Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘in general’ Category

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.)

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Written by Barb Caffrey

November 9, 2018 at 1:04 am

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

Continuing to Battle…

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Folks, just wanted to drop a wee blog to let y’all know I’m still alive.

The last few weeks have been extremely challenging, to say the least. I don’t know why I have so little energy. Yes, I’m recovering from the Nasty Respiratory Ailment (TM), but something still seems off. My doctor doesn’t seem that worried, as there are lots of things that could be setting off Nasty Respiratory Ailment (TM), and besides, my health hasn’t always been that robust anyway.

But for the most part, as difficult as it’s been for me since my husband died, I’ve been able to muster up the energy for the absolutely essential things after the worst of the grief passed off. (Granted, that took a few years. But still.) Or at least I felt it would come back when I did get sick, as I had bigger things to do and only a certain amount of time to do them.

I no longer have that certainty.

Granted, I’m going to continue to work toward better health. I still have things I need to get done. Stories to tell, books to edit, friends to make, family and friends to support, all that…and I intend to do those things.

But Nasty Respiratory Ailment (TM) has definitely got me down. I have had to ration my strength, and cut way back on my activities because of this, and I haven’t enjoyed it. (For example, I missed the October concert with the Racine Concert Band, and I hated to do that. But I couldn’t even lift the saxophone at the time, much less play it, and I’m not all that much better off right now…though I do think I could play for a few minutes if pressed.)

Then again, if I did enjoy it, you would wonder about me, wouldn’t you? (More than you do already, I suppose.)

Anyway, I keep thinking about what my husband told me when I was sick. (Which happened often then, as now, though I felt better about it as he was there and I knew he loved me with all he had and everything he was, so I had a really good reason to get better ASAP.) His contention was that rest, at times like these anyway, was the priority.

Yes, rest is boring.

Yes, rest is annoying when you want to be up and doing.

Yes, rest doesn’t seem like it’s accomplishing anything. (And I do mean anything.)

But rest is the only way to win through to a better, brighter day. One with less illness, and more hope.

I’m in the phase of recovery now where I am really antsy for that better, brighter day. I can again edit. I can, with difficulty, compose some music, and I can write a bit, too, as you see by this blog.

It’s good to be able to do these things again.

But to do them, I still have to basically put everything else to the side, and concentrate only on one thing, whether it’s editing, helping my mother, or doing my laundry. That one thing gets done; everything else is forced to wait until the next day. And believe me, any time I move around, Nasty Respiratory Ailment (TM) lets me know it’s still there, waiting to derail me…

Ahem.

So, I will keep searching for that better, brighter day. And I will do what I can to make that happen, so I can get done what needs to be done…and maybe find some peace and happiness along the way, too. (Hey. It could happen.)

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 26, 2018 at 12:32 am

A Teensy Little Baseball Bloglet…

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Folks, as I continue to heal from the respiratory nastiness, I wanted to give you a brief update about how my favorite baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers, are doing in the playoffs.

Last night, the Brewers had to win or they’d have been out of the playoffs. And they did win, forcing a climactic game seven tonight in Milwaukee against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s rainy, windy, and cold, but the Brewers’ stadium, Miller Park, has a roof so the game will be played.

If the Brewers can win tonight, they will go to the World Series for the first time since 1982. I was young then, and yes, I did go to both a playoff game and a World Series game. (I was a huge fan then, too.) Old Milwaukee County Stadium was electric with energy; though we didn’t have a roof, we had tons of fans who knew and loved baseball, and it was a wonderful experience even though the Brewers, then in the American League, did not win the World Series.

The players back then were so much fun. My all-time favorite, catcher and right fielder Charlie Moore (he who threw out Reggie Jackson from right field in game 5 of the ALCS). Hall of Famers Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. First baseman Cecil Cooper, a great hitter and one of the all-around good guys of the team. Starters Pete Vuckovich and Mike Caldwell and Moose Haas. Reliever extraordinaire Rollie Fingers, also a Hall of Famer. Homegrown second baseman Jim Gantner, a guy who could and did anything required of him. And swingman Jerry Augustine…who now works for Fox Sports Wisconsin as an analyst.

My hope is that the 2018 Brewers will someday be as well-regarded as my 1982 team, and that the kids coming up today will know all the names: Ryan Braun, Mike Moustakas, Orlando Arcia, Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw, Lorenzo Cain, Keon Broxton (who I hope, if the Brewers do make it to the World Series, is activated for the WS as he’s such a dynamic force in the outfield and on the basepaths), and MVP candidate Christian Yelich. If they do, and can remember back to this wonderful year, and think of it with fondness, that’s all any baseball fan can ever ask.

Now back to healing, already in progress…

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 20, 2018 at 12:47 pm

Six Things for Saturday

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Folks, I know I didn’t write a blog all week, and I’m sorry. So without further ado, here are six takes on six different things. (Why six? It’s Saturday. I like alliteration. It makes sense in my head, anyway…)

  • I’m very happy that my favorite baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers, are in the playoffs. They haven’t had a team this good since 1982, and that year, the Brewers (in the American League back then) made it to the World Series. I don’t know if this year’s team can do that or not; much remains unclear at this time. But they have had a great year, and their bullpen is the main reason, along with the play of MVP-candidate Christian Yelich.
  • I’ve thought a lot about editing this past week. Some books that I’ve otherwise loved end up with odd errors in them. One such error is “fairing” instead of the proper word, faring, as in, “How are you faring?” (Meaning, how are you doing.) I don’t know why this keeps showing up in books, except that I’m guessing the authors either didn’t have good editors or they relied too much on spellcheck and/or grammar check. (No spellcheck or grammar check in the world is as good as a real, live editor.)
  • I am far from indifferent to the political situation we have going on in the US right now. I am frustrated with the descent into tribalism. We cannot get any traction if those of us in the middle are either vilified or ignored. And yet, if you try to take a middle stance on anything, that’s exactly what happens. As I’ve said before, change usually is incremental. (Mind, it may show up, all of a sudden, as a huge one, such as when same-sex marriage was legalized in all 50 states in 2015. But it took decades of progress to get to that point.) And to get that incremental change, you need people who are willing to look at the problems — take a good, hard, rational, fact-based look — and then compromise to get the best solution possible.

Now, is this hard to do? Damn straight it is. Most people do not have the wherewithal to truly serve the public rather than themselves, or worse, special interests/big moneyed interests. Maybe they want to serve the public, but can’t figure out a way; maybe they get to state capitals (or even more challenging, Washington, DC) and get blinded by the “bright lights, big city” phenomenon.

But this is what must happen to have good, positive public service. And right now, because no one trusts anyone else politically and there’s very little bipartisanship to be had at any level, those of us who just want to fix the potholes and make sensible public policy get pushed to the side. And that’s wrong.

  • Someone asked me if I believed Doctor Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. The answer is that I did. Something definitely happened to her, and she was definitely sexually assaulted. Her behavior afterward is characteristic of that, as is the fact it took her years to put herself back together. So yes, I believed her. And yes, I believe we need to listen to sexual assault survivors, and make better public policy overall if we can in that regard, too.

(Before someone says, “But Barb! That doesn’t say Judge Kavanaugh did anything! You have no proof! She has no proof either beyond her bare word,” I will point out that I am answering only the one question. I wait for facts.)

I am very pleased Doctor Ford put herself back together, mind, and used her experiences to better inform her life, make better and more positive choices in the long run, and get her doctorate (which is a very big deal). That’s hard to do. She did it. She deserves credit for it.

And the people who are angry with her for telling her story need to show some compassion. Even if they think she’s flat wrong, they should be praying for her; they shouldn’t be doxxing her or sending death threats. (That should go without saying, but somehow, it no longer does.)

  • Weather is the last bastion of bipartisanship in the United States.

Weather is a great equalizer, you know. We all face it. We all have to deal with it. We all have to learn to live with it. And we all have to figure out ways to cope with it.

In my area in Southeastern Wisconsin, we’ve had lots of rain lately, with some of it overflowing the banks of the various rivers. That is never good. (We also are getting more rain and the ground is super-saturated already. Also not good.)

So, weather is still bipartisan, and is still a safe subject. (Hallelujah?)

  • Sixth and last, if I’ve learned anything from this life, it’s that I can’t change anyone else. I can only change me. (And that happens very, very slowly.)

Why am I talking about this? Recent events in my personal life, mostly. I have had to face the fact that no matter what I want, certain folks just aren’t going to change. I have to deal with the problem as it is (or as a golfer would say, “Play the ball as it lies”); I can’t prettify it up or hope for better.

Now, this can be depressing, if you take it one way. But it also can be liberating.

See, if you’ve done everything in your power, and nothing has affected the outcome, that just shows you’re in the wrong place. Or maybe with the wrong people.

So, going forward, I will keep working on myself, and my craft, and my art. And if I can find like-minded souls willing to walk with me on the journey, good.

If not? Well, I’m going to have to stop bending myself into pretzel-shapes, and save steps.

Any comments from the peanut gallery? (Preferably not about politics?) Let me know in the comments!

Thoughts on Regret

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Over the course of my life, there are things I wish I could’ve done differently. I regret these things, and yet, if I had them to do over again — and didn’t have the additional knowledge of hindsight, of course — I almost certainly would do the exact same things in the exact, same order.

I wrestle, often, with the idea that no matter what I do, it’s not going to be enough. And I regret, often, that I can’t do any better than this…(even though this is the absolute best I’ve got, and I know it.)

I regret when I’ve lost friends I truly care about, all because they’ve misunderstood me or I’ve misunderstood them. Sometimes there is no way back to being friendly, either, and that just makes me so frustrated, I have no words to describe it.

I’ve thought long and hard about the idea of regret, and have only come up with one conclusion.

I seem to regret so many things because I somehow,  in defiance of all logic, believe I should’ve done everything absolutely right, every time. And while wanting  of that is understandable, not to mention very human, it isn’t possible.

And I do know better than that.

I know we can’t control things beyond ourselves. We can’t control other people. We can’t control their actions. We can’t make them do anything.

(Nor would I want to control anyone but myself, either. That would not only be boring, it would be utterly pointless, and take all the joy out of living. But I digress.)

Anyway, if you are dealing with a lot of regret in your life right now, you need to remember two things.

  • One, you aren’t a bad person.
  • Two, you are almost certainly on the cusp of positive change, even if you can’t see it right now.

One final thing: as a writer, I believe that all experiences are necessary to write good stories that ring emotionally true and have depth…so even the worst experiences (and I have a bundle of those) can be transmuted into something much better. I hope knowing that makes it slightly easier to deal with the bad days, in the hope that good days will come again.

What do you think about regrets, or this blog in particular? Let me know in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 26, 2018 at 2:00 am

Why Can’t We Communicate?

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been quite frustrated, I will admit.

It seems like the world has forgotten how to communicate. Left can’t talk with right, centrists like me trying to find common ground are ostracized, and it seems impossible to just talk with someone — even with the assumption we’ll disagree about nearly everything, but civilly — most of the time.

I don’t know why we can’t communicate. And it bothers me.**

The cultural assumption in the United States used to be that anyone could say anything (except yell “fire” in a crowded theatre, of course), and we’d agree they could do this. So long as people were peacefully protesting, that was just fine.

That’s what we are supposed to be about, in America. Free speech, yes, and peaceful protests, yes.

But we’re now looking at a scenario I’d never envisioned.

Instead of people agreeing to disagree, we’re mostly staying in crisis mode and assuming our neighbors will hate us unless they agree with us in every respect. (Which, by the way, is impossible, but I digress.) And the threat of violence seems so large, even the current President of the US has talked about it — though mostly in his terms, and because he seems afraid he will lose his grip on the power he has.

I live in a “purple” state. We are split down the middle, more or less, between people on the left and people on the right. Centrists, who just want to get the potholes filled and work out the remaining problems civilly and non-violently, are present, but keeping their heads low ’cause centrists are the only ones who get yelled at by all.

(“Blessed be the peacemakers,” indeed. But again, I digress.)

So, if there’s going to be violence if one side or the other doesn’t get their way, my home state of Wisconsin seems a likely target.

I don’t have any answers, mind you. But I do at least know what the right questions are, and the first one, as I said before, is “Why can’t we communicate?” Learning how to civilly disagree, without violence, used to be the first thing people learned, after all. So why is it that we can’t seem to remember that now?

————

**I do hope that people will stop getting so upset that they can’t even talk with their neighbors and/or friends about the things that matter. Politically, you can disagree with someone, but that doesn’t mean personally, morally, spiritually, or ethically that you disagree…and yet, we’ve become so tribally oriented for some reason, it seems like if you disagree at all, you’re just a non-person.

I find that so upsetting, I don’t have words to describe it. Thus this post.