Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘heartbreaking stories’ Category

Hurricane Harvey — How to Help

with 3 comments

Folks, I, like many of you, am very worried about the people displaced by Hurricane Harvey. Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States, and it’s safe to say that Houston will never be the same again after the devastation Harvey left in its wake.

While most of us are not doing that well financially — at least, from what I know of the people who regularly read this blog — somehow, we have to be willing to help our fellow man in this time of need.

And the need is overwhelming. Over thirty thousand people have been displaced by Harvey, and more certainly are on the way. Some houses will be flooded for weeks, if not months, and thus will be uninhabitable for a long time, perhaps needing to be bulldozed down the line…the need for food, medicine, diapers (both for babies and adults), clothes, and rebuilding the infrastructure of Houston and its environs is going to take a massive effort.

But you can help. And I sincerely hope you will.

First, don’t forget the blood bank. If you are healthy enough to donate blood, go do it. There’s a crying need for that, most especially because of the fact that many blood banks in the Gulf Coast can’t open because of the severity of the flooding.

Second, there’s the American Red Cross. They are the first line of defense for those displaced, and will be in need of many, many donations.

Third, don’t forget food banks. If you live in the Gulf Coast, there are relief efforts being organized all over the place, but even the rest of us can do something. Give food now, wherever you are, and help those in need in your local areas. If we help our local areas now, they may be able to send some of the excess — providing we can flood them with donations — to the blighted areas.

Fourth, the Houston Chronicle has set up a list of places that are accepting donations. Please check this list out, and help if you are able.

This is the time where we all must step up and decide what kind of people we wish to be. Do we wish to be helpful? Or do we wish to be ignorant, callous fools who think these storms have nothing to do with us at all, so we should do absolutely nothing?

I’m here to tell you that as someone who’s lived through a minor flood, they are nothing to mess around with. And this is a major, five-hundred-year flood, much worse than what I dealt with; I only had to deal with property damage and some inconvenience, rather than the horrors that those in the Gulf are dealing with right now.

So the time is now.

Help in every way you can, locally and otherwise. Step up now, and show what kind of person you are. Be of use. Refuse to turn your back.

That’s the best way to support the people hurt by Harvey. And it’s the best way to live overall.

Advertisements

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 30, 2017 at 5:09 pm

Sunday Introspection: When Friendships End

with 8 comments

Folks, if you’ve read my blog regularly for any length of time, you know that I am a firm believer in the value of persistence.

But there’s one thing and one thing only where I’ve found that persistence doesn’t seem to help. And it has to do with friendship.

Yeah, you do want to persist through good times and bad, and most of us do. But what are you supposed to do when a friendship ends?

There are good reasons for friendships ending, mind. Your lives go in different directions. Or maybe you have found your values aren’t as similar as you thought. Or perhaps there’s just no meeting of the minds any longer…

Whatever it is, all you can do is accept it. You can’t make that person be your friend any more. And even if you could, it wouldn’t be worth anything anyway…so why even waste your time thinking about it?

This is not a mindset that’s easy for me to embrace. At all. I’m the type of person who keeps running at the walls in her path until the walls fall down.

But yes, there are some battles even I can’t fight. And one of ’em is when someone I have cared about for years decides, “Nope, I’m tired of talking, and this is the end.” (Sometimes they don’t even say anything, either. And that’s even worse.)

I had this happen several years ago. Someone I trusted and was incredibly close to me got angry because I defended another friend — someone she did not like — in her presence. This was enough for her to cut me loose.

At the time, I felt horrible, but I knew I’d done the right thing. I could not allow my fears of losing a friend to stop me from standing up for what I believe in. And I truly believed that my first friend was being unkind and unfair to my second friend…I had to say something, or I wouldn’t be myself.

Now, looking back, I realize I’d do the same thing again. Because as Lillian Hellman once said, I refuse to fit my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.

Sometimes it is very hard to stick up for yourself. It makes you feel like you’re the only person in the universe, shouting into the void, and hoping the void will eventually shout back.

But it’s all you can do. Or you’ll lose your self-respect.

I still miss this friend who cut me loose, and wish her nothing but the best. I don’t know why things got to this particular crisis point, and I wish that somehow, I could’ve cut it off at the pass.

Maybe, though, the reason the friendship ended had more to do with something I saw, oddly enough, in a women’s magazine. An actress said that she believed people are in our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. And if that’s the case, if my friend was in my life for less than a lifetime, the friendship ended naturally. As it should, no matter how awful I found it then — and now.

I’ve lost other friends since, mind. And I’ve hated to lose every single one.

But one thing I do know: While I believe firmly in the value of friendship, it has to be a two-way street. If you have a disagreement with a good friend, you have to be willing to talk it out rather than shut the person out, or worse, decide you’re right and that you’re not going to change and that’s that.

I’ve made these mistakes before, and they never are good.

Now, I believe that if I’ve invested time and energy and care into a person and they’ve become a friend, they deserve that same time and energy and care for me to figure out what’s gone wrong and attempt to fix it. Maybe I can’t. Maybe the other person can’t. Maybe he or she is just there for a reason or a season, not a lifetime, and that reason or season is over.

Still.

I never forget my friends. I’ll never stop caring about them.

But yeah. Communication is a must, in friendship and in life. And if you don’t have it, your friendship will wither on the vine no matter what you do.

So do remember to talk with your friends, and listen, and engage, and do what you can to help them as you help yourself. Because I think that’s one of the reasons we’re here — to learn from others.

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 6, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Bridges, Walls, and Transgender Rights

with 8 comments

This past week was a very frustrating one in many senses, folks.

First, we had the “announcement” of a transgender ban from military service by the President of the United States, Donald Trump, via a Tweet. (Something the Joint Chiefs of Staff had no idea was coming, much less the ordinary rank and file.)

Next, we had utter chaos at the White House as one of the new staffers (a guy I won’t name) decided to go on a profane rant. And rather than be fired, as anyone else would’ve been from any job anywhere, this particular new staffer was more or less praised by the President. (Or at least excused by him.)

Look. I believe in building bridges, not walls. I think we need to learn more about each other, in order to become more compassionate, much less wiser, people. And trying to understand the other person’s point of view is essential, or you can’t get anything done in that regard.

But I don’t understand the President’s point of view at all, here.

Donald Trump, in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, talked about how he was for LGBTQ rights. And the T in that stands for “transgender.”

Granted, if you had to ask me to ask one person whether the sun was rising in the East and setting in the West, I would pick anyone instead of Donald Trump. (I might even pick my dog, Trouble. He’d not be able to answer me, but at least he’d look cute.)

Still. Since transgender soldiers were allowed to serve openly in the military, they’ve done a fine job. No one’s seemed to have any trouble with them. They’re soldiers, like anyone else. They do their jobs, like anyone else. And no one’s ever questioned the fact that the United States military contains some of the best trained fighters ever seen.

(And make no mistake about it: I fully expected this to be the case. A trans person is a person like anyone else. And trans soldiers want to serve their country like anyone else does, too; give them credit for that fact, Mr. President. Please?)

I would’ve rather seen a bridge built here, rather than the wall of Donald Trump’s Tweet. I’d rather Mr. Trump had spoken to the transgender soldier retired from Seal Team Six, who could’ve given Mr. Trump a very solid education on the entire subject. I’d rather Mr. Trump had spoken to any soldiers, including Senators Lindsay Graham and Joni Ernst, who would’ve told him that soldiers of any persuasion, creed, color, sexuality or gender preference are worthy of care and will do the professional, thorough job that soldiers of the U.S. military are known for.

I tried to say that myself on my little-used Twitter account, but I was immediately given short shrift by a few of Mr. Trump’s more rabid followers. They believe that Mr. Trump was right to do this, because supposedly being trans is a “mental disease.” Or that it really is too expensive to give trans soldiers the care they need, which is absurd considering the immense amount of the military’s budget. (Supposedly, the military spends more on Viagra for male soldiers’ impotence than they do on the care for their trans soldiers. I wouldn’t doubt that for a minute.)

I know, myself, that as a writer and as a human being, I want to know more about people who feel marginalized and misunderstood in order to give them hope that someday, they will feel completely accepted and fully understood. That’s why I wrote my book, CHANGING FACES, and it’s why I believe firmly that we need to build a bridge to the trans community, and learn more from them, rather than exclude them out of hand as if they don’t matter — or worse, pretend that they don’t exist.

The Deity must have a reason for people coming in all sorts, shapes, creeds, sexes, genders, and yes, even differing political philosophies like Mr. Trump’s. But I don’t understand why anyone needs to be obnoxious in spreading his or her own political philosophy, especially if he hasn’t studied the subject at all, as it appears Mr. Trump has not.

For someone who said he was for LGBTQ rights, Mr. Trump had a horrible week.

But the trans soldiers had a worse one. Because they realized, perhaps for the first time, that this President does not have their back. And that is a very sad, even shameful, thing.

GOP Congressman, 4 Others, Shot in VA

with 3 comments

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

Speaker Ryan, Listen to Your Constituents

with 2 comments

Folks, this is my semi-obligatory post about the repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act in the United States House of Representatives, otherwise known as Obamacare. As Speaker Ryan is my U.S. Rep (surely for my sins), I’ve decided to speak directly to him.

Speaker Ryan, you’ve been my representative for many years. But I am frustrated with you.

Why?

You do not talk with your constituents at all. You haven’t for years, as far as I can tell, but it’s gotten much worse since you assumed the Speakership a year ago.

Because you don’t talk with your constituents, you are out of touch with how people in Southeastern Wisconsin feel about everything. Including the Affordable Care Act…which is why I am now going to explain it to you.

I did not approve of how the ACA was passed back in 2010. I felt a huge bill that wasn’t read should not ever be voted on, because no one had any idea what was in it. I actually agreed with you at the time about that, in fact…along with Lindsay Graham and a number of Republican Senators who didn’t agree with the way the ACA was rammed down the throats of the Republicans serving in the Congress at that time.

However, what you seem to have learned from that is, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” That is, the Democrats rammed the ACA down your throat, so now, you want to stick it to the Democrats in turn.

How does this help the American people? Quite simply, it doesn’t.

And it doesn’t help your constituents here in Southeastern Wisconsin at all, Speaker Ryan. We are poor, for the most part. That means most of us are getting help to have healthcare because of the ACA. The process was horrible, but it actually did help some people, including a whole lot of your constituents…

But now, you want to take it away, and make it much harder for the poor, sick, and elderly to get any decent quality of healthcare.

Make no mistake, Speaker Ryan. This was a heartless thing to do.

I am aware that the Senate is not even going to look at this version of the bill. Whatever comes out of the Senate may be far different than this, and your bill and the Senate’s bill will have to be reconciled before it can go to the President’s desk and be signed into law.

Still. I am frustrated that you did this, Speaker Ryan. You spearheaded this in order to force a vote to repeal the ACA and replace it with yet another omnibus bill that no one’s read but has some truly awful stuff in there among its lowlights. (I don’t see where taking money away from the poorest of the poor — that is, taking a great deal of money away from Medicaid — is helpful in the least. Especially if there’s no help forthcoming…what are we poor people supposed to do, anyway? Just go out into the streets and hope we get run over by a bus?)

So, congratulations, Speaker Ryan. You have won a “victory.”

May it give you exactly what you deserve.

Your constituent,

Barb Caffrey

Collaboration with a Purpose: Losing My Husband Changed Everything

with 27 comments

Folks, I’m one of ten bloggers talking about various forms of loss today in Collaboration with a Purpose.

Blogger Tajwarr Fatma (of https://lifeaswehaveneverknownit.wordpress.com) came up with this idea (do visit her blog, OK?), and our joint purpose is to try to help others by letting them know they aren’t alone. We all have to deal with significant losses at some point, and the thought was that ten different bloggers might have ten different takes on the subject.

18009404_1408216655911837_1010120180_n

The theme is loss. How did you overcome it? How did you deal with it?

My topic is how I continue to deal with the catastrophic loss of my late husband Michael. He died in 2004, but without his influence on my life, and without the love he shared with me, I doubt I’d still be trying to make it as an author.

Why?

Michael was the most positive person I’ve ever been around, and he made me believe that I could do anything I put my mind to…I just had to keep after it, and keep trying, and not stop until the wall fell down, that’s all.

So, one day, I had the best and most supportive husband on the planet, someone who understood me and appreciated me and was into me, a wonderful and giving and caring man who also wrote and edited and was creative.

And the next, well, he had four massive heart attacks in one day over the course of ten hours. He couldn’t survive that, and he died.

His loss was devastating.

Even now, after so many years, I don’t have the words to express just how incalculable the loss of my husband actually was. Michael was my rock, my soul mate, and often my co-writer, and when he was with me, I felt whole. Loved. Understood. Appreciated for myself. And valued, not because I was a writer or a musician or anything, but because I was and am myself.

Michael even understood my health issues, and helped me work through them, so I could get more done with less wasted energy and effort.

When he died, all of that went away.

Or did it?

See, how I deal with Michael’s loss every day is to think about how much I love him.

Still. Always. Forever.

I love that man, and I feel his love for me, and it helps me go on.

No, he’s not here to make me dinners, or give me a backrub, or complain about politics (we both loved to do this), or come up with new stories, or edit anything I’ve got going, or help share the load with regards to paying work.

But his influence continues. I keep trying. I remember. I know how he felt about me. And it makes a difference.

In this life, I’ve met only a handful of people who truly have understood me, but none have understood me as well as Michael. He was my best friend, my everything…and all I can do to keep going is to tell myself that someday, in the positive afterlife (whatever shape or form that takes), I’ll see him again. And when I do, I want him to recognize me, and to know that I’m still the same person.

See, I can either celebrate his life, and do the best I can, or I can turn my face to the wall. I don’t see any benefit to turning my face to the wall, so I keep trying.

But yeah, some days, I do look at that wall, and say, “Hmm. Maybe today, I will stop trying.” Then I shake myself into sense, think, “Nah,” and go on and do what I was going to do anyway.

That’s what I learned from Michael. Accept that you feel lousy. Know why you feel terrible, even. But do what you were going to do anyway.

If it takes a little longer because of health issues or whatnot, so what? Keep going, keep trying, and do the best you can.

So, if you’re dealing with a significant loss like the loss of your husband, or a treasured friend, or someone you cared about deeply, try to be good to yourself. Realize there will be good days and bad days.

And most importantly, don’t listen to other people if they tell you that you’ve grieved long enough. It’s not up to them; it’s up to you what you do. If you need to grieve until you feel like you can take a step forward, you need to listen to yourself and do what you feel is right.

Just do your best. That’s all you can do.

But know that you aren’t alone. There are others on the same path as you, even if not at the same time, even if not in the exact same way.

As Buddha said (an apocryphal story, granted), there’s no one who’s not known loss. Every single person has known it, in one way or another.

May we use that knowledge to make us wiser, more compassionate, and more caring, eh?

Now, go take a look at the other bloggers’ takes on the same subject, will you?

SADAF SIDDIQUI
https://heartattachsite.wordpress.com
ADDISON D’MARKO
http://addisondmarko.com
AJIBOLA SUNDAY
https://ajibolasunday.wordpress.com
IPUNA BLACK
http://Ipunablack.com
ALTEA ADDISON
https://addisoniswriting.wordpress.com
JOTHISH JOSEPH
https://Jothishjoseph.wordpress.com
JANE LOVE
http://harmoniousjoy.com/
NICOLLE
https://storiesofahsi.wordpress.com

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 19, 2017 at 10:00 am

Introducing…Collaboration with a Purpose

with 5 comments

Folks, I wanted to let you know that tomorrow will be a special day at the Elfyverse. I’m one of ten bloggers who’ve teamed up to post tomorrow on the overall theme of loss. Tajwarr Fatma (of https://lifeaswehaveneverknownit.wordpress.com) asked me to be a part of this a while ago, and I’m pleased to take part.

This special event is called Collaboration with a Purpose.

Here, take a look at the nifty graphic:

18009404_1408216655911837_1010120180_n

 

So, as the graphic says, we’ll have ten different stories from ten different bloggers, all talking about different types of loss, all on the same day. The hope is that by sharing our stories, we’ll help someone realize he or she is not alone.

Because we all lose something, in this life. How we deal with that loss can make or break us as a person. Loss often defines us, at least until we figure out another way to define ourselves in spite of it — or maybe because of it.

In addition to my blog tomorrow, here are the other bloggers taking part (aside from Tajwarr, of course):

SADAF SIDDIQUI
https://heartattachsite.wordpress.com
ADDISON D’MARKO
http://addisondmarko.com
AJIBOLA SUNDAY
https://ajibolasunday.wordpress.com
IPUNA BLACK
http://Ipunablack.com
ALTEA ADDISON
https://addisoniswriting.wordpress.com
JOTHISH JOSEPH
https://Jothishjoseph.wordpress.com
JANE LOVE
http://harmoniousjoy.com/
NICOLLE
https://storiesofahsi.wordpress.com

So please, do look in tomorrow, and see what I come up with for Collaboration with a Purpose, won’t you? (You might find it inspirational. Or at least interesting.) And I do hope it’ll help someone out there, at least a little bit.

Because that’s what it’s intended to do.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 18, 2017 at 10:47 pm