crime acts” include those in which someone “willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion or national origin of any person…”

According to published reports, Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, was allegedly responsible for the Dallas carnage. He reportedly expressed the desire to “kill white people, especially police officers.” Johnson, who police killed during a standoff after the shooting, was apparently motivated by “recent fatal shootings of black men by police elsewhere in the United States.”

Black and white photograph of New York Police Department barriers taken by Alexandra Bogdanovic
NYPD barriers. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

In other developments, authorities in Missouri are now investigating what might have prompted a motorist to shoot a police officer during a traffic stop on Friday.

The suspect, identified as Antonio Taylor, 31, had reportedly been stopped for speeding. Then, for unknown reasons, the “routine” traffic stop took a tragic turn. Harrowing images captured on the cruiser’s camera, show the officer speaking with Taylor and returning to the police car. Taylor can then be seen approaching the patrol car, where the officer appeared to be doing paperwork. Without any visible provocation, Taylor fired three times, critically injuring the officer.

Police arrested him  a short time after he fled the scene in his car and tried to avoid capture on foot. Taylor, a convicted felon, is now facing several charges including assault on a police officer in what police have described as an “ambush.”

Meanwhile, Tennessee authorities are also trying to determine what prompted a recent shooting spree that killed one civilian, and injured two others. A police officer was also hurt.

According to media accounts, the suspect hit a civilian when he allegedly fired through a hotel window on Thursday, and then  targeting vehicles on a nearby highway. Lakeem Keon Scott, 37, who is also accused of firing at responding police officers, was also injured when they shot back.

According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, a preliminary investigation indicated that  Scott “may have targeted individuals and officers after being troubled by recent incidents involving African-Americans and law enforcement officers in other parts of the country.”

When all is said and done, I am sure the authorities will identify the motives for these attacks — but they’ll never be able to provide a satisfactory explanation. It’s  impossible — because there’s simply no cause for such hateful behavior. None whatsoever.

Uproar over HB2 hits close to home

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

I haven’t spoken to my ex-husband in years. But at times like this — when controversy erupts over LGBT rights — I can’t help but think of him. Or should I say, her?

Long Before There Was Chaz or Caitlyn…

For those of you who don’t know, my ex-husband, Adam, is transgender. So he’s Audrey now. Or more accurately, she’s Audrey now.

I learned the truth about the person I once considered my best friend and soul mate shortly after our second wedding anniversary. By that time we had been together for the better part of 10 years. And no. Until that point I never had a clue.

Book Cover

Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined that the person I planned to have children and grow old with would have such a devastating, heartbreaking secret. As Adam and I exchanged vows during our nationally televised, fairy-tale wedding at the Hampton Classic Horse Show, I had no reason whatsoever to think we would be divorced less than three years later.

That’s exactly what happened, though.

After we agreed to go our separate ways, Adam moved to another part of the country where he continued his transition. Eventually he went overseas to have surgery to complete the process. When he returned, he was no longer the man I married.

Eventually I rebuilt my own life. I moved to Virginia, where I spent more than eight years working at what had once been one of the best suburban newspapers in the state. It was during that time that I also decided to share my story in my memoir, Truth Be Told: Adam Becomes Audrey.

I want to be crystal clear about that. I wrote my book in order to tell my story. Not Audrey’s story. Mine.

That being stated, I also had a lot of unanswered questions. I told Audrey as much while I was writing the book. I asked if I could interview her — if she wanted to share her perspective. She refused.

So Much for That

That was years ago and I haven’t spoken to her since. Quite frankly, there’s nothing left to say.

So I have no idea what she thinks about North Carolina House Bill 2 and the backlash that it has triggered.

To be honest, I am not all that sure what I think about the issue, either.

On the surface it seems simple. No one should be fired due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Transgender people should be allowed to use restrooms matching their gender identity, individual communities should be allowed to pass laws that allow them to do so, and the state should not be able to enact legislation that bars municipalities from doing so.

But of course, it’s not that simple. It never is.

For more information about HB2, see:

ACLU Sues Over Controversial Transgender Bathroom Law

N.C. governor signs bill repealing Charlotte transgender bathroom law

Tech Giants Join Rebuke of Law Blocking LGBT Rights


Censorship – alive and well

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

“Censorship generally is the deletion of speech or any communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the government or media organizations as determined by a body authorized to censor.”

– As defined on uslegal.com

A disturbing news report surfaced last week.

Apparently some Russian government-types have been burning some “undesirable” books.

Given the heinous and egregious nature of this conduct, I am sure the Russians would have been happy if this remained a closely guarded secret.  Unfortunately (for the alleged offenders) some American media outlets discovered and published accounts of this disgusting behavior.

I found out about it when goodreads.com shared a link to the post on Twitter. Ain’t social media grand?

At any rate, I banged off a snippy response, which was something to the effect of, “And this comes as a surprise?” Not surprisingly, that Tweet didn’t amount to much.

But in all honesty, I wasn’t surprised. Angry? Yes. Disgusted? Of course. Sickened? Absolutely. Flabbergasted, gob-smacked, astonished, taken aback? No. Not at all.

Of course government censorship is alive and well. Let’s face it. In Russia, where Vlad Putin does whatever he wants with impunity, it probably never died.   But what you may not realize – or simply refuse to admit –  is that censorship is practiced with alarming frequency right here in the good old USA.

The restrictions on freedom of expression to which I am referring go far beyond rules and regulations put in place to limit potential exposure to “offensive” material and to hold those who engage in hateful rhetoric accountable for their actions.

I am referring to the vast majority of the censorship that occurs in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, which  is condoned if not officially sanctioned by the politically correct crowd in the government and elsewhere. In an effort to combat the ignorant, misguided and hateful behavior of a vocal minority, the “polite police” are running amok.

Yes, some censorship is blatant. Some is passive-aggressive. Trust me. I speak from personal experience.

Book Cover, Truth Be Told: Adam Becomes Audrey
Image courtesy of Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Agency

You see, I am the award-winning author of what could be considered a somewhat controversial book. In my memoir, Truth Be Told: Adam Becomes Audrey, I share how I met, fell in love with and married the man of my dreams. In vivid detail, I recount how I learned that he self-identified as and planned on having surgery to “become” a woman. I also share what happened after I learned the truth.

Some readers have loved my work. Some have hated it. Most have expressed their opinions in no uncertain terms — which is fine. I have very broad shoulders. There was only one occasion when I was truly insulted, and that was when a local library official told me they’d probably never shelf my book because readers here are “very conservative.”

I wonder what they’ll do if Caitlyn Jenner writes a book.