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Holidays Are Hard, AKA Christmas Ramblings

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So, the holidays are coming. And they’re tough to take.

You see all the folks rushing here, rushing there (sometimes literally; today I saw a horrific car accident on the Interstate, and was very spooked by it), and you wonder what all that rushing is all about.

Then, there are the Christmas movies. The Christmas music, everywhere you go. (Even at the casino/hotel last night, where I was enjoying a rare night of R&R, I heard all Xmas music, all the time. I actually would’ve rather heard the 149th rendition of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” which is not exactly my favorite song in the world, than that…because at least Britney is being honest.) The Christmas sales. The Pajamagrams. The Vermont Teddy Bears. And all the other ads you see, most especially for jewelry…

Everything is about conspicuous consumption. (Gag.)

Or about the assumption that every family is perfect (news flash: they aren’t), and that Christmas can make miracles happen out of even the most dysfunctional situation (and dysfunctional people). And while I want to believe that’s true (I know miracles can and do happen, for example), I don’t think it’s as easy as the movies make it out to be.

Look. Call me a curmudgeon. (Please.) But as I’ve said before, holidays are not about presents. They’re about presence.

As in, showing up, paying attention, making memories. Those are the only things that matter. Not how much you spend.

So, this may be an obvious take, but holidays are hard. We’re confronted with all we’re not, and we’re told we must aspire to be things other than what we are.

When you see stuff like that, or hear stuff like that, or think things like that, step back and take a breath. Then, realize that all you can do is take it moment by moment, give yourself permission to have human feelings (and human failings), and keep trying to do whatever good you can, wherever you can.

That’s what I’m going to try to do this year.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

December 8, 2018 at 12:53 am

Quick and Dirty Holiday Survival Guide

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Folks, I hope you will enjoy your holidays. Whatever you celebrate, I hope you’ll do so to the fullest, as that’s the way to get past the other feelings this season can sometimes engender–despair, frustration, unhappiness, and strife.

But if you’re like me, and tend to run into those last four things at the holidays in greater amounts than the rest, here’s a quick holiday survival guide.

First, make sure to take time for yourself. No matter what errands you need to do (or what gifts you need to buy, or food to make, etc.), you can’t do them well if you don’t rest a bit here and there, or at minimum try to recenter yourself as you go about all of your various holiday activities.

Second, if a family member or friend upsets you, try to let it roll off your back. (Sometimes you can’t, but in those situations, state your case firmly and move on.) Don’t let yourself get enmeshed in arguments if you can help it, as arguments at this time of year seem to be much worse than at any others (perhaps because we in the Western World seem to know this is supposed to be a time of joy, happiness, and goodwill toward all men and women, so when it doesn’t happen it may feel worse).

Third, if you are feeling down, don’t swallow it. Go ahead and let yourself feel it. At least for a little while.

Then, after you’ve fully felt whatever it is, tell yourself firmly, “Self, I’ve felt that. I understand.”

And go about your business anyway. (This last was one of my late husband’s Zen tricks, and it works.)

The reason you need to feel it has more to do with refusing to censor (or censure) yourself. But the reason you feel it for a short time, and then go about and do whatever you were going to do anyway, is that you don’t let your feelings derail you.

So, feel ’em, but don’t let ’em consume you. (Clear as mud, probably, but it’s the best I can do.)

Anyway, these are my three quick and dirty tips that may — just may — help you survive the holidays in one piece.

What are your holiday tips? (Tell me about them in the comments!)

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 23, 2017 at 9:39 pm

Posted in holiday stuff

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Following the Eleventh Commandment…

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As we get closer to the Christmas/Yuletide holiday season, I get more and more frustrated with this time of year.

(And yes, I admit it.)

I’m not into conspicuous consumption. (If you’ve read my blog for a while, you probably know this.) And all the commercials for stuff “You Must Buy Now (TM)” annoy the crapola out of me.

I’ve already said I believe in being around my friends and loved ones at this time of year, and that I prefer your presence over your presents. But I figured I’d go a little further today, and try to explain another thought that needs to be expressed: We have to try to follow the Eleventh Commandment a little better (that being “Love one another, as I have loved you,” uttered by Jesus the Christ).

This is a very tough commandment to follow, because it is not always easy to love each other, in this world. There are people, quite frankly, in this world that I cannot stand. (I know, I know — quelle the horror.) And yet, by just about every faith I know–Christianity, Buddhism, Shintoism, Confucianism, the Church of Latter-Day Saints, and yes, the Neo-Pagan community–we’re told to love them. (Or at least to do no harm to them, if we can’t love them. And most of the time in most faiths, you’re still supposed to try to love the unloveable even if it’s extremely difficult; doing no harm and letting them go their own way is only an intermediate step.)

As I said, there are some folks out there who are incredibly difficult to love.

So how are we supposed to go about loving them anyway?

I think, to start with, we need to try to check our prejudices at the door. Try to meet people where they are, and use your empathy as much as you possibly can.

Does this mean you should let others railroad you when you don’t agree with them? Oh, Hell no. But you should at least try to understand, if you can, when someone believes something different than you do. Because it seems to me that understanding someone else is the first step toward loving them…and we all have to start somewhere.

In addition, I wanted to add another thought I’ve had, that is probably only tangentially related.

Does anyone else feel that we’ve become a much less forgiving society, lately? And that we’ve stopped believing that people can change, people can improve, and people can–even if they’ve made horrible mistakes–redeem and improve themselves somehow?

It’s like, someone makes a mistake one day, and kisses someone he or she doesn’t know while drunk at a holiday party. The next day, that man (or woman) is hailed as a pervert, and rather than saying, “You need to drink less” or “Wow, you can’t hold your wine” or even “What were you thinking, when you kissed that person?,” you’re condemning that person.

Forever.

I’m not the Higher Power, so I don’t believe I have the right to condemn anyone. (Sometimes this is hard to remember, granted.) And I try hard to remember that people can change; that nothing is cast in stone; that no one should believe that one mistake will define you the rest of your life and you’ll never, but never, get out from under it so you may as well stop trying.

That said, I’ve already pointed out that it’s hard to love someone who seems thoroughly unlovable. And that sometimes, the best you can do is leave them alone…and perhaps pray for their–or your–enlightenment, in order to find a way to follow the Eleventh Commandment a little better down the line.

Personally, I believe that if you’re going to follow the Eleventh Commandment, you should also do your best to give people second chances if warranted. (Again, don’t let yourself be treated like a pushover or a martyr. But do, please, believe that if someone’s trying, is doing his/her best to improve himself in various ways such as by going to counseling and seriously trying to figure himself/herself out, it’s not wrong to give someone at least one more try…and if it still doesn’t work, then you can step away and tell yourself, “Hey, I gave it my all, and sometimes it just doesn’t work.”)

So, it’s a work-in-progress, following the Eleventh Commandment. But I think it’s something you need to try to do, because it may make you a wiser, kinder person…and it also may make the holiday season a lot easier, besides. (Hey, one can only hope.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 16, 2017 at 8:13 pm

Presence, not Presents (a Xmas-inspired Post)

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Folks, we’re inundated daily by commercials, as it’s close to Christmas season. (Otherwise shortened to Xmas, of course.) There’s the ubiquitous Pajamagram commercial. Or the “My Pillow” guy. Or the “go to Jared (jewelers), so your girlfriend will love you” commercials.

I call BS on all of that. (Banana squishies, y’know. Family site.)

The important thing about the Xmas season is visiting your family, friends, loved ones, and making time for all of them. Making memories, too…being with them, being present, being there, doing what you can to let those you care about know that you, too, care and think about them.

That is what matters. Not all that other nonsensical stuff.

Look. I do like presents. (Books. Lots and lots of books. I’m a writer, so this can’t surprise you too much.) But I like well-chosen ones. Ones that show you know me. Ones that show you are paying attention.

Not just something you saw on TV. Or heard on the radio. Or saw on the Internet.

But if it’s a question between your presence, and being with you, and letting you know I am happy to see you, and getting a gift in the mail, it’s no contest.

I want your presence. Not your presents.

(And in this day and age, where our loved ones often live far away, your presence can certainly be virtual if you really can’t go home to see the family…just sayin’. Back to our regularly-scheduled post.)

Too many people get the idea that the only way to show that you care is to buy stuff. Lots and lots and lots of stuff. Really expensive stuff, too…smaller, well-chosen gifts don’t matter as much, because hey, they’re not “status symbol possessions.” And you can’t show ’em off.

Again, I say “BS.”

All I know is, if you are in doubt of what to get your significant other, or a good friend, or a family member, here’s my advice:

Call that person. Talk to them. Be with them, as much as you can, in whatever ways you can…and if all else fails, ask that person what he or she wants.

But if that person is worth your time, he or she is going to understand that not all of us are made of money. And even if we are, it’s more important to be there, and to pick something the other person really wants, than to just go to a jewelry store and pick out something expensive and call it good.

So, do remember, this holiday season, that your presence is far, far more important than any present you could possibly give. Because year-round, the things that matter are how you act with your loved ones and friends, not what you gave ’em…or what they gave you, either, beyond their care, concern, friendship, and love.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 11, 2017 at 8:49 pm

The True Meaning of Christmas, and Brandon Burlsworth

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Folks, last night I watched the movie GREATER, which is about Brandon Burlsworth, a young man who with faith, optimism, hope, and hard work transformed himself into not just a football player, but a starting guard with the Arkansas Razorbacks. Burlsworth even got drafted by an NFL team, the Indianapolis Colts, and everything looked bright…

Then, he was in a car accident, not too far from his home. He died at age twenty-two, just three weeks after being drafted by the Colts.

Despite Burlsworth’s life being incredibly short, he was a truly inspirational figure. He realized early what he wanted to do, didn’t have the natural talent or stature to do it (a late growth spurt helped with the last), but worked harder than anyone else. He listened to his coaches, who appreciated his hard work and dedication; he listened to himself when others told him he couldn’t do something, and he listened to the Higher Power, and trusted that what he believed in — what he wanted to do — was the right thing.

Did every day go well for him? Of course it didn’t. Did he have days where he wondered why he was doing what he was doing? Of course he did. Did he have ups, downs, and frustrations like the rest of us? Of course he did.

But every day, he got up, and he did what he could to work toward his goal.

And he achieved it. He went from walk-on to three-year starter at Arkansas, he became an All-American, and he was drafted by the Colts.

Of course it would’ve been better had he lived longer. Burlsworth was the type of person others respected, and because of his own unshakeable faith and hard work, who knows what he could’ve become over time?

But his was a truly remarkable and inspirational life. This was a bookish, overweight kid with very little (if any) athletic talent, but he had a dream and he worked hard every day to achieve that dream.

And he did.

What does this have to do with the true meaning of Christmas, you ask?

It’s simple.

The story of Jesus’s life is powerful, partly because of his humble beginnings. Everything seemed stacked against him from the start. His family was not wealthy or powerful. He grew up in a hostile environment (what else can you call the persecution of King Herod, anyway?), was different from everyone he knew in many ways, and had a quiet, unshakeable faith that he would find his path and make a difference.

And he did.

We still remember Jesus, two thousand plus years later. We remember the power to make a difference, to love one another, to be good to one another, to appreciate one another, to work hard and not let anyone stop you — not even yourself.

Every single day will not be easy for you. It wasn’t for Jesus. (It wasn’t for Brandon Burlsworth, either. Read more about his inspirational life here at the blog Sports on Earth.) But it’s worth it if you get up every day, work hard, have faith (yes, even when it’s difficult or nigh on to impossible), and believe that tomorrow will be better than today.

That, to my mind, is far more the spirit of Christmas than anything commercial. Because it boils down to just a few things:

Love one another.

Treat others with respect and kindness. (Yeah, the first kind of implies that, but why not spell it out? Can’t hurt.)

Work hard.

Have faith.

Keep trying.

Don’t give up.

And if you can believe in the Higher Power — whatever and however it manifests for you — good. Because that may allow you to tap into more optimism, and that’s all to the good.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 25, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Buy Some Easy, Last-Minute Xmas Gifts Today Via Joan Reeves’ #SlingWords Blog…

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Hey, everyone.

Just ’cause I don’t have much in the way of holiday spirit this year, that doesn’t mean the rest of you don’t. (I hope someone does, somewhere…otherwise the world is a very cold and cruel place. But I digress.) And part of your holiday spirit, if you’re in much of the Western World, is to find the perfect gift for someone.

It may be December 23rd, but you still have time to buy an e-book. That is the point of author Joan Reeves’ blog post today entitled “Easy, Last-Minute Gifts.” My two books of the Elfy duology, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, are part of this promotion, as you see:

AnElfyontheLoose_med#31 An Elfy on the Loose by Barb Caffrey

When young Bruno the Elfy meets Sarah the human girl, they find romance and must save Bruno’s mentor from the clutches of a Dark Elf.

An Elfy on the Loose is 99cents.

Visit Barb Caffrey at Barb Caffrey’s Elfyverse.

 

#32 A Little Elfy in Big Trouble by Barb Caffrey

Bruno and Sarah fall further in love and gather allies to save Northern California from a Dark Elf.

A Little Elfy in Big Trouble is $2.99.

Visit Barb Caffrey at Barb Caffrey’s Elfyverse.

However, don’t despair if you already have them but are in need of a good, quick e-book purchase from a fun author who tells a good story. There are plenty of other great choices to choose from at Joan’s blog today, and I’m sure you can find one of ’em, or more, to whet your interest.

So, please, do take a look at Joan’s blog today. Then buy a book, or two, or three…and I would appreciate it greatly if you’d at least consider buying my two if you don’t already have them. (OK?)

Holidays, Grief, and Disappointment

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Folks, as we all know, the holidays are upon us.

As I have written before (most recently last year, here), this is an awful time of year for anyone who has suffered losses. You can’t help but think about those you miss, especially when you have happy memories of better days when they were alive, well, and completely themselves.

I don’t have the answers for how to deal with this, despite having to deal with it for so long. As time passes, I know I’ll be grieving more and more people, and that’s the way life works — some of us keep going, and remember those who have passed before us, and try to honor their memories as best we’re able.

But that doesn’t make it easy.

In addition, because this is a highly-fraught time of year, any disappointment you receive at this time seems magnified. By a hundred, maybe, or even a thousand…it’s an illusion, mind, borne of the fact that you’re probably already under stress for various reasons, you’re expected to be “happy happy, joy joy” all the time at this time of year, and maybe you’re expending energy you didn’t realize you were using to stay on an even keel.

When I’m disappointed, whether it’s in someone else, myself, the world at large, whatever, I try to take a step back. Will this matter in a week? Will this matter in a month? Will this matter in a year?

If the answers to all of those questions are “no,” it’s a little easier to push past the disappointment.

“But Barb,” you say. “What is it about this time and people getting on each other’s nerves?”

Believe me, I wish I knew.

What I do know is that I try hard not to get upset by what other people do. Sometimes I observe this more in the breach than in its keeping, but I honestly do try.

OK, not everyone is going to be be what you want them to be. (Maybe no one is. Maybe you, yourself, aren’t, either.) Maybe you don’t have the life you want. Maybe nothing went right for you this year. And maybe, just maybe, you are having trouble hoping that tomorrow will be better than today.

That is normal, human, and you have to realize that other people feel the same damned thing.

So, yeah. This time of year is very hard for me. I feel almost as if I’m a chronic observer rather than completely in the mix of life and all its pleasures (and annoyances), and that’s only partly because I’m a writer and my observational skills have been heightened by years of practice.

All I can do, quite frankly, is endure the holidays. Get past them. And hope that 2017 will be a whole lot better than 2016.

Anyway, may we all treat our loved ones, friends, and co-workers gently at this time of year, and throughout the year…and may we all be richly blessed, one way or another.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 22, 2016 at 11:32 am