Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for April 2020

Alleviating Stress During Covid-19 (and Beyond)

with 3 comments

Folks, as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on and on, and as the stay-at-home orders in Wisconsin continue (as they do in many places around the world), I thought I’d take a different tactic today.

To wit: What can we do to alleviate stress during this difficult and stressful time? And what may work to alleviate stress down the road, once we’ve finally done with the Covid-19 pandemic?

The main things I do to alleviate stress include reading (what a surprise, no?), writing music, listening to music, sometimes taking a drive (which is still allowed in Wisconsin even under the pandemic rules, providing you stay in your car), and doing word puzzles/word games. I also play some non-word-game related puzzles, and enjoy playing various video games (I’m quite partial to Crazy Cakes 2, a game at Pogo.com. I enjoyed the original Crazy Cakes; the updated version is just as good.)

Mind, I didn’t list “writing” in there — as in, writing words. That’s because lately it hasn’t been alleviating stress for me to write, as I haven’t felt very well in months. (I don’t think that’s much of a surprise, if you’ve been following along with my blog at all.) I still am able to get some words in, here and there, and I’m glad to do it; however, thinking about how I am not able to do as much writing as I want to do tends to give me stress rather than alleviate it.

When I get on a roll with writing, though, there’s nothing better at alleviating stress. Because I can get caught up in the story, and want to know what happens next (if only my pesky characters will tell me!), and it takes me out of my head and my worries for a while when that happens.

For the moment, though, the other things I listed above will have to serve instead. And for the most part, they are helping…though I wish I could write up a storm and truly advance on my various projects, as I think that would help me feel far, far better overall.

What is helping you during this time of crisis and travail? Let me know in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 29, 2020 at 8:08 pm

Facing the Pressure of Illness

with 4 comments

Folks, I’ve been under the weather for quite a while now. But I think I’m recovering, albeit slowly.

Now, as to what this is? I don’t know. But I have to treat it as an ongoing illness, and work around it.

I am tired of being sick, but apparently sick isn’t tired of me; because of that, I have to do whatever I can to get past the illness.

Mind, I put a lot of pressure on myself when I’m sick. I want to be well, so badly, and yet it takes time to get better. I go back to work just as soon as I possibly can, and I almost certainly do too much too soon because I worry about all the stuff I wasn’t able to do while at my most ill.

In that way, I try to make strides forward. It can be difficult. And the additional pressure probably doesn’t do me any favors.

Today, I’ve managed to write 700 words of fiction, done a little editing (as I just finished up a major project, I have to take it slowly for a few days to gear up for the next major project’s completion as I have more than one in train), talked with the doctor’s office, talked with the medical supply company, and have gotten all my laundry together. After that, my plan is to do some food shopping, then my laundry, and perhaps edit more tonight providing I have any energy left after that.

In other words, I tend to have two speeds. Full throttle, or all-in. (And the last is not good, because if I’m “all-in,” that means I’m tired out of my mind and have nothing left to give, in case you’re not familiar with that Midwestern idiom.)

Still, I’m working at things, slowly. I’m doing what I can.

Now, onto other things, very briefly:

This ongoing pandemic is not fun by any means. I am worried about my friends, far and near. I am especially worried about estranged friends, people who won’t talk to me but I still care about; I can do nothing for any of them, but I still worry, and I still want to help. (It is a particular quirk of mine, I guess.)

I hope you will all stay as safe as you can.

And I’d wanted to write something bracing about the Nova Scotia shootings, but I still have no words. Everything seems hollow to say, and yet, those folks have to feel like no one cares about them whatsoever due to the ongoing coverage of Covid-19 and almost nothing else.

If you have a spare moment today, say a prayer, think good thoughts, send positive energy, or do whatever your particular spirituality or religion advises when trying to comfort distant friends and allies. And aim that squarely at Nova Scotia, if you can, or at least at the broader target of Canada. Those folks are hurting, scared, and need to know they haven’t been forgotten.

Finally, I hope we’ll all remember that we’re human. We have good in us, even though it doesn’t always show; we can help others, even when it doesn’t seem like it.

Try to do something to help someone else today, even if they don’t know it. The universe will thank you.

 

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 24, 2020 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Elfy, Elfyverse, Writing

Governor Evers Extends Wisconsin’s “Safer-at-home” Order, and I Have Questions…

with 2 comments

I apologize for the long, unwieldy title in advance…

Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI) has extended the Wisconsin “Safer-at-home” provisions until the day after Memorial Day, which is in very late May; they were set to expire on April 24, but we all knew it was likely it would be extended a few more weeks at minimum. However, no one expected that it would be extended until late May.

I, for the most part, support the Safer-at-home order. And I said so in an e-mail I just sent to Governor Evers. (Unfortunately the cut-and-paste I had planned so I could show you exactly what I sent went awry, so I’ll have to describe what I said instead.) I urged the Governor to carve out some exceptions for hair salons/barber shops, car washes (we have a very strange situation going on here in Racine County where if the car wash is attached to a gas station, it’s open even if it has human contact, but the car washes without any human contact and total automation are closed because they don’t have an attachment to a gas station), and emergency situations.

Now, what is an emergency situation? (You may be asking this.) I view it as this: you’ve lost something important to you, whether it’s your home, your vehicle, your stove has gone on the fritz and you can’t cook (or your microwave, or hot pot, or whatever you’re using). Or you have just been granted an emergency foster child, but that child is under three and you need a car seat you don’t have (but can’t buy in many counties in Wisconsin, as unless the store has food in it, it isn’t allowed to stay open under the safer-at-home provisions). Or you have lost weight (or perhaps gained it), and your clothes no longer fit or are so frayed you can’t wear them…but again, unless the store has any food in it, you can’t get any clothes to wear. (And I don’t know about you, but unless you can try on things, it’s hard to find something to fit properly. The only things I’ve managed to buy and wear well online are nightgowns. And a few Brewers t-shirts.)

So, I told Governor Evers that.

I also said that while I agree with him that people’s lives are far more important than any amount of money, extending the Safer-at-home order until the day after Memorial Day is too long. We’re about to go into the summer season. And there are folks like my father who have no air conditioning at all. (He doesn’t want any, either.) If you want relief from the heat, you usually have options such as going to the grocery store, going to the movie theatre, going to the Zoo and walking around by Lake Michigan…but right now, you’re supposed to limit your grocery trips to essentials only, the movie theatres are closed, and the Zoo is also closed. (So is the public library. So are most government buildings.)

I said that I would rather he had extended this for another few weeks and re-assessed in mid-May. If there were still Covid-19 hotspots then, I’d understand extending the order a bit more than I do now. But I would wait until then because no one knows what’s happening now, except that they’re scared and they’re broke.

Here’s what I’ll add, though, for folks who know me and have known me a long time (as I am going to assume you have, if you’ve read my blog; if not, you can catch up in the archives if you’d like.) I think people’s lives are far more important than money. And I do think we have to be wary and prudent right now with regards to Covid-19 because it’s a virus with no cure, no treatment, and no way to alleviate.

That said, people are going stir-crazy at home. We have flattened the curve to some degree already. And if it is flattened more in two weeks, I think a graduated restart of Wisconsin’s economy is in order; if it’s not, then maybe Gov. Evers is right and nothing will be done until Memorial Day anyway.

But I would like to know his rationale for this. Why did he pick that date? Why is it that other states Wisconsin is allied with, such as Ohio, have earlier “opening” dates as of this time? Why is it that New York state, which has the worst amount of cases in the nation, is going to try to re-open faster than we are here?

I didn’t say that in my letter to him, but I should’ve.

I do support that we have to stay home more than go out right now. But we also have to realize that businesses will close up shop if they don’t get help. And some of ’em, like beauty salons/barbers, can re-open with limitations (I said in my letter that if five people were getting their hair cut at a time and no more, that would work. That would limit the gathering to ten people or less. And you could maintain social distancing in the salons, too.) Getting a haircut gives you an emotional lift. We need that right now, too.

Rest assured that I did point that out to Gov. Evers.

And the thing with the car washes: Yeah, they’re not essential. But they do give you an emotional lift of sorts for not too much money. Cleaning the car in the late spring and early summertime — and remember, we are about to go into the hotter season, much though it doesn’t feel like it right now — is extremely helpful in many senses, too; it gets the last of the winter sand/salt off the car, which is good for the life of the car. And it helps you spend less money on car maintenance, which we all are going to need because we all are going to have a whole lot less money due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Anyway, if you, too, live in Wisconsin and want to contact Governor Evers, go to this page and make your comment. (Please be civil, as life is too short for incivility.)

And if you live in other states or countries, write to your public officials about whatever it is that makes no sense to you. Because that’s needed right now — public opinion is vital, especially if it’s reasonably stated.

That’s the only way we’re going to be able to figure out how to go forward with the least amount of stress and heartache.

Easter Musings: The Resurrection of Hope

with 3 comments

Folks, I woke up this morning — or afternoon, as the case may be (being the inveterate night owl that I’ve always been) — thinking about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This is not surprising. It is Easter, much though it doesn’t feel like it with a pandemic ravaging the world. And around Easter, we usually as a people talk about redemption, hope, faith, and of course the resurrection of Jesus.

But Jesus’s resurrection wasn’t just about being raised from the dead. It was about the hope that something good would come from Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. It was also about the belief that three women had, mourning outside Jesus’s burial site, for three days. And it was about the astonishment they had, along with the embodiment of their hopes, when Jesus rose again on the third day.

Other ancient religions had talked about resurrection, too. But they hadn’t been so much about hope, it seems to me. And they certainly didn’t talk about the folks who were left behind quite so much as early Christianity did, and has to this day.

We need hope right now, as I’ve said before. But we also have to believe firmly in resurrection, too. Those of you who aren’t Christian (some days I don’t identify with it, other days I do; I’m more like G.K. Chesterton, who once said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”) can still appreciate the idea of resurrection in this sense, as explicated by the Cambridge English Dictionary: the act of bringing something that had disappeared or ended back into use or existence.

Right now, what we’ve viewed as the normal comings and goings of society has disappeared. Ended. And we’re mostly at home, wondering whether the virus known as Covid-19 will ever stop ravaging the Earth. Doctors and nurses and other medical personnel are struggling, as they’re the only ones who have the tools and training to help the rest of us deal with this. And as yet, there is no cure; there is no vaccine to temper the virus, either; there is no therapy; there is nothing.

It is a humbling thing, to know that you can’t stop Covid-19.

Yes, everything we’re doing right now — the vast majority of us in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, etc. — helps to mitigate the damage. Staying at home lessens the reach of the virus and allows the amount of people sickened at any one time to flatten out, so hospitals and clinics don’t get overwhelmed. (Or at least not as overwhelmed as they could be.)

Some of you are probably saying, “But Barb. That is not nothing. We are being proactive. We’re staying home, even though we hate it. And we’re doing everything we can to let this virus die out.” (New Zealand, in particular, has been particularly good at squashing this virus flat.)

That’s all true.

But it’s not enough. People are still dying. And the world outside is radically transformed. Economies have crashed, and will continue to do so, until some sort of medical mitigation occurs. Our way of living has suffered; our way of belief, that we can come together as people, and enjoy each other’s company, and lessen each other’s sorrows in person as well as online, has been shown to be, at best, incomplete.

My view is, today should be not just about Jesus Christ, though his life and teachings are well worthy of study.

I think today — the Easter of 2020 — we need to believe in the resurrection of hope. The resurrection that our society will someday get back to some semblance of what we’ve seen before: openness. Being able to give hugs to loved ones. Concerts. Ball games. Being able to go outside, in public, unmasked and without fear…being able to go anywhere you want, at any time you want, without being hassled (or at least being worried you might be), and without risking your life either. And our first responders — our medical personnel, police, fire, rescue, etc. — not to have to risk their lives every day in every way because they have no idea who’s carrying Covid-19, no idea who’s had it, and no idea whether or not their protection is good enough to keep them from getting it.

I think Jesus would appreciate us believing in all of these things, in addition to believing in Him today. (Or at least believing in what he showed us can be possible.)

And that is all I can say today, prayerfully, because I know it to be true.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 12, 2020 at 2:36 pm

A Post About Hope for #MFRWHooks

with 20 comments

Hope. It’s in short supply right now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet we need it, or we’re going to have an even harder time digging our way out of the mess we’re now collectively in.

I’ve said before, here at my blog, that I wonder how Bruno and Sarah, my characters in the Elfy duology (comprised of AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE), would do in this situation. And I’m writing a story now about exactly that, so eventually I hope I’ll know.

But what came to me, tonight, is that I actually do have a bit of an answer already.

In A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, my hero Bruno and my heroine Sarah are trying to save Bruno’s teacher and mentor, Roberto the Wise. Roberto’s been taken and tortured by a Dark Elf, Dennis; worse yet, he’s being tortured in public as a sort of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 exercise as most of the people in the crowd are under the influence of psychedelic incense, poisoned ground, or worse.

So, Dennis is doing what he is — an evil act, or even worse, a series of evil acts — in plain sight.

Sarah is a strong empath. Eventually, she hopes to be a doctor (in Bruno’s parlance, a Healer), like her grandmother was years ago. She can’t help but feel what’s going on with Roberto; Roberto is dying, and may not even live to be sacrificed, as far as she knows. And while Bruno knows this, and can feel some of it, too, it doesn’t hit him directly as hard. Not anywhere as hard as it’s hit Sarah, anyway.

But watching Sarah suffer hurts him.

So, without further ado, here’s that scene from A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE:

He turned to Sarah and took her wrist, feeling her pulse bounding against his too-cool hand. “Are you all right, my love?” he asked softly. “Are you sure you don’t want to get out of here? Someone could be spared to take you away from all this…”

“No, Bruno,” Sarah said. She looked like she wanted to say more, but instead started coughing as if her throat was as dry as any of Bruno’s old textbooks. She continued to look pale, waxen, and ill; only her dark eyes showed any trace of her usual force of spirit. “I have to stay here. I’m Roberto’s only hope.”

“Well, he has other hopes, dear,” Bruno replied, contradicting her last statement almost as a reflex, “but yes, you’re his best hope.”

See, Sarah, despite being gravely ill now (an illness of a spiritual nature), is there because she is needed. Just as our doctors, our nurses, our pharmacists, our grocery workers, our police/fire/EMT emergency responders, and our postal workers — among others — are there now despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sarah believes in hope. So does Bruno. Because at this point, neither of them knows how they’re going to rescue Roberto. The situation is bad. While they do have allies, their allies can’t do all that much to help…or worse, their allies can only help in certain ways. And every one of their allies is also at risk from the Dark Elf, who’s as evil a creature as has ever lived in the multiverse. (At least, as far as Bruno and Sarah understand.)

I think we all need to believe in hope right now, too.

We don’t know the end of the story, right now, with COVID-19. We don’t know much, except that it can be deadly and that we don’t have any cure for it. We don’t have a vaccine, either. And all we can do is our best to stay home; when we’re not at home, or doing essential things like getting food (rarely) or medicine or exercising, we must be careful and cautious if at all possible. (Don’t get me started about what the Supreme Court of the United States did yesterday in saying that people who didn’t get their absentee ballots for today’s Wisconsin election in time to get them in the mail today must go to vote in person despite this pandemic, or I will be so furious I can’t even type.)

Anyway. We have to hope. We have to believe we will come out the other side of this and recognize ourselves. We have to hope against all odds that we will get past the COVID-19 pandemic; we have to hope that we’ll be able to live through it, and somehow find a way to make better public policy in the future so other pandemics don’t catch the United States flat-footed as we were this time.

Just as Bruno and Sarah somehow found hope in a horrible situation, we must, too.

That’s why I wrote this BookHooks post, on behalf of my fellow Marketing for Romance Writers authors and anyone else who needed to read it. And I do hope it helps you.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 7, 2020 at 8:25 pm

Surreality, or, the Virus that Ate 2020

leave a comment »

Does anyone else feel like they went to bed one day, and woke up in a brand new — albeit distasteful in the extreme — world?

Whenever I drive anywhere for a necessary reason, the land itself looks shrunken, somehow. There are fewer cars. Many fewer people. And even the warmth of the sun (when we see it or can feel it) seems far less than it should be.

I term all of this “surreality.” A contraction of “surreal” and “reality,” surreality is our new normal.

We’re told to stay inside now, because of the virulence of the coronavirus/covid 19. It’s the only way to “flatten the curve” (that is, to make it easier for hospitals and medical personnel to handle this, so we don’t all go at once and overload the system). And most of the places we’d go if we could aren’t open, from the library to most restaurants (though some do have drive-thru or curbside services). Even churches are not exempt, because while we need spiritual solace now as much as we ever have, the coronavirus does not respect the sanctity of the church.

(To put it mildly.)

Even voting is harder than it should be, and I know this because I’m about to go cast my ballot in Wisconsin’s April 7th primary election. I know with my asthma and other health challenges that I do not want to be going out to vote the day of, so I’d better do it today or it won’t get done.

You may be wondering about voting absentee (that is, not in person as an early voter). Where I live, the system is overloaded. I do not trust that I’d get my ballot on time, or at all, unless I actually go in there.

The whole thing is surreal. (Thus, surreality.) The whole world seems to have gone crazy. And the only way we have to deal with this new type of coronavirus (covid-19) is to do what our ancestors would’ve done and stay home.

The more things change, the more they stay the same (as the French say).

Anyway, how has reality shifted or contracted or changed for you? Let me know in the comments. (And is it as surreal for you as it is for me?)

———-

BTW, if you want to further support what I’m doing, please check out my Patreon account. (I’m not going to ask often; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever asked before at all. But I will today; humor me, will you?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 3, 2020 at 2:20 pm