Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Just in Time For Halloween, New Poems and Stories at the TTB e-zine!

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OK, sometimes I just have to rhyme…

Folks, do you want some new and absolutely free reading material? Especially from me? (As you’re here at my blog, I’m going to assume the answer is an enthusiastic “yes.”)

Well, look no further. I have a story, “To Exist within Memory,” and a poem, “Break the Dark Lens,” up at the Halloween 2017 edition of the Twilight Times e-zine. (I abbreviated it above as TTB e-zine because it’s part of Twilight Times Books.) In addition, there’s also a chapter reveal for my most recent novel, the LGBT-friendly CHANGING FACES, and there’s an author interview by Mayra Calvani as well — so if you have ever wanted to know more about me or my writing, here you go.

portrait in garden

Mind, if you like what you have read with regards to CHANGING FACES, you can go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble and pick up an e-book copy for just ninety-nine cents…and I do hope you’ll consider doing just that.

So go check out the TTB e-zine. Read some free stuff. Then go pick up your copy of CHANGING FACES today, and get to getting…who said every treat on Halloween has to be full of calories, hey?

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 31, 2017 at 8:33 pm

Now Available in E-Book: A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE

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Folks, I’m very happy to be able to finally report that my second novel — and the second novel in the Elfy duology — A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE has been released. It’s available right now at Amazon and OmniLit…the latter will be most useful if you need an e-pub version of the file.

Edited to add: Barnes and Noble link is now live as well. Now returning you to your regularly scheduled post…

ALittleElfyinBigTrouble_medIf you have never seen anything at all about the Elfyverse — or read book one in the Elfy duology, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE — this little blurb may help you with what’s going on:

Young Bruno the Elfy and Sarah, his mostly-human teenage girlfriend, are in deep trouble. Bruno’s Elfy mentor Roberto the Wise is about to be sacrificed by a Dark Elf, and Sarah’s parents have decided to help the Elf rather than the Elfy. Things look bleak and are getting worse by the minute, but Bruno and Sarah have a number of allies — human, Elfy, and ghosts — that the Dark Elf can’t possibly expect. Can young love, desperation, and great unexpected power win out despite it all?

And here’s a short excerpt — note, it first appeared here, as part of the Marketing for Romance Writers Book Hooks blog hop:

Bruno took Sarah’s hand and led her back outside. He looked with his mage senses, and felt nothing; no Elfy magic, no Human magic, and as far as he could tell, no Elf magic, Dark or Bright.

He put up a light shield that should help conceal their voices, and decided it was safe enough to talk for a bit.

“Tomorrow is Baaltinne, Sarah.” Bruno rubbed his fingers through his hair and tried not to look too hard at Sarah. Goddess, she was beautiful. But he had to stay on topic. “That’s your May Day. Tomorrow.” He shook his head and tried not to frown. “How can we get everything together in time to stop Dennis the Dark Elf?”

“I have faith in you,” she said. Her eyes darkened. Bruno felt as if he were falling, before she gently brushed her lips against his.

————————— End Excerpt ————————————-

If this has intrigued you (and of course I hope it has), but you aren’t sure you will like my book yet, I also have three sample chapters available at Twilight Times Books’ website — here’s the link for that: http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/ElfyinBigTrouble_ch1.html

A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE continues to make me laugh. I’ve enjoyed writing about Bruno, Sarah, Reverend Samuel and his family, Lady Keisha, even Dennis the Dark Elf…and I hope to write more about them, ’cause I have a hunch their stories are not over.

At any rate, most of you know the labor of love that kept me working on Elfy for years. I’m ecstatic that both halves of my novel have now been published, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.

Anyway, both novels are available now as e-books. So what are you waiting for? Go grab a copy — or copies — today! (And be sure to tell your friends. ‘Cause, really…how can you go wrong?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 21, 2015 at 7:22 pm

Welcome to the Elfyverse…

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Thank you for stopping by my blog, which is called either “Barb Caffrey’s Blog,” or “the Elfyverse.”

Why two names? Well, I figured it would be easier for people to find me if they used my name. But I’ve been writing about Elfys, Elfs, Dwarves, and more for over ten years — thus “the Elfyverse.”

As for what I do here, it’s simple: I talk about anything I like.

I’ve been blogging now for over five years. (Here’s a link to my first blog post, if you don’t believe me.) Over that time, I’ve talked writing, publishing, music, sports, current events, politics . . . anything that I feel like talking about.

So while you’re here, expect the unexpected . . . because you never quite know what I’m about to say.

Please feel free to stop by any time you like. And tell your friends about all my work, including AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE (Barnes and Noble link is here) and the first two stories of my late husband Michael’s, “A Dark and Stormy Night” and “On Westmount Station,” all available at Amazon.

And remember . . . support a real writer.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 9, 2014 at 5:21 am

My novel, “An Elfy on the Loose,” Is Now Available

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It’s been a long time in coming, but my first novel, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE (now with a subtitle of “Book One of the ELFY duology”) is now available at Amazon.com and will be available soon at all major e-book retailers.

**Edited to add: AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE has also “gone live” at BN.com (Barnes and Noble’s website), as Paul Howard told me in the comments. If you have a Nook and want to read AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, now’s your chance!

Now back to our regularly scheduled post.**

I’m very pleased that AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE is now out, even though I hadn’t expected it to “go live” on Amazon tonight, of all nights — but as it has, I figured I’d best skedaddle and get a blog post up, pronto.

For those of you who want a sample, please go here and read the first five chapters of AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE . . . then, I hope you’ll go to Amazon and get the e-book, as it’s on sale for a limited time at the low price of $3.99.

Because I’m a new author, and because I’m decidedly not well known, it is anyone’s guess as to whether or not AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE will do well enough to warrant an actual “dead tree” edition (that is, a paper edition).

For all I know, this e-book copy is all that we’re likely to get. So I hope you’ll enjoy it in the spirit intended.

In other words, if you want to read my novel because you’ve been intrigued about Bruno the Elfy and Sarah his human companion and want to know all about Sarah’s house (which is an Elfy trap of major proportions), or if you want to figure out why a Dark Elf would go to Northern California, or if you even want to know why Bruno’s mentor Roberto is worth saving despite being more than a bit of an butthead sometimes, now’s your chance.

I also hope that if you read and enjoy AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, you won’t be averse to letting people know my book exists. Because I need all the help I can get . . . and I’m not shy about saying so.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 12, 2014 at 12:34 am

My Thoughts on Tonight’s Packers-49ers NFL Playoff Game

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Folks, as it’s now Saturday, that means the Green Bay Packers will be playing its first playoff game of the NFL season against the San Francisco 49ers at home. Seemingly everyone in Wisconsin is ready for this. (If you’re not a Packers fan in Wisconsin, you probably follow along enough to get by. We’re quite rabid when it comes to football, here.)

I think the Packers are likely to win today because they have a better quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and because the Packers defense has been surprisingly good most of the season.

But that’s not why I’m writing this blog.

Nope. I’m writing this blog because it reminds me of one of the special moments in my life.

You see, back in 2002, the Packers were preparing to play the 49ers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. (This time, the Packers got the bye, meaning they could rest during the Wild Card round.) My late husband Michael and I had been dating long-distance (as nearly all of our courtship was long-distance due to living about 1500 miles apart) for about a month, maybe a month and a half. And we both knew we’d watch this game, as we were both football fans.

We really wanted to watch this game together. But as we were not independently wealthy (far, far from it), the best way we had to watch the game together was to talk on the telephone for three hours while I watched the game in Iowa as he watched the game in San Francisco.

We both vowed that whichever team won, we’d continue to root for it throughout the remainder of the playoffs.

But that’s not why I remember the game so well. The reason I remember it has to do with the three hours of conversation, including digressions as to what sort of commercials were on, whether the announcers on TV or radio were better (I think we both agreed the radio announcers had more skill and knowledge), and, of course, cheers and jeers when our respective teams made good plays.

After the game, we both hung up, and then went to talk some more via instant messaging. (We didn’t have webcams. It was 2002. This meant we had to learn to communicate, quickly, or our relationship would founder. Fortunately, both of us were extremely motivated to find a way to do just that…)

That football game was one of the best moments of my entire life, all because I had Michael to share it with. It was astonishing then, as it is now to recall, just how much Michael wanted to be with me, and how creative he was in finding ways to do whatever he could to make my life better. (Yes, I was creative, too, and did my best to make his life better also.)

I’ve never met anyone else with both the tenaciousness and the tenderness that Michael showed me, though I have met three other special men since his passing. (None worked out as relationships, but I still have soft spots for these guys, two of whom are still living.) I believe the reason I could try again is because of how wonderful Michael was, though of course he’s a tough act to follow.

So, this football game reminds me, just a bit, of the 2002 playoff game between the same teams. And I’m wishing, right now, that my husband Michael was still alive to root for his 49ers, and to make whatever other interesting comments he could about everything else along the way.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 22, 2022 at 4:11 am

Sympathy and Empathy — Which Is Better?

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A few days ago, I was chatting with a male friend. When I told him I sympathized with something he’d said, he did the online equivalent of looking at me as if I suddenly had two heads. To him, “sympathy” means only its first definition, that of feeling pity for someone. It doesn’t mean the second, far less well-used definition of understanding what people go through as a commonality. (Such as, “The sisters shared a special sympathy for one another.”)

The second definition is far closer to that of empathy than not.

Empathy is defined, more or less, as the understanding and ability to share someone else’s feelings. No pity could ever be involved with empathy, as the word understanding is key.

So, say, you have two sisters. They have typical growing pains, don’t always agree with each other, have difficulties…but because they both were raised by the same people (or the same sorts of people, anyway), they can be both sympathetic and empathetic.

Clear as mud, right?

So, let’s try this again. I, personally, do not think sympathy should always have to evoke pity.

If I sympathize with someone, it’s because I’m human and share a commonality with the person hurting. Maybe I’ve been hurt the same way. Maybe not. But if I can put myself in this other person’s shoes, at least for a bit, perhaps I can help them in some small way to realize that they’re not alone.

Empathy, and being empathetic, also is quite important, whether I use sympathy’s first definition or its second.

Why?

Well, in some cases I have no idea why people do what they do. Maybe they’ve done something so foolish, so wrong, so stupid, or so terrible that they have had awful consequences in their life (such as going to prison) because of their own behavior and actions. I can’t feel sympathy because there’s no commonality of shared experiences there.

But I can feel empathy, because I’m a human being and so are they. And I’d like to think that none of us — none — are a complete waste of space and effort.

And it’s not just me.

Empathy is probably the reason Sister Helen Prejean continues her work to abolish the death penalty. (Though I think she also sympathizes with the prisoners she’s met in a “there, but for the grace of God go I” sense.) Empathy is probably what late Archbishop Desmond Tutu felt that kept him working hard to abolish apartheid in South Africa. Empathy is probably why most people who work at nonprofits try so hard to do good things with their lives (as they surely aren’t getting much in the way of remuneration most of the time).

I think most people understand the importance of empathy. (At least, I’d like to hope so.) But that second meaning of sympathy is just as important, and I wish was discussed far more often than the first meaning (of condolences and pity).

So, which is better?

Both are good. Both are meaningful.

My personal belief, however, is that empathy is almost certainly closer to the Higher Power than sympathy. Empathy leads closer to other people, as well as closer to the Higher Power.

Still, that second meaning for sympathy should not be discounted.

The hope here, from me, is that you’ll think about these two words — sympathy and empathy — and how they’re at work in your life (as well as your writing and/or other creative pursuits). They certainly are worth more than a bit of study.

What do you think? Are you more on Team Sympathy? Or on Team Empathy? (Or is it silly to assign teams to them at all?) Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 12, 2022 at 4:45 pm

In Romance, See What’s There, Not Just What You Think Is There

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I’ve been thinking a lot about two things. One is about romance, and the second is about the nature of observation.

See, we as human beings want to see what we desire most. This can delude us into staying in bad relationships far longer than their sell-by date (certainly, I did, in my first marriage; thank goodness I found Michael in the end). Because we see every single small gesture as full of meaning…which it is, if the feelings are true.

But what if they aren’t? What if your significant other is lying to you? What then?

We have to observe what the truth is before we can grasp that truth.

In my case, with my first marriage, it took me several long years to realize two things. (Yes, I’m big on two things today for some reason.) The first was that the way I saw my then-husband was not who he truly was. The second was that he was not the person I needed.

When I met him, I was quite young. So was he. Maybe he wanted to be the man I needed. But he just couldn’t be that person, no matter how much I wanted him to be.

There were good things, even then, that I missed after I divorced him. He liked the same music I did. He read many of the same books.

But then, there were the drawbacks, which I decidedly did not miss. He had wit, but not a lot of depth. And at the time, he was incapable of being faithful.

(I hope his second wife has found him to be much more faithful than I. But that’s up to them, of course. And as always, I digress.)

So, persistence of vision led me into a trap. The trap was that I saw only the best iteration of my ex-husband. Not the entirety of him. (Not even close.) I saw that because when we met, he was on his best behavior. And I hoped that was all he was…or that he would deepen and broaden and become more and more interesting over time.

That did not happen.

The person it did happen with, eventually, was Michael. He was funny, smart as a whip, shared many interests with me, but not all. We had amazing, long, in-depth, interesting conversations. He was more fascinating the longer I knew him. I loved him, I loved being with him, and I very much enjoyed being his wife, because he was exactly who he said he was.

(Not to mention, he was as faithful as the day is long. And honorable. And so many things that I could go on for days and still not tap the entirety of him. But I’d better finish this blog instead.)

Michael was not the first person I’d entered into a relationship with after my first marriage failed. But he was the only one who mattered.

I could tell, by observation, that Michael cared about me and wanted only what was best. I knew by what he did — how often we talked (as our relationship started as a long-distance one and proceeded that way for about six or seven months), what we talked about, how much he remembered of what I’d said, even what he sent me in the mail — that he was an honorable, loving man.

Someone worthy of me. Someone worthy of love.

Michael was ever-changing, but always at the bedrock level was the same. Honest. He’d tell you the truth, even if he would’ve rather not, because he knew nothing real could proceed without it. And the depth of feeling he had for me was incredible.

Ultimately, even though we didn’t get a lot of Earthly time together, Michael’s love and influence changed my life. It’s made me a better person.

Again, I know this by observation. I know this by re-reading our letters to each other. (Mostly e-mail, but a few are dead-tree versions.) I know this by the stories he wrote. I know this by every action he ever performed.

There’s a big difference between someone who truly loves you and someone who only says they do. That difference is as clear as night and day, but you have to first perceive it before you can see it. And you have to admit to yourself, when you’re in the wrong relationship, that it’s time to go.

I fought that realization before I divorced my ex. In a way, he forced my hand, because he started the next relationship before he was done with me. But his action in doing that somehow got through to me that he was not about to change; he could not be the person I needed, and he’d already left, emotionally and spiritually. He’d made that choice to go.

So, you may be wondering why I’m talking about this. (No, it’s not just because of rewatching the new Matrix movie, Resurrections, again. Though I enjoyed it even more the second time around, I will say.)

We see, often, what we expect to see. So if we are in love, we expect to see that our significant other loves us in return. We look for reasons to believe what we think is right, rather than observe how they’re behaving, or listening to what they actually say, or watching their body language, or a thousand other little details that tell a quite intricate story if we just paid attention.

In this New Year of 2022, I urge you to pay attention to what is real. Observe. Listen. Pay attention.

Whether in romance, in life, in work, or in play — or in all of them — paying attention matters. And you should not ever stay with someone who doesn’t respect you as much as he respects himself.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 1, 2022 at 6:54 am

Sunday Thoughts: Creativity and the New Matrix Movie, Resurrections

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I found no way to write this without spoilers. If you have not seen Matrix Resurrections yet, proceed at your own risk.

As a writer, I am often inspired by unusual things.

I take note of all sorts of things, you see. I observe them. I think about them, sometimes only subconsciously, but I ponder them. And I wonder, often, what would have happened if I’d have chosen a much smaller life.

(I do not think that would’ve been a good idea, mind you. But let’s stay with the concept.)

This all matters to me, as a person, especially due to the fact that I’ve been creative my entire life. And as I’ve grown into midlife, there are so many different messages that have been thrown at me. “Grow up,” says one. “Stop fantasizing that your career will ever matter,” says another. “What you do as a writer…what’s the point of it? No one reads what you say, so who cares?”

And then, there are the bills. The obligations. The chores. The never-ending minutiae of life.

All of this can weigh me down. Add in health problems, as anyone who’s read this blog for a while has to have figured out, and the weight of sorrow as my life-partner has been dead now for over seventeen years, and it sometimes seems overwhelming.

“But Barb,” you say. “What about the new Matrix movie, Resurrections? You put that into your title, right? You are going to talk about it, aren’t you?”

Yes, I am. Because I think much of the commentary regarding Matrix Resurrections is flat-out wrong. They are missing the point, which is this: Just because you’re older, your love shouldn’t be trivialized. And fighting for love matters more than anything in this world.

Anything.

Very few of the critics have even touched on this, and that annoys me. Even those critics who’ve enjoyed the movie have discussed more obvious themes and have pointed out that Resurrections builds heavily on what has gone before in the previous Matrix trilogy. (How it was supposed to do anything else is beyond me. But let’s not go there.)

Mind you, some of the commentary is quite interesting, as it discusses trans rights and “deadnames” — that is, the name you were given at birth is not the name you go by (such as the fate of the late Leelah Alcorn) — and some of it quite rightly points out the romance between Trinity and Neo carries the film.

But they still are missing a huge point, and I can’t help but point out the elephant in the room.

Look. It’s easy, when you get into midlife, to let those messages I delineated above overwhelm you. It’s really easy to let the weight of words, and life itself, stop you from being who you truly are.

Neo, in Matrix Resurrections, is again going by his original name, Thomas Anderson. Trinity is now a character, only, in a game Thomas supposedly created. (That the Matrix was diabolical enough to do this is another problem entirely, mind you, but often when we get to midlife, people completely misunderstand what the Hell we’re doing as creative sorts. I tend to take that as allegory, personally.) The person who’s alive and should be Trinity is now named Tiffany (going by Tiff), and she has children and a husband. And only Neo knows that “Tiffany” is really Trinity.

But how can he convince anyone of that, when he can’t convince anyone that he’s Neo, not simply Thomas Anderson? Especially when other people only see an older and broken man, someone who’s survived a suicide attempt, and who lives alone and mostly unnoticed.

Hell, he doesn’t even have a pet to take care of. He’s that isolated.

Those around him completely misunderstand what he’s about, and he’s been led to believe that the one person he’s ever loved was someone he made up himself.

I understand all of this very well.

For Neo to reclaim himself, to reclaim his life, and to free Trinity so the two of them could go on and live the lives they were born to lead is the most important part of this film. (How they get there is not relevant to this discussion, but I will say that as an editor of SF&F, it worked well for me.) That they have a true partnership, a true meeting of the minds, and a truly good relationship where both are more together than they are separately (even though they’re both interesting, separately) is extremely important, to me as a widow.

(Yes, I like vicarious wish-fulfillment, sometimes. Sue me.)

At any rate, I was deeply moved by Matrix Resurrections. I loved the new characters (Bugs in particular, a blue-haired and fierce female warrior/captain), I enjoyed the main plot, but the subtext and the emotion was what got to me.

I believe in love. I believe it matters more than anything in this world. And I believe in soul bonds that endure between one creative soul and another, that call to us despite all the noise this ultra-connected world throws at us.

I also believe that memories matter. And that no one can frame your memories except yourself.

So I urge you to check your assumptions at the door before you see Matrix Resurrections. But do see it, and then if you are in midlife — as I am — ask yourself these questions:

Does what I do matter? (Hell, yes.)

Even if no one ever reads what I write, should I continue? (Absolutely.)

Can you reclaim your life against nearly impossible odds? (I would like to think so!)

What do you think of this blog? Have you seen Matrix Resurrections, or are you going to see it? Tell me about it in the comments!

Time to Heal…

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Folks, I’m glad to finally be able to tell you that I think I’m on the mend.

Note that I said “I think,” because I’ve had health reversals before. Still, I am hopeful that I’m not speaking too soon, as I now have antibiotics and steroids and feel much clearer of mind. (Thus, the hope is that I’ll be sounder of body soon as well.)

How did this happen? Well, yesterday I marched into urgent care, and told ’em that I felt like I was getting weaker and weaker, and sicker and sicker. I also had a temperature, which is very rare for me; it was 99.8 F when I went in there and it was 99.4 on the way out. As my normal temp is lower than most people’s, this was almost shocking. (To them as well, as they’ve seen me a lot in the last two years.)

I have another sinus infection.

It’s frustrating that this one got so bad, especially since I’ve been trying to take care of my health. I did call my doctors, but every single one said I needed someone else to make the call. Only the ENT doctor was willing to try to get me an appointment, and he didn’t have one until after the first of the year. (I took it.)

That said, I now have medication that has helped — after only one day — to clear my mind significantly, as I said before.

The other problem I had yesterday was that my phone’s battery was low even though I’d charged it before leaving the house. I was supposed to take my mother to a dental appointment. She needed this. Unfortunately, I had zero bars, and the phone was just barely working. Text takes less energy than a phone call, so I sent her several texts.

And, of course, she did not get them in a timely manner.

I feel very bad about this. But I don’t think I could have done anything else.

She did call me, but I was waiting for medication at that time and the phone was still low battery anyway. I didn’t see that she’d actually called until I got back home and was charging the phone. At that point I called and left her a voicemail.

That I was not able to help my mother saddens me greatly. That I couldn’t reach her due to technical problems to do with my very old phone (at least eight years old, and a flip-phone; the cellular carrier has said it must be upgraded next year) is extremely frustrating.

I don’t blame her for being furious.

Anyway, that is all I know. (Time to heal, I guess.)

Have you ever been failed by technology? Or had to work through months of illness? Tell me about it in the comments! (I hope you’re reading out there…)

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 16, 2021 at 11:50 am

Struggling, but Alive

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Folks, I am dealing with some health issues that aren’t getting much better (despite all my trying, and despite the intervention of the most thorough allergy doctor I’ve ever known). This is the main reason I haven’t blogged much in the past week. (Hell, make it more like the last year, and you’d probably be closer to right.)

I get to trot off to the urgent care clinic in the morning, again, in the hopes they can do something — anything — to help me.

Note that I called my own doctor’s office three times in the past week, and tried to talk with a nurse about two things: this lingering illness, and whether or not I can get a Covid booster shot while I’m ill. (Most people say no. Now I’m going to have to ask them in urgent care about that, too.)

Urgent care clinics have been overwhelmed since the pandemic, because of doctors elsewhere being asked to do too much (so the urgent care clinics also get to do way too much, as crap runs downhill), and also because no one seems to know much about what policies any given clinic should have. (Some doctors are flexible. Some aren’t. My own primary care doc seems to be on the less flexible side, but it may be that people are out due to the pandemic and again are being asked to do way too much.)

I feel sorry for the urgent care folks. Truly, I do. I agree with them that they should not be having to see me so often, and that someone, anyone else should’ve responded this past week (so maybe I’d have had antibiotics earlier this week; this has to be bacterial in origin as it’s gone on for much of the past year, and it does respond to antibiotics, as viruses do not).

But as they’re the only game in town on the weekend, and as I continue to be so ill that I can barely hold my head up, I’m going to have to force myself out there in the morning.

Wish me luck with this nonsense, will you?

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 5, 2021 at 1:45 am

Posted in Informational Stuff

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The Waukesha Parade Tragedy, Ten Days Later

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Folks, on November 21, 2021, a man who I shall not name drove his SUV into a parade route and injured over sixty people, killing six. The youngest of the six was eight; the oldest of the six was eighty-one.

There are any number of GoFundMes set up for various people who got hurt during the Waukesha Parade, but the best place to go to see a good number of them is here. I do urge you to donate, if you can.

Anyway, I’ve found the Waukesha Parade tragedy an extremely difficult thing to talk about, because some of those hit by the driver (I’ve called him a lunatic/maniac/criminal on Facebook, and that does seem to fit) were musicians who played in the Waukesha South Marching Band.

I can easily picture myself doing what those young musicians were — just playing their music, minding their own business, trying to make people happy during the holidays — and get so upset, so frustrated, and so deeply angry that anyone would want to interfere with those kids just playing their horns that it’s been all I can do not to break into tears at odd moments.

My best friend played in the Lighthouse Brigade Band (in Racine). So did my sister. So did quite a few of my high school bandmates. (I didn’t, because my first instrument was the oboe. There is no such thing as a marching oboist. I didn’t take up the sax until fifteen, and the clarinet until seventeen.) So I can easily put the people I know into that context, and think, “There but for the grace of God…”

Yet, why should we have to think this, when all we want to do is spread a little holiday cheer?

There’s another reason this all hit home, too. That’s in the nature of what happened with the Dancing Grannies, a beloved Milwaukee-area institution. You have to be a grandmother to dance with the Dancing Grannies. And one member, just fifty-two, was performing for the very first (and last) time. While another member, seventy-nine, filled in at the last minute by holding the banner (as someone had to do it).

Four people affiliated with the Dancing Grannies died. (One was one of the Dancing Grannies’ husbands.)

I know how it feels to go from wife to widow in the blink of an eye. (At least, it feels like it, at the time.) And I also know how awful it is to have to go see your spouse, in the hospital, hooked up to multitudinous machines, just praying to God/dess that you will somehow, some way, be able to hug your husband again. Hear his voice again. Hell, even hear him complain again about something…just so long as he’s there to do it, you see.

Too many people lost their spouses, suddenly, for no damned good reason.

And too many kids, just playing in the band and doing their best to uplift people’s spirits, were injured as well.

The child who died was only eight, and he played baseball. His twelve-year-old brother was apparently thrown out of the way (best I could tell from grainy video evidence), as he had road rash (which he’d most likely not have had if he’d been hit) and much lesser injuries than his younger brother.

So, I keep thinking of the last acts of the Dancing Grannies. Some of them were trying to get others out of the way, knowing full well they were going to be hurt, or killed. But doing what they could in a time of crisis to save lives was an admirable act of selflessness that I wish was being celebrated in the news.

I have a category here on my blog called “Truly Horrible Behavior.” The actions of that SUV driver qualify.

I truly wish that SUV driver had never gone onto the Waukesha parade route at all, much less hit all those people. But as my wishes don’t count for much after the fact — and before the fact, who could’ve possibly thought of something so vile? — I don’t know what to say other than this:

Keep the spirit of the holidays in your heart, despite it all.

Care for others, even if it doesn’t seem worth it.

Let those you love know it, even if it sounds silly or contrived. (The action of saying it isn’t, no matter how it sounds.)

Find a cause you care about, and donate time, or money, or whatever else you can think of to it, because life is short, and meaningful acts sometimes seem shorter still.

Remember those who lost their lives.

Remember those who were injured.

And, finally, do what you can to drive back the darkness. It’s tough. I know that. (I am fighting as hard as I can, myself.) But we must live through all this, as witnesses, and do what we can to shape a better world, one act of grace at a time.

Holidays, Schmolidays: A Rant

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I read an article online about a young woman who planned a “Friendsgiving” dinner (Thanksgiving dinner, with friends), but no one showed up. Her boyfriend, thankfully, asked a lot of his friends to show up instead, and the food and drink she’d so carefully amassed and cooked was consumed.

This article was frustrating to read, in more than one way.

First off, if you have friends, treat them like gold.

In other words, do not stand them up. Do not forget to call if you’re going to be late (or can’t come at all). Do not do what happened to this poor young woman, as it’s beyond rude.

Second off, if you have even a smidgen of empathy, you need to realize that how you treat others shows how you, yourself, should be treated.

So, if you can’t be bothered to let a friend know that you aren’t able to be with them…or if a long-distance phone call is planned, and you aren’t able to make it…or if there’s some other reason that keeps you away from their presence after they’ve made so many plans, there’s something the matter with you.

And I say that knowing full well I, myself, have had to beg off plans at the last minute due to health concerns. (In fact, I wasn’t able to be at my father’s birthday celebration yesterday because I had a migraine. This cost me a chance to see my sister and niece, too.)

I was ill, so I texted my sister and made my apologies. That was all I could do. (My father doesn’t text, and doesn’t understand it. I knew my sister would tell him, and she did. I’ll try to make it up to him later, if I can.)

So, if I can do it through a migraine, what is everyone else’s excuse?

This poor woman was expecting at least ten friends to show up (by how many place settings she had sitting out), and none showed. Not one person had the decency to call or text her, either.

That’s just plain wrong.

The only good excuse for not being able to let someone know what happened to you if time was planned (online and/or off) to be with you is a quick trip to the hospital, unconscious. (I might reluctantly accept a work emergency, too, depending. Might.)

Third off, why must people be so obnoxious?

Life is really hard right now. We have the pandemic, which goes on and on and on. We have the holidays, which are tough, especially for people grieving a new loss (or even an older one where the loss was huge and heartfelt).

(In fact, I wrote a blog post called “Please Remember Those Who Grieve During the Holidays” years ago, because I felt it needed to be said. But as always, I digress…)

And people who’ve lost loved ones who mattered deeply and desperately to them deserve to know that other people care. That other people are thinking about them. That other people do understand their losses, at least insofar as they have themselves gone through various losses.

So, if you have good friends, cherish them. Do not take them for granted. Do not stand them up on Friendsgiving. Do not treat them like they don’t exist, or don’t matter.

Pay attention. Stay in their lives. And think beyond your own concerns about others, because that’s truly what life is all about.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 27, 2021 at 2:57 am

A Sunday Throwback (and Other Stuff)

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Folks, Facebook has a memories feature, and it reminded me of a blog I wrote in 2015 called “A Writer’s Work is Never Done.” (Link is here.) As lately I’ve been editing far more than I’ve been writing, it was nice to have something positive show up in my Facebook feed (yes, I shared that puppy; what, you expected me to say anything else?)

See, editing can be draining. And the most recent project I’ve been working on was a monster of an edit. (It might be the toughest edit I’ve ever had.) It consumed me, at least when I wasn’t sick and was being consumed by something else.

I am still sick, mind, with an asthma exacerbation and some sort of untreated allergic reaction. (I have an Epi-pen, and I know what to do if/when something bad happens of an allergic nature. Still, I hope I won’t have to use it anytime soon.) The new meds I’ve been put on should do some good, but it’ll take a few weeks for them to ramp up.

Anyway, the point to this Sunday post is this: No matter how awful you’re feeling, something will remind you of better days. (Even if it’s not exactly what you’d thought about, at first.)

Of course, the other memory I had pop up in my feed was that my dog Trouble died on this day two years ago. (Well, two years and a few days ago, now.) Thinking about Trouble is bittersweet, at best, ’cause I loved that little guy so much. He really did see himself as a badass, but he was a sweetheart. (Hey, you can be both, especially if you’re a dog. But I digress.)

I don’t have a picture that’s shareable, or I’d show you one. But Trouble was about fourteen pounds, had a black and white coloring, was mostly Shih Tzu but mixed (the back legs were shorter than the front, which isn’t common for Shih Tzus), and was one of the most interesting and funny dogs I’ve ever been around. Big brown eyes, an expressive face…Trouble had empathy galore, though of course he didn’t bruit it about (as again, he was a badass and don’t you forget it).

Finally, though my Facebook feed didn’t throw this memory up, I remember my good friend Jeff Wilson on this day. He would’ve turned 58 today, had he lived, and it’s been ten long years since he died.

How time flies.

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be able to forgive myself for not being able to go out to Colorado and be with him (as I was still working on financing that at the time of his death). I wish I had made it there, as maybe Jeff’s passing would’ve been a bit easier…and even if not, I would’ve had people to mourn with (rather than mourning alone so many miles — almost half a continent — away).

So, on this day, I remember Jeff. I remember Trouble. I remember that once upon a time, I was excited for my second novel to come out, and was working on my third.

All of these things remind me of my most intrinsic, essential self. And my hope is that as I continue to heal that I will be able to resume my fiction writing, along with being able to play my saxophone and clarinet regularly, along with editing.

Because while I do enjoy editing, doing only that stifles me.

I must be able to create, you see. Or it all builds up to the point I feel like I’m going to spontaneously combust (and not in a good way).

At any rate, what are you thinking about this Sunday? Do you ever think about the people (and beloved pets) that have gone before us? Let me know in the comments, if you would. (Still feeling all alone in the void, here.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 21, 2021 at 5:23 am

A Quick Thursday Update…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 18, 2021 at 6:48 pm

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