Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘in general’ Category

Dealing with the Internet Age

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Folks, I have been thinking hard about a story I’m trying to write — and am stalled at doing, of course — so all sorts of other things have come into my mind.

For example, in the 1930s during the Great Depression, comedies — the wilder, the better — were all in vogue. Yet now, in 2019, after what some call the Great Recession of 2008 (that hasn’t fully recovered in some areas, at least not to pre-Recession levels), what’s in vogue? Depressing stories — such as The Walking Dead. Or George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” epic (AKA HBO’s Game of Thrones).

That doesn’t mean comedies can’t still find their way, mind you. But the comedies that have succeeded, such as Bridesmaids or the various instances of The Hangover (last I knew, it was up to part three), all have a darker edge to them than the ones did in the 1930s.

I hate to think that the 1930s were a simpler time, because that can’t be true. They’d endured what was then called the Great War — what we call World War I — and so many men died there, at least half a generation of men were wiped out. (Note that I say “men” because very few women fought in those days, and even those serving in hospitals and as ambulance drivers tended to be as far away from the fighting as humanly possible. Not that this was all that much all the time, of course — but it was the principle of the thing.)

But the 1930s didn’t have today’s instantaneous communication, either. While they certainly had telephones, and they had telegraphs as well (kids, think about text messaging, and then think about it going over telephone-type wires…while this is imprecise, that’s more or less what telegraphy was meant to be), they lacked 24/7 news coverage. Or the ability to wake up and know what was going on, say, in Bangladesh, even if you were asking from your living room in San Francisco, California.

I’ve read a few stories recently that make me wonder if the world at large knowing so many things at such a shallow level is actually good. Many people, just run-of-the-mill folks, feel either isolated or inundated, and don’t know what to do with themselves.

Moderation is meaningless unless it’s taught. And no one’s taught anyone online how to be moderate whatsoever.

Thus Tweetstorms. Thus random comments from 2013 (or whatever) coming back to bite people…

And that’s why some folks think it’s OK to gang up on others online, because there’s this ideal out there that you’re supposed to be perfect 24/7. And if you can’t be the pattern card of propriety (as the Regency Era would put it), you aren’t worth anything at all.

This era of ours, the Internet Age, sometimes lacks humanity. It also lacks soul. And the reason for both of these problems is very simple: there are too many people who seem to have forgotten to show compassion, or maybe to even feel it.

I don’t know what the answers are to fix these dilemmas. But I do know what you can do to try to moderate yourself as best you can amidst the screaming and the shouting and the horrors often seen.

(Make no mistake, there are plenty of horrors out there. And they should be dealt with. But dwelling on them all the time does not do any good. Back to the post.)

My simple, five-point strategy is this:

  1. Read widely, but take breaks. This means you should question yourself and your assumptions, but you also should take a day off here and there from all of this questioning and assume the world is going to keep spinning.
  2. Practice compassion toward others, even when it’s hard. Try to find someone else’s point of view if at all possible, and if you can’t, ask the other person — the one you don’t understand — to explain himself/herself/themself.
  3. Remember that every day is a new day. And that you do not have to carry yesterday’s mistakes with you forever.
  4. Do what you can to help, or at least not hinder.
  5. And finally, try to find fun amidst all the meaning in your life. Because life is very short, and sometimes the end sneaks up on you in a big hurry.

If you can do all these things, you will be able to shut out some of the yelling, the screaming, the argumentation for the sake of argumentation…and thus be able to live a better and more fulfilling life.

What do you do to find balance in your life during the Internet Age? Tell me about it in the comments!

Asthmatic Thoughts

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Folks, I’d intended to write two more blogs starting with “The Transformative Power of” rather than this, but here’s what I’ve got. Enjoy?

The last few days for me haven’t been that wonderful. I had an asthma attack that was bad enough to force me to go to the emergency room — something that hasn’t happened in years — and interrupted my rehearsal on Thursday night with the Racine Concert Band for the upcoming concert at Case High School on Tuesday, May 21.

At least, for me.

I hope I didn’t interrupt it for anyone else. But I had to leave. I couldn’t breathe well. And about fifteen minutes into rehearsal, I took four hits on my albuterol rescue inhaler — the max dose. But all that did was get me to the break without passing out. It didn’t allow me to regain my energy or breath well enough to continue playing my saxophone, and I only barely had the energy to concentrate on driving to the ER.

I’ve been asthmatic most of my life, but it wasn’t diagnosed until age 27. Most of the time, I’ve been able to do everything I want to do, including five K walk/runs (I used to power walk, when my back still allowed me to do such). With a little prudence, even on very hot and humid days, I can do what I need, providing I rest a great deal and be sure to have my rescue inhaler handy.

But that’s why this was so frustrating. I know what to do. And yet, I was running a bit late, was afraid I’d get into rehearsal late, and I didn’t want that. While I’d taken my rescue inhaler around five p.m. — meaning it should’ve still been able to help for the 7 p.m. rehearsal — I had just done the fastest walk I’m capable of from the parking lot, with my cane, sax, and big, heavy purse in tow. So that, right there, was probably all I had, breathing-wise…and that’s why, fifteen minutes in, I had to take four puffs of albuterol.

What also was difficult for me, then, was not realizing how bad off I was. My stand-partner, Vivian, who’s known me since I was 18, is the one who realized what was going on. She told me I should go seek medical attention, and get a breathing treatment; I told her that I wanted to stay at rehearsal, so I’d try to take the rescue inhaler instead.

And you already know what happened then.

When I got to the ER, they took me right back to a room. (The local hospital, Ascension-All Saints, takes shortness of breath in an asthmatic seriously, which I greatly appreciate.) Within a half an hour or so, I was given a breathing treatment on a nebulizer, and my mind started to clear. (That my oxygen saturation when I got there was approximately 85% did not help, though it did go back up after I sat for a few minutes.) They then gave me three tablets of prednisone, and while that made me very jumpy and jittery, it also allowed me to have enough energy to drive home a few hours later.

I didn’t call my parents, or my sister, until I knew what was going on and could talk without gasping. (My sister works very early in the morning, and I was in the ER until after midnight.) As my brother lives in another state entirely, I didn’t think to even tell him about this, either. But I wasn’t thinking too clearly at the time.

I did text a few friends who were expecting to hear about my rehearsal, and had been worried as they knew I didn’t feel that wonderful when I left on Thursday for rehearsal in the first place. I did that mostly because I knew they were waiting to hear from me. I always try to keep in contact when someone’s expecting to hear…anyway, fortunately for me, one of my best friends I’d texted lives in town.  She came over to the ER, sat with me the last half-hour until they let me go, and drove behind me all the way home to make sure I’d get there all right.

This gave me great comfort.

I was told by the doctor to take it easy over the weekend. No practicing at all. No heavy shopping trips for my mother, if I could avoid it. (Light stuff was OK providing I took my time about doing it.) No editing, if I could avoid it. I could write, to tolerance, and I have — not just this blog either. (1000 words of fiction, yay!) And providing I do take it as easily as possible, he said I could play the dress rehearsal on Monday night, and the concert on Tuesday night — providing I take my rescue inhaler beforehand and after, and continue to take steroids for several days to aid my breathing overall.

I still have hope that I will play this concert. It isn’t going to be easy for me. I am not going into it with much strength, energy, or clarity of mind. But I can do it, and have promised I would…so I will find a way, if at all possible.

I was very scared by this episode. I used all the biofeedback techniques I have learned recently to stay as calm as possible on the road to the ER, and was able to “stay in the moment” to drive safely over there even feeling the way I did. (Why did I do this, you ask? They tow cars if you leave ’em at the practice site overnight. I can’t afford that!)

But I was fortunate. My stand-partner knew I was ill, which prompted me to take my rescue inhaler in the first place. She also urged me to go to the ER when I was still ailing after. And after that, I got good attention in the ER; my friends helped as much as they could from where they were; my family, while being miffed that I didn’t call or text or do anything to let them know in the moment, has been very understanding of how little I’ve been able to do over the last two days since that happened.

I promise you all, I will take my meds on time. I am not going to ever forget to take my rescue inhaler directly before practice again, either, even if I’m already fifteen minutes late…though I hope I won’t be late at all, so I can go in without feeling like I have to “haul ass” and thus have almost nothing to work with from the get-go.

All I can say, else, is that I survived this. And I’m glad, though I wish I hadn’t had to deal with it and had just been able to play as normal.

Anyway, I do hope to write the other blogs about “the transformational power of” later this week, if all goes well. And I would like to know what you think about this, the most personal of blogs I’ve written in a very, very long time…tell me about it in the comments, please. (You are reading, right?)

 

Computer Woes: Stuff I Learned While The Computer Was Down

with 10 comments

As the title says…here we go.

  1. I am very impatient. Waiting to get my computer fixed seemed like forever, rather than nearly eight days.
  2. I was more stuck in ruts than I’d previously thought.
  3. Trying to type on a phone — even on a smartphone — is much harder than I’d thought, and it’s not just because of my quasi-carpal tunnel syndrome.
  4. Following from #3, I figured out I owed a friend an apology from a while back. He and I got into it because I was being very chatty, and on a good day — and with a good computer, complete with a proper keyboard and my hands cooperating, I can type nearly 80 words per minute. He could not follow me on his phone, and said so. (He later admitted he wasn’t particularly nice about it and did apologize.) At the time, I didn’t understand this…but boy, do I ever, now.
  5. Following from #4…yes, I did apologize. Because it’s better to apologize late than never. And it’s a lot better to know, in and of yourself, that you tried to do the right thing, albeit late, and albeit when the other person may not even care anymore…because it was important once, and I muffed it. It’s a statement that I won’t do it wrong–at least not intentionally, anyway–again. (Of course, that leaves all the other stuff that I haven’t run across yet as potential things to do wrong. But I could do ’em right, too…moving on.)
  6. Tablets are damned hard to use.
  7. I don’t enjoy texting. Not on a flip phone, not on a smart phone, not at all. (“I do not like this, Sam I am.” — Dr. Seuss.)
  8. That said, texting my best friends when the computer is down beats staying out of contact all to Hell.
  9. And using a tablet is better than using a phone of any sort to stay in contact.
  10. Sometimes, life doesn’t go as planned, at all. And while I’ve known that for a damned long time, it bears repeating. (Like a clue-by-four upside the head.)
  11. I have a hard time reframing a bad situation, something I truly can’t stand, into anything remotely resembling a good one. I did try. I told myself over and over that I had more time to read. (I read all sorts of stuff, too. Found a couple of good new authors — new to me, anyway. One of ’em is Kate Stradling. Really am enjoying her work.) I told myself, over and over again, that I was still thinking about my stories — which I was — and that there have been times I’ve not been able to write for seven or eight days before, and I didn’t panic, so what’s the big deal?
  12. Enter panic. (Ding, ding, ding!)
  13. Getting my computer back was useful. I’m still not back up to speed. But I have friends to help. And I’m grateful for that.
  14. I have to believe, despite it all, that there are better days ahead. We all have trials and tribulations. That this affected my livelihood for a week-plus in addition to my communication and my mode of living wasn’t good. (To put it mildly, but I digress.) But several of my friends made a point of calling or texting daily. They were concerned. And they made absolutely sure I knew they were concerned. (Bless them forever for this.)
  15. My family was also very good through this crisis. (It wasn’t just this I was dealing with. This is just what I’m willing to talk about. Further writer sayeth not.)
  16. “Sufficient unto the day are the needs thereof.” (Intentional Biblical misquote by my husband, Michael.) I have to meditate more on this one, I guess.
  17. Buddhists point out that you don’t have to enjoy your circumstances. You just have to accept them.
  18. But yes, when you get an ounce of joy, wring it out to the fullest! (I intend to do so, just as soon as I get some sleep. I’m going to write, and edit, and write some more…)

What do you think of this stream-of-consciousness blog? And what have you, yourself, learned when you have not been able to be online for a significant amount of time due to a computer failure, power outage, or any other reason? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 25, 2019 at 12:53 am

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

Your Vote Is Your Voice…

with 3 comments

…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…

with 2 comments

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