Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for July 2017

Mistakes? Or Stepping Stones?

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Folks, have you ever wondered if mistakes are merely stepping stones?

And the worse the mistake, the bigger the stepping stone?

I know most of us (myself included) tend to think a mistake is a life-altering event that you can’t go back from. You’re not the same person as before you made the mistake, and you don’t know what you’re going to do. Sometimes you don’t have any good choices, and that’s frustrating in the extreme.

But I’m here to tell you that I’ve rebounded from most of my past mistakes. They did turn out to be stepping stones, though I didn’t necessarily know that at the time. And I learned from them, and became a more informed person (if not always a wiser one).

Consider that when you write, sometimes you have to tear up a whole chapter, maybe even start over ten or fifteen or more times before you get a sentence right. (Or a paragraph, or a story, etc.) A start is just that: a start. It doesn’t have to lead where you think it’s going to lead, not and still be worthwhile to you.

Life is like that, too.

If you’d have told me after I fought so hard to get my two college degrees in music that I’d end up as an independent writer and editor, I’d probably have looked at you like you had two heads. I’d planned my whole life to be a performing musician, and to teach music. That’s what I wanted to do from the time I turned ten years old, and I worked really hard to do just that.

But life threw me a few curveballs, and so, here I am.

And as my character Bruno says (in the as-yet unpublished AN ELFY ABROAD), “I am who I am. I refuse to apologize for it.”

My mistakes did turn out to be stepping stones, for the most part. The ruins of my first two marriages were necessary so I could find the right guy, at long last, and build a strong and sturdy marriage that satisfied me in all senses. (That it ended too soon, because he died too young, is not Michael’s fault. Nor mine, but I digress.) And my hands not allowing me to become the musician I had dreamed of becoming turned my creativity in an alternate direction.

Maybe, had I not gone in this direction, I wouldn’t know the writers, editors, and yes, the musicians I know now. Maybe, just maybe, I’d not have learned as much about life either.

And I can’t be unhappy with any of that, even though my life in a lot of ways didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped.

(Maybe it’s the same with you.)

Anyway, just the thought that your mistakes might someday turn out to be stepping stones may do you some good today. Because mistakes aren’t always as bad as they seem. They often can lead to good outcomes, even if you can’t see it now; even if it makes no sense; and even if you have to fight like Hell to get there.

For one moment, try to step outside yourself and treat yourself the way you’d treat your best friend. Be kind, be compassionate, and give yourself a break.

That way, you can accept what comes, and keep fighting.

For a creative person (writer, musician, editor, or what-you-will), that’s the only way to live.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 10, 2017 at 4:52 pm

What Is Strength?

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Folks, this is a special post for the blogging event Collaboration with a Purpose. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Strength. What is it, why do we covet it, and why should we care about it?


I think strength is one of the more underappreciated of human virtues. Without strength, no one would live through famine, dearth, wars, or anything profoundly traumatic.

Actor Kevin Sorbo knows this. In his book TRUE STRENGTH (which I reviewed a few years ago over at Shiny Book Review), Sorbo discusses his brush with a catastrophic, life-threatening health condition that robbed him of his physical endurance and what he’d thought of as his strength — that is, everything he could do, physically. At the time, he was known mostly for his work as Hercules, and as such, he had to be strong, cool, confident, and portray someone who could break heads without breaking a sweat, then go to the tavern afterward with his buddy Iolaus and crack jokes.

But this illness changed things. He learned what he was really about; it wasn’t his physical attributes that mattered, as they weren’t what made him strong.

What mattered was his mind. His heart. His spirit. His desire to live, to get better, to take up the mantle of his life again on his terms…and to not give in, until he’d found a way back to the life he was meant to live.

Sorbo credited much of this willingness to continue fighting with faith, along with the love of his wife, Sam. And there is no doubt that’s all true.

Still, I tend to think that it’s the person he was, annealed in fire (or at least forged in illness) that shows exactly what strength is — and what it isn’t.

See, most of us only see the outsides of things. We don’t see the inner workings. We can’t, or we won’t, or maybe we’re afraid to be vulnerable and to admit that we’re all frail in some respects. That we can all make mistakes. And that our lives can change in an instant, whether it’s due to a life-threatening illness, the death of a spouse, or other catastrophic events.

Who we are is often shown in starkest relief after we’ve lived through something incredibly painful. The fact that we endured this, that we came out on the other side and lived to tell about it, is what strength really is.

Now, as to why we should covet it? I think that’s more because some of us are afraid that we may not be everything we think we are. When the chips are down, will we convert on our promise, or will we roll over and play dead?

Granted, being strong means you have to admit that sometimes you’re weak, vulnerable, and not at your best. You have to know that in your darkest moments, even when you’ve lost all hope that things will ever improve, that somehow you’re going to survive, and keep trying, and refuse to give up.

Why we should care about strength is obvious. It’s what makes us who we are. It taps into our souls, into our innermost selves, and demands that we be true to ourselves, or else.

Providing we are, and give it our all, that strength, that innermost drive to survive and do our best will get us through many dark periods of time in our lives. (As well as a few good ones here and there; maybe more than a few?)

At any rate, that’s what I think of, when I think of what strength truly is (and isn’t). What do you think about? (Let me know in the comments.)

(Later today, I’ll add links to all the other bloggers taking part in today’s Collaboration with a Purpose event. I was showing my strength — or at least my bullheadedness — in writing this down now, during a migraine headache. But even my strength has limits; I’ll have to add the links to the other bloggers later, and hope they’ll forgive me down the line.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 5, 2017 at 4:36 am

Collaboration with a Purpose Is Back on July 5th…

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Folks, this is just a brief “hit-and-run” bloglet to let you know there’s another special event coming to the Elfyverse on July 5th. I’m one of twelve bloggers taking part in “Collaboration with a Purpose 2,” and this time, we’re going to talk about the toughest thing in the world to discuss: Strength.

That is, what is it, why is it important, and how do you find it?

(Take a look at the graphic if you don’t believe me.)


Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy this. I’ll have a list of all the bloggers for you tomorrow, and will include links to all on the 5th, as was true of the last “Collaboration with a Purpose” about loss.

Do take care and enjoy your holiday!

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 3, 2017 at 4:11 pm