Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for November 2018

The Duties of Friendship

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When you want to have good friends in your life, you need to be one yourself.

This seems like a truism, something so obvious that no one could ever possibly mistake it. But I have seen, lately, some folks I care about very much being treated exceptionally poorly by their friends…and it makes me wonder if these so-called friends understand that truism above.

Without naming names, I’ll give you an example.

One of my friends recently had to have emergency surgery. She reached out to her friends, as people do when they’re in a crisis. The problem is, some of her friends just didn’t get it, while one of them — shockingly — decided to “ghost” and just not return any of her messages, text or otherwise.

Now, I got it. And I talked with her every day, sometimes many times a day, as we usually do. Because I know how it is to have a crisis and feel like no one cares.

Apparently, this one person either didn’t know that, didn’t care, or just figured it didn’t matter.

What do you think of that, hm? Is that palatable in 2018? Have we come so low as that, where we can’t even reach out to those who need help and give them any support at a time of crisis?

See, friendship has duties and responsibilities. We don’t like to think that, because it sounds transactional. And being a friend should not be about anything transitory or transactional.

But you owe your friend kindness, respect, comfort when you can give it, a sympathetic ear, caring…honesty? And you owe it to them during the bad times, as well as the good.

You should never, but never, “ghost” out of the picture. That’s just wrong.

I’m sorry. Someone who does this, who “ghosts out” at a time like this, is not worth your time. They are not your friend. They have just shown their ill worth, their lack of understanding, their lack of empathy. And you don’t need them.**

So, what should you do instead?

Even if you are under major stresses yourself, you should at least tell your friend you are rooting for her. (Or him.) And that you care. And that you want to know how the surgery goes.

Anything less is ridiculous.

What other duties do friends have? Tell me about them in the comments!

————

**If someone does this to you, I can only hope that this person, down the line, will have that happen to him as well. (Karma can be a mother.)

**And if you have done something like this, and didn’t realize it, you should make amends. Pronto. (‘Nuff said.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 29, 2018 at 10:35 am

Collaboration With a Purpose: Let’s Talk About Men (International Men’s Day)

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Folks, it’s International Men’s Day. And as promised, the bloggers who comprise Collaboration with a Purpose — including yours truly — are going to talk about men. We’ve talked about International Women’s Day before (here’s my post for that) and I, personally, mentioned International Women’s Day a couple of years ago…so it’s high time that International Men’s Day got its fair share, no?

design 2

(Jane Love made the graphic above.)

Men, these days, often feel underappreciated. Too many times, they’ve been told they’re “privileged,” because they’re men. They’re expected to succeed from the get-go, and yet, they grow up with many of the same fears, struggles, and problems as women — what will I do? How will I become my best self? How can I find love and happiness? And so forth.

When men try to find ways to express themselves, they often aren’t understood. Compounding things for them, there are two big stereotypes that cause trouble; first, men are often expected to be the “strong, silent type,” and so showing emotions can be very difficult. Second, men are often supposed to be the breadwinners, even now, in most situations…to a much larger extent than most women, the garden variety guy out there worries about how he’ll take care of not just himself financially, but his family, too.

There are some folks out there now who seem to undervalue the fact that men struggle as much as women do with finding their place in the world. I don’t understand this. We’re all human beings. We have many of the same motivations, fears, desires, etc., and we all need to come to grips with who we are and what we’re going to do in this world.

But men, somehow, are just supposed to know what this is.

My late husband Michael assuredly felt like this. He told me, on multiple occasions, that when he tried to better himself educationally, his needs were not understood by his parents. He graduated high school a few years early, worked in a comic books store, signed up for the Navy as soon as he decently could (his mother had to co-sign, as he was still under eighteen)…and then, he had some sort of accident while running in Naval training that broke both knees.

He was eighteen years old. The only thing he’d wanted to do was now closed to him. So what was he going to do?

He went back home after his knees healed. He started work as a typist for the Naval Base in Oakland as a civilian, probably because it was the closest he could get to his old dreams. And over time, he became a contracts administrator, because he found he was very good at both problem solving and small differences in contracts…and these two things added up to a job he could do that was useful.

Then, his world was rocked again when the Naval Base closed. He could’ve followed his job to a different base somewhere else, but he didn’t want to do that. He was married — not to me, as he hadn’t met me yet — and his then-wife had found work and he wanted to stay where he was. He loved San Francisco, you see…the place he’d spent much of his young life, and most of his adult life also.

So he stayed. And wrote fiction. And edited, sometimes, for friends. And worked on his art — he sketched, and his drawings had real life to them (unfortunately, I don’t have any of them with me, as they were lost during our move somehow). He also did a type of macrame with ropes, and sewed, and cooked…basically, Michael was creative as Hell, and any way he could create, he was going to do it.

Then he met me. In 2001.

He had been unemployed except for temp jobs and working for friends for over two years. He’d been on some dates, as his previous marriage had broken up (they remained friends until the end of his life, mind; one of the true amicable divorces I know about), and none of ’em had panned out. The women he’d met wanted men who made money. Or had a home, as in San Francisco, that denoted wealth. Or at least had a car, as that, too, denoted more than the average amount of wealth, as on-street parking is rarer than hen’s teeth, and on-street parking where you didn’t have to pay anything at all for it is even more difficult to find than that.

He was in his early forties. Distinguished-looking. He didn’t see himself as handsome. He was only middling tall. He used a walking stick (not a cane; call it a shillelagh instead), because of the old double-knee break and the finding of chondromalacia afterward (a type of arthritis; that’s what put him out of the Navy, when they found that). He felt like no woman would ever care about him.

But he met me. And found out he was wrong.

I think, for once in his life, Michael was glad to be proven wrong. (Michael loved being right more than anyone I’ve ever known.) I didn’t care about him not having work at the time, because I knew how hard-working he was, and the more I found out about him, the more intrigued I was. I didn’t care about him not having any money, because I didn’t have any myself. And I did care about him being creative, because I was creative, too…and had been vastly misunderstood, too.

Anyway, I put that in there to try to illustrate why Michael felt there would be no one out there for him.

I wonder, sometimes, if other men feel like this. They aren’t wealthy. They don’t have big houses. They don’t have fancy cars. They don’t have Rolexes, or any status symbol possessions. And our consumer-driven culture makes them think that no one will care, no one at all, unless they have these things…

But being a man is about much more than making money. It’s about caring for others, nurturing them, helping them. It’s about finding out who you are and maximizing your talents. It’s about sacrifice, sometimes. It’s about making choices, and rolling with the punches, and finding your own way through the thicket of what is supposed to be “masculine” behavior. It’s about finding yourself, and working on yourself, and doing whatever you can to do good in this world.

My husband succeeded, as a man.

And I will celebrate that success, all the days of my life.

*****

Anyway, here are the other bloggers this month celebrating International Men’s Day with me; go read their blogs, too, and let them know what you think!

Ipuna Black — International Men’s Day: A Father

Jane Love — A Real Man, Part 1

Mylene Orillo — A Tribute to All the Men in My Life

Sadaf Siddiqi (will be posting later due to family illness)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 19, 2018 at 9:50 am

More Musing About Editing

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Most of my life, I’ve worked hard at being a reliable, steady person.

(My family might laugh at this, but it’s the truth.)

A big part of that is embodied by the phrase “finish what you start.” And I try to do that with everything I do, even if it takes me longer as a writer to finish things than I’d like…even if my overall writing process has changed drastically since my late husband died, and I’ve never quite regained my fluidity or facility since.

It’s easier with editing, mind. For whatever reason, my mind goes into a mode there where I can see the story, manipulate the story (or at least ask the author to manipulate it for me), fix what needs fixing, suggest what needs suggesting, and try to do the best job I possibly can for my editorial clients.

Working hard is important. Even if I’m the only one who knows how hard I’m working, I still want to work hard, do everything possible, and make a positive difference in someone’s life. Even if it’s “just” in helping them realize their own artistic vision a little better, with a bit more clarity and sharpness…because these things are important, too.

A good friend, years ago, told me that when I started editing, I’d see manuscripts — even my own — differently. It’s a hard thing to turn off, Editorial Vision (or as I call it, “Editor Voice”), and that can get in the way of my own writing.

Mind, I do appreciate Editor Voice. I can do many things with it that others can’t. Including, of all things, being able to look at a manuscript as if I’ve never seen it before, even if I’ve seen it several times in the past. This ability seems unusual; the other good friends of mine who are editors don’t report having this type of track, though they have other things that work just fine for them.

(I also see, at the same time, what I’ve done, what I want to do, and what the author hopes me to do if I haven’t already figured out a way to do that, which makes it a way of looking at a story in two ways: with great knowledge, and with almost no knowledge. I call it a “dual-level ability.”)

I take what I do seriously. (Maybe too seriously, at times. Though I also try to be humorous when I can…or at least laugh, as life is too short to live it without laughter. Really.) I give everything I’ve got, and then some, toward helping others find their unique voices, and give them (in the buzzword of the moment) “agency.”

I’m glad to do whatever I can to help my clients, most of whom become good friends in the process, tell the best stories they need to tell, in the clearest and most distinct manner they can possibly tell their stories.

And otherwise, when I write? I try to tell myself I don’t have to do everything today. If I get down at least some of what I need, I can add to it tomorrow. Refine it. Maybe reimagine it, if need be…work with what I have, and make it as strong and resilient a story as I can make it. And tell the stories I need to tell, too, so I can say with good grace to clients that I know exactly how they feel, as I, too, have been there. (Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, etc.)

That’s what I’m thinking about, now, as I continue my journey forward.

Oh, one more thing…next week, I’m going to tell you about the newest anthology I’ve placed a story in. So don’t go anywhere…I’ll have a table of contents, even, to pass around. (Yes, I am a working writer. Thank God/dess.)

What’s going on with y’all? (Tell me in the comments.)

 

Moving Forward, Slowly…

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Folks, I continue to recover from the Nasty Respiratory Ailment (TM). I am much better than I was, and have completed two novel-length book edits in the past two weeks. Working on two more, too…and I have started writing a bit again, so I’m feeling much better about things overall.

That said, I wanted to talk a little bit about how sometimes being persistent means accepting the fact that you have to move more slowly than you might like. Illness does this, you see. Injury, too. And in either case, when you want to do more than you are physically capable of doing, it feels like beating your head against a brick wall.

Or maybe beating your wings against the bars of a gray, barren prison. (Whatever works as an image for you, though I definitely am more partial to the prison idea.)

It’s hard to deal with, the feeling of hopelessness. It really is. You want to be up and doing. Up and creating. Up and being the best self you can possibly be. But sometimes, to do that, you have to ration your strength and know your limits.

The way my husband put it was, “If you can’t do it today, you’ll do twice as much tomorrow. And if you can’t do it then either due to Real Life (TM), you’ll do three times as much the next day.” His view was that you had to believe you would keep moving forward, no matter how long it took, and no matter what in life stood in your way.

See, if you know your path and stay on it, good things will happen. You have to look hard sometimes to find those good things. But they will happen. You’ll meet good people, and you’ll be able to talk with them about things that matter to you. You’ll have exchanges of viewpoints, and sometimes may have your mind changed — or at least challenged — in ways you won’t expect. (Personally, I find that among life’s best of treasures, though it is woefully unappreciated by many who’d rather stay with whatever their personal status quo is. Too bad about ’em, isn’t it?)

And you will create. If you keep trying, you keep working on it, you keep thinking about it, and you do whatever is in your power on a daily basis, you will create.

That’s the hard lesson I’ve had to learn. And because I’m stubborn, I learn it over and over and over again. Because every single time, I want to be healthier than I am; I want to be stronger than I am; I want to snap back from ill health faster than I’m capable of; I want to do more, be better, create things of lasting worth…and I often wonder if I’ve failed at the lot of it.

That said, at least I keep trying. I move forward, slowly.

And that’s perhaps the whole trick of life. Find your path. Move forward on it, no matter how slowly it may be at times. Treasure the people you meet. Find common ground when you can, accept the stuff that will never be in common, try to delight in it when you can…just find whatever you can, and do that, and keep doing it as long as it makes you happy. (And, of course, hurts no one, is ethical, principled, etc.)

This is what matters. (Don’t let anyone tell you anything different, either.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 9, 2018 at 1:04 am

OUT NOW–The Broken Throne (Schooled in Magic 16)

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Always glad to boost the signal for my friend Chris, especially as I helped edit this one! It’s a really fine novel, and you’ll love the slam-bang ending!

The Chrishanger

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Written by Barb Caffrey

November 6, 2018 at 5:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Your Vote Is Your Voice…

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…and you’d better use it.

Tomorrow is election day nationwide. The 2018 midterm elections are contentious, to put it mildly, and many things are in play. We won’t know probably what’s going to happen until sometime in December — yes, December — because there are some states that have automatic run-offs. But I should know by tomorrow night what happened in Wisconsin, and whether or not I will finally have a Democratic Representative to the U.S. Congress after living here for fourteen years.

As my great-grandfather P.J. put it, “Time for the other party to line its pockets for a while.” (This is my best paraphrase.) But beyond the cynicism of that, there’s a lot of truth there, insofar as it’s never good for one party or one person to stay in office for such a long time that he or she has no real opposition.

We need races where the incumbent has to campaign. Because otherwise, why will they care about us, or our needs?

I’m tired of politicians in DC and Madison (my state capitol) doing whatever the Hell they want. I want them to be held accountable. I lean Democrat, but I am an independent; yes, I voted for Hillary Clinton (and I would do it again), but had she gotten in and not done what I expected? She’d not have gotten my vote the next time.

Because I pay attention. I do my research. And I vote.

I wish I could run for office. It’s never been in the cards for me for a wide variety of reasons. But I do have a few friends who are running for office. They are from different parties, live in different states, and believe in mostly different things. But one thing they do have in common is their belief in the power of the vote.

Your vote really is your voice. And it’s never been more important to be heard than right now. (No, this is not hyperbole.)

What do you want out of your government?

Whatever it is, you had best vote your conscience. And vote your beliefs, your values…make the best educated guesses you have, after doing your research of course, and find your way into that voting booth (unless you voted early, like me) and do your thing. Because that’s the best way to get representative governance that will actually listen to the people. Not go too high, too low, too fast, or too slow…be just right.

Of course, that’s hard to do. But it is the goal. And responsible politicians know that’s what they need to aim for. (Irresponsible politicians need not apply.)

Anyway, you need to ponder what you want. Who will represent you the best. And vote accordingly.

Vote. Vote. Vote.

P.S. And if you don’t vote, and the outcome is not what you desired, that is partly on you. (Got it? Good.)

P.P.S. I have intentionally made this as nonpartisan a message as possible, as I believe voting is not partisan. (If anyone has a problem with this, too bad.) But as to whom I’m supporting this time? Tony Evers for Governor. Randy Bryce for U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin to continue her excellent job in the U.S. Senate. I also voted yes for medicinal marijuana and for decriminalization of marijuana offenses in the state/local initiatives.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 5, 2018 at 10:20 pm

Tiredness, Writing, and Two Quick Comments on Recent Events

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I figured I’d give you a quick health update, for those of you keeping score at home. (Someone must, after all.) I’m a lot better than I was three weeks ago. I’m back to editing on a more or less normal schedule, and I can and have resumed most daily activities, with some caution. I can do more than one thing a day now, which is very good; I can also do some more extended/difficult things, like shopping for an hour-plus (always hard for me to do, considering I walk with a cane and have some back issues), without making things any worse.

That said, the Nasty Respiratory Ailment (TM) is not gone by any means. It’s just a lot better, that’s all. Not quite down to a simple respiratory ailment (or even a capitalized Respiratory Ailment, which must be worse, right?), but still enough to get in the way if I don’t keep a running calculation of how much energy I have on any given day — and how much I can, in all actuality, do.

I’ve had some folks in the past ask me why I’m so open about my health. Mostly, I think someone out there may need to know that he or she is not alone; maybe they’re dealing with health issues, too. Or maybe they’re frustrated because they’ve been sick for weeks, and they wonder if there’s any daylight on the other side, because it’s been so long since they felt halfway decent, they can hardly remember when that was.

And I know I would’ve liked to find a blog like this when I felt my worst.

It’s because of the health issues and only because of the health issues that I didn’t blog at the time about two very big stories that upset me greatly. The first was the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh; the victims were older folks, and all except for one were there to delight in the glory of God. (That last, a doctor, rushed to the scene when he heard gunfire, and was shot dead with the rest.) And the second was the unwarranted and vicious murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia; this last is compounded by the problem that the United States has not taken the lead on this despite Khashoggi being a permanent resident of the U.S. at the time. Instead, Turkey has been the one to find out the most details, and to do the most pressing on the international stage to get justice for an innocent man.

Both are horrible tragedies, and are hard even now for me to write about because I hurt so badly when I think about them. I don’t understand how a bunch of innocent people in a synagogue could be shot to death (and a doctor, rushing to help, too); I don’t understand how a writer who advocated for peace in the Middle East and for greater transparency and for the freedom of the press to do their jobs could be dismembered without the formal representatives of the country he was living in at the time, the United States (read: the State Department, the President of the U.S., the Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee, etc.), being outraged.

I am outraged by both.

So while I’m very slow off the mark to write about either thing, I wanted you all to know that I did see these stories. I was saddened greatly by them. And I hope there will be justice for the victims, because what happened to all of them should not have ever occurred.

It’s hard to heal when you see such devastating things as this. But I will continue to do whatever I can to get healthier, so I can perhaps write blogs in a timely manner when I am upset, outraged, or better yet, really happy over something going on. (Hey, it could happen.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 3, 2018 at 2:38 am