Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for June 2017

Music and Writing — Do They Mix?

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Folks, as you know, I’m a musician and a writer. And sometimes I’ve wondered…do writing and music really mix?

I think they do. Being able to hear words as a symphony sometimes helps. It gives you an idea of cadence, measure, tone, tempo…even counterpoint.

But there are times when it can be easier for me to say things with music rather than words. I even know why this is; I trained for a career as a musician from the time I was ten years old.

That doesn’t mean I can’t say it in words, mind. I can. Still, it’s as my late husband put it: there are times where it’s like I’m converting what I see from music to words. Because music was my first language in many senses; I trust that more.

Even so, when both can be combined, it works well. (Check out my novel CHANGING FACES if you don’t believe me.)

At any rate, in a few weeks, I’ll be able to tell you about a new piece of writing I think combines writing and music well — and no, it’s not my own, though it is from one of my writer-friends. (I wish I could say something now, mind, but…better wait.)

Enjoy your weekend, folks. And if you’re in Racine looking for something to do on Sunday night, come down to the Zoo at 7:30 p.m. and listen to the Racine Concert Band’s first free concert of the year — we’ll be playing patriotic songs in honor of the Fourth of July. (And did I mention it’s absolutely, positively free?)

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Written by Barb Caffrey

June 29, 2017 at 5:01 pm

Posted in Music, Writing

Anniversary Musings: Value for Value Received

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Folks, I wracked my brains today to try to figure out something new to say about my beloved late husband Michael B. Caffrey.

Why?

Because today is my wedding anniversary, that’s why. Fifteen years ago today, Michael and I married. It was the right decision, and it was perhaps the most important one of my entire life.

I’ve told you many things about Michael, but I’m not sure I have discussed some very important things that Michael stood for. Therefore, I’m going to rectify that now, and hope that wherever Michael is in the cosmos, he’ll smile at the recollection.

Anyway, Michael was ethical, principled, fair-minded, and believed firmly in the phrase I put in the title: value for value received. He believed people should be rewarded for good work, whether they were a ditch digger or a countess; he believed that too many people forgot that we were all alike, deep down, and that no one person, no matter how highly born he or she might be, was above anyone else. Or should be.

Michael and I often talked about politics, and perhaps I should share a bit about that, too. He often lamented that politicians forgot about “value for value received,” and started getting above themselves. Started thinking they were better than everyone else, because they had powerful positions, and powerful friends, and could amass great wealth while in office.

As a non-materialist Zen Buddhist, Michael abhorred the belief that only the powerful, well-connected socialites were worthy. He believed very strongly that if we were to believe in individualism, we had to give the resources (including health care, education, and in some cases job training) so people who weren’t born wealthy could make their ways in the world, find their passions, and work on the pursuit of happiness as they saw fit.

See, the whole idea of value for value received permeates everything. If you believe in bettering yourself, you should want to find a way toward a better education, learn new skills, or at minimum read as much as you can, as widely as you can.

In other words, you have to invest in yourself. You can’t give yourself the value you deserve if you don’t.

Another thing Michael was very concerned about was what he considered a dearth of compassion. Too many people, he felt, were not willing to look outside of themselves — while politicians were perhaps the easiest to poke fun at (and definitely to criticize), he was far more worried about the average person.

Why?

Well, Michael felt too many people refused to use their heads except for hat-racks. And because they abrogated their responsibilities to think and reason for themselves, they perhaps forgot about “value for value received,” and plodded along in life rather than make any strides in learning, creativity, or in their chosen profession.

Granted, there are many people who run into difficulty while trying to make strides. (I am one of them.) Life is often unfair, which is why Michael believed in the social safety net.

Michael was compassionate, fair-minded, smart as a whip and believed that if life was to be worth living, we had to struggle with all our might, soul, and skill. Only by doing that could we attain “value for value received.”

While Michael hasn’t walked this Earth now for nearly thirteen years, I still think he was onto something.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 24, 2017 at 5:28 pm

Unsettled Times

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Folks, the times, they are unsettled. (OK, Bob Dylan, it isn’t. But it does happen to be true.)

We have unrest here in Wisconsin, as there’s an important trial going on in Milwaukee that, depending on its outcome, may set off another round of riots and looting and fires. (Last year, I wrote a post called “Milwaukee Burning” about that, I believe.)

We have unrest throughout the United States for various reasons. Some comes down to how our politicians continue to make the same mistakes, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats (right now, the GOP is in the barrel over their mishandling of Trumpcare, otherwise known as the AHCA), some because of the bombastic nature of our current President, Donald Trump (a man Hillary Clinton quite correctly called “unfit” due to Trump’s willingness to shoot from the Tweet at any hour of the day or night). Some is because we’ve possibly forgotten we have more in common with each other than not…

But I think a lot of it is because too many people are working jobs that are below their ability levels. They’re not making the money they need to pay their bills, much less have any sort of decent quality of life. Way too many people work so many hours, they barely see their children, spouses, or any of their friends, all because they’re trying hard to stay ahead of their bills.

This is called “income instability.” It is not easy to deal with. At all.

Historically, when things like this happen — too many people either out of work entirely or working too many hours for too little money — we end up with a great deal of unrest.

Or, as I put it above, unsettled times.

It’s not easy to live in such times. There’s a lot of inequality out there, whether it’s income inequality, racial inequality, the fight for LGBTQ rights…and then, so many people are so very, very exhausted, they come home, aren’t able to think as well as they would if they had enough time to see their family and friends and decompress a little.

I’m wondering if this — the overarching inequity people can’t help but see —  is why the folks in our society seemingly are more likely to get angry and stay angry.

And then, we have a media that likes to push sensationalism, and only rarely talks about what binds us together. (That does not sell papers. Or buy ads for TV programs, either.)

So we hear only that people don’t agree. That they don’t get along. That maybe we shouldn’t, that our “tribe” doesn’t get along with theirs…that only Democrats/Republicans/Libertarians/Independents/fill-in-the-blank are worth talking to, and no one else need apply.

What I know, though, is different.

I have friends from all walks of life. They are all interesting, funny, special people, who have something worthwhile to say, and worthwhile to share.

Yeah, to some of them, I’m a “token liberal,” one of the few they can tolerate. And to some, I’m too conservative for them, not nearly liberal enough.

But I’m always, always myself.

That got me to thinking…if I can handle all these different people doing different things, saying many different interesting things, why is it that we can’t get it together as a society? Are we too big, too monolithic, to admit to individuality any longer?

I don’t know.

What I do know is, whether we live in unsettled times or not, we have to keep doing our best. And since we’re here on this Earth for some reason, we may as well try to learn from one another rather than insist ours is the “one, true way” (hat tip to author Mercedes Lackey).

So, this week, try hard to listen to someone you don’t normally think is worthwhile. See if there’s even one grain of anything you can agree with, and then talk civilly and with amity about the rest.

Who knows? You may make a new friend.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 20, 2017 at 7:27 pm

Missed Connections

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Folks, earlier tonight I heard from a friend that another of our circle had died. I felt terrible about this for many reasons, and I still do — but much of why I feel so awful may surprise you.

See, I think in some ways I dropped the ball with this individual. She was a bright, funny, caring woman, and I liked talking to her when I saw her online, but for a long time, I wasn’t completely able to reach out or let anyone else reach in.

After my husband Michael died, it took years to get to the point where I could again have reasonably normal friendships where grief didn’t completely overwhelm me (and my friend). And while I knew this woman a little bit before Michael died, I actually got to know her better afterward…when I wasn’t exactly at my best.

Now, I feel like I missed a connection somewhere with regards to this woman.

See, she tried — and several times, if my memory is not mistaken — to reach out to me after Michael died. This wasn’t an easy thing to do considering the depths of my grief, but I was in no shape to be able to appreciate her efforts.

Then, as I got more accustomed to widowhood, I was still withdrawn in many ways. Because of that, I never told her that I did appreciate her efforts. That they did mean something to me, and that partially because of her, I did keep trying and did eventually find a way out of my grief long enough to realize that I still had something worthwhile left to share with others.

This particular lady was someone that I think I could’ve really had a solid and strong friendship with, rather than be on the fringes of each other’s lives, had I been less withdrawn due to grief.

But it didn’t happen, partly because of circumstances…and partly because when she made her overtures of friendship, I wasn’t ready to receive them.

When I was ready, time got away from me. I never circled around and told her I appreciated that she’d tried to reach me, and that she did her best to support me emotionally at a difficult time.

Worse yet, when she needed help (she’d started a GoFundMe appeal recently), I wasn’t aware of it so I couldn’t help. She’d made it public, but I hadn’t gone to look at her Facebook page in a while, and the algorithms Facebook employs didn’t put her posts front and center on my feed…so I flat missed it.

Granted, I didn’t miss it out of malice aforethought. But I did miss it, and the help I could’ve provided wasn’t forthcoming.

All because of missed connections.

Because I’m now mourning her loss, I would like to tell you all something.

Do your best to tell those who help you that you appreciate what they’re doing. Even if it’s hard; even if you’re afraid it’ll sound wrong; even if you don’t really know how to tell them. Do your best, and let them know that you care.

Don’t assume that you’ll have tomorrow to do it, either. Because time has a funny way of getting away from you. And then, you’ll think, “Oh, that was years ago, she won’t care, and anyway, she’s got different people to talk with now…what difference would it make if I told her I appreciated things back then, anyway?”

Maybe it wouldn’t have. But maybe it would. And if it would’ve, who knows what sort of deep friendship might’ve occurred?

Now, all I can do is ask that you tell those you care about that you care about them today. Don’t wait.

And if you want to thank someone for something they did years ago that meant something to you, do it. Even if they don’t remember, or if it wasn’t a big deal to them, do it anyway — because it matters, and it’s good that you know it.

As for my friend, I hope she is being feted in the afterlife by all her friends and loved ones who passed before her. She was a lively, well-read woman with talent and wit and integrity, so I’m sure there are many on the Other Side waiting to greet her. (Probably including my husband, for all I know. It’s the type of thing Michael would’ve enjoyed doing, so I’d like to picture him there.)

Still, as I mourn her loss, I also mourn the loss of possibility. And wish very much that I could go back, just a few days, even, and tell her that I really did appreciate her.

But now, it’s too late.

And I hate that.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 15, 2017 at 1:44 am

GOP Congressman, 4 Others, Shot in VA

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Folks, I’m getting tired of talking about innocent people getting shot while doing innocuous things. But here we are again…

Anyway, GOP Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana (also the House Majority Whip) and four others have been shot in Alexandria, Virginia. The gunman has been identified as a sixty-six-year-old man from Illinois (beyond that, as is my policy, I am going to refuse to identify him); no one knows, as of yet, why this man opened fire today.

Making matters worse, this guy shot the Congressman during a baseball practice.

Yeah. Shot at baseball practice, after shagging flies, taking ground balls, and taking batting practice…one of the most all-American activities there could possibly be. (Does anyone but me remember the ultra-old Chevy commercial touting “baseball, hot dogs, applie pie and Chevrolet?”)

And supposedly, the guy asked, “Are those guys Republicans or Democrats?” before he opened fire. (The story is not clear there, but I’ve already seen this reported at least three times online and via TV in three different ways. There does seem to be some truth to it.)

At any rate, because Congressman Scalise is a ranking member and has a powerful position as party whip, the Capitol Police were there as a security detail. If they hadn’t been there, as newscaster Brian Williams just said on MSNBC, the potential for injuries (or worse, deaths) would’ve been even worse.

But to say “it could have been worse” is damning with faint praise.

The fact is, we have to get a handle on two things right now. First, we must somehow lower the partisan rancor in this country. (Virginia Governor McAuliffe is right about that.) If this guy shot at Scalise solely because he’s a Republican, that’s beyond unacceptable, and goes into the sort of reflexive hatred that was seen in the shooting of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords back in 2011.

I don’t understand hatred very well, to be honest. But we must identify it, and deal with it, and try to defuse it, before it ever gets to this level, if we possibly can.

Second, we must make it easier for people to access mental health care. It’s difficult now for people to go get needed help; they often can’t afford it, and yet without decent mental health, what kind of life can you have?

At any rate, I deplore this violence. It disgusts me. I do not want to ever see anything like this again.

But as it’s now happened so many times — at theaters, at various public events, now at a baseball practice — I can’t say that is likely.

And that makes me very, very sad.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 14, 2017 at 10:41 am

A Note about PrideFest…and CHANGING FACES

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Folks, it’s been a while since I wrote anything about my most troublesome, yet rewarding book to write — that being the LGBT fantasy/romance, CHANGING FACES. (Fantasy only in that it has angels, really. But whatever.)

As PrideFest is going on in Milwaukee this weekend, I thought now was a good time to remind people that CHANGING FACES is available. What better time is there to celebrate romance regardless of form than PrideFest? Especially when one of the couple is of non-standard sexuality?

(Yeah, I’m going to use it as a tie-in. Sorry. But I hope you can forgive me anyway.)

CHANGING FACES cover

While I’m not LGBT, I’ve always supported my friends and colleagues who are. I hope I was faithful to the struggles a gender-fluid person who always used the female pronoun might have, and about the unusual situation two angels put her and her boyfriend into. All because their love refused to be denied.

So, there’s romance, there are angels, there’s lots of other good and interesting stuff going on…and it’s only ninety-nine cents as an e-book.

(Yeah. Ninety-nine cents.)

Please go check it out, will you? And if you think you’d like it, please buy it, read it, and most definitely review it, as I need all the help I can get.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 10, 2017 at 8:54 pm

Time Waits for No One…

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Folks, I’ve had it up to here with mortality.

I’ve lost my husband. I’ve lost my best friend. I’ve lost my grandmother, my uncles, my aunt, and numerous other good friends way too early.

But I’m not the only one.

Other friends of mine have lost sisters, mothers, fathers, brothers, best friends, you name it.

We’re all here for a short time. I’m not entirely sure what we’re supposed to do with that time, other than love one another and develop our gifts and talents as much as we possibly can.

So please, remember that time doesn’t wait for anyone.

That’s why you have to make the most of today.

Don’t wait. Use your talents, use your mind and heart and body and spirit, and cherish your family, your friends, and all your loved ones as much as you possibly can.

Do everything you can to make a positive difference, while you still have time. Don’t let anyone put you off; don’t let anyone tell you that the small things you can do on your own won’t ever matter.

Because that is a lie. And you need to remember that.

Mind you, there’s a lot about life that really frustrates me. But one thing I know is true:

Time waits for no one.

So do your best today. Love your best today. Create your best today.

And never stop trying, loving, or creating. (Because the day you stop is the day you lose. Guaranteed.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 6, 2017 at 4:04 pm