Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘in general’ Category

Modern Living Has Its Advantages

with 3 comments

With all the doom and gloom of the last few weeks, I thought it was time to write a blog about something I truly enjoy: Living in modern times.

You see, as children of the Twentieth (and now, Twenty-First) centuries, we have grown up with many creature comforts that our ancestors never had. And I’m not just talking about smartphones, the internet, or computing.

Think about it. We can get fresh produce in the off-season because of modern-day shipping practices. In the Midwest in winter, we often see produce from Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, and even Africa. These are luxuries that we almost never think about; they’re just there, in the grocery store, waiting to be bought.

(That some of it is more expensive than others, well…comes with the territory, I suppose. But I digress.)

In addition, the array of spices we have available for purchase is astonishing, too. If you go back several centuries, and you study history at all, you’ll realize that wars were fought over the spice trade. They were hard to get, and extremely difficult to keep in stock once traders had acquired them, because of their respective rarity.

And that’s not all.

Think about your modern carry-out dinner. In America, that’s probably pizza and wings; in the UK, it might be fish and chips. Either way, that food you just bought is better for you than what kings used to eat, and is far more quickly prepared, too. (The old-fashioned brick ovens, while pretty to look at and quite useful even now, do take far more time to use. And cauldrons over fires could only cook as fast as what a modern-day slow cooker could do, on average.)

And then, there’s the wide variety of alcoholic spirits. In the US, we can get tequila from Mexico, vodka from Russia, whiskey (from Scotland or Ireland), or any number of other types of alcohol. We are not limited to whatever brewmaster might be available at an alehouse. And while we still do have brewpubs and small-batch beer and the like, that’s now considered to be an optional luxury. Nice to have once in a while, but more pricey than other options.

Of course, to my mind, antibiotics are among the biggest perks of living in these contemporary times. While they aren’t a cure-all, and while there are issues with “superbugs” that are chemically resistant to them, antibiotics have been a lifesaver and a game-changer for many. (Including me.)

So, the next time you think about how frustrating your life is because you don’t have whatever the starlet of the month is hawking on Instagram or Twitter, remember all the things you do. If you live in the Western world in particular, even if you are not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, you probably live far, far better than most of the kings and queens of yore.

And are far better-educated, too. (But that’s a separate post.)

What modern-day creature comforts can you not live without? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

Advertisements

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 22, 2018 at 1:40 am

Thoughts in the Stressful Mist

leave a comment »

Folks, it’s March 1. We’ve had fog on and off where I live for a few days now, and tonight we’re supposed to have rain, sleet, and snow.

I say all this because that’s “the mist,” though there’s also a metaphorical mist, too. (I call this “the mood of the area,” not just of me.)

And I have to deal with both mists, or I can’t function.

We all do this, mind. We all have to deal with weather, and whatever life events are happening around us, and try to do it with equanimity. (Or at least not screaming, as that is considered bad form.)

So, how are we supposed to keep going when we’re under immense and enormous stress? And how can we remember that we, too, are worthwhile souls, no matter whatever is going on around us?

What I try to do is take it moment by moment. One thing at a time, one moment at a time, and one thought, even, at a time: Focus. Be concerned, yes, about whatever is troubling you.

But don’t let it consume you.

Sometimes I observe this better in the breach than in its keeping, of course. I’m human. I have bad days. And on those days, I have to remember that things can change on a dime — and that good days are assuredly ahead, whether I can see them or not.

If things feel like they’re overwhelming (and if you’re anything like me, they often do), try to take a breath. Then take another. And a third.

After that, take whatever tasks you have in front of you in their order of importance. (If you’re really feeling terrible and can’t figure out what the order of importance actually is, take the easiest and/or quickest first.) And go slowly; remember that you aren’t at your best, but you are trying. That does matter.

And that you, too, do matter.

Otherwise, also remember this: No matter how close the relationship, if someone treats you badly, you do not have to put up with it. You should try, at least once, to say you do not like this behavior and wish the person would change it…but if it’s something that either can’t or won’t be changed, you have a decision to make.

Only you can make this decision. But you need to remember that refusing to make a decision is also — wait for it — a decision. (Odd, huh?)

Anyway, whatever mist surrounds you — that of overwork, extreme stress, bad health, bad weather, or anything else that is getting in your way — try to remember as best you can that it will pass. No matter how bad it is, it won’t last forever…

And you need to make sure that you, yourself, are still there for the better days ahead. (OK?)

 

Sunday Thoughts — Advice for the Downtrodden

with 5 comments

Folks, it’s Sunday, so I’d like to reflect a little bit on what’s been going on, both with me and the world (as far as I can tell, at least from this little corner of it), as I have a tendency to do on what most of the Westernized world considers to be the Sabbath.

Right now, I’m working hard on three different edits. I also have several writing works-in-progress I’m trying to devote some time to, and I also do what I can to help family and friends enjoy life (or at least not hate it quite so much) by reminding them that they, too, are valuable.

Life shouldn’t just be about work, you see. As wonderful as work can be — and I do enjoy, very much, my work as a writer and editor — it isn’t enough to give you personal satisfaction at a deep level.

Caring for others matters. Even when they can’t show you, it still matters. Because it’s done not to help you feel better, but to help them feel better. And virtue, sometimes, has to be its own reward…even if it does not seem like it at the time.

But how do you keep caring, keep trying, and keep reaching when you feel like your own, personal well of inspiration is dry?

I don’t have the answers to that. But I do know that if you give yourself some credit for all the effort you put in, even on the worst of days, you can get up the next day and try it again.

Everything you do matters. Whether it’s tangible or not, whether others realize it or not, it still is important. And I believe we were put here on this Earth to realize that very fact; that we are meant to not only improve ourselves, but to help others, and to feel less alone while doing it.

I may not be putting this the world’s best way, mind. I’ve still been fighting the vestiges of bronchitis, and also have been working a great deal (thus the not-so-much blogging I’ve done over the past week to ten days).

But I know this to be true: You do matter. To yourself, to the Deity, and to your friends and family, whether it seems like it or not. And whether they can show you…or not.

And you need to keep doing your best to use your talents productively, while encouraging others to do the same thing, because that, too, makes a positive difference in this world.

So if others are telling you that what you are doing doesn’t count, don’t listen.

And if you feel like your life is over, please believe me: it’s not.

Your viewpoint, your inspiration, your drive, your passion, are still there, whether you can feel them today or not. And you will use them to their utmost tomorrow, after you’ve rested.

Please, folks: Believe in yourselves, and believe there is a purpose for you being here. Do not believe in those who tear you down, and do your best to rise above, and keep rising no matter what negativity finds you.

That’s the best way to do good in this world that I know. And while doing your best, you may just find your way back to personal and job satisfaction…just a thought.

Quick Update, Plus Some 2018 Olympic Figure Skating Thoughts

leave a comment »

Folks, I know I haven’t posted any updates in a while, and I’ve had folks asking why.

First, I have had some time-intensive edits on my plate lately, and the paying work must come first.

Second, I have a concert next week with the Racine Concert Band, and I’ve been spending some time preparing for that.

Third, I’ve been watching the Olympics — and yes, the figure skating, natch — but I haven’t had anything interesting to say there.

Until now, that is.

I love Adam Rippon. I always have. Great skater. Lots of technique and emotion. I love how he puts programs together.

Tonight, Nathan Chen skated up to his potential and then some. He is a great jumper. And he has nice spins. But without his jumps, he’d not be there. (He is not yet the whole package.) But six quads, with five cleanly landed? Hard to argue with that.

Don’t know if either are in the mix for individual medals (as the team, overall, won a bronze). But they have represented the US well and I’m proud of them.

Aside from that, it seems odd that Ashley Wagner is not there.

I am not sold in Bradie Tennell as “the best American women’s figure skater,” though she does seem engaging, perky, and a good jumper. My guess, as this is her first try at the Olympics, is that she’ll be lucky to finish 8th. (Note I will be happy if she does better than this. I’m just aware of international figure skating politics, and how very difficult it is for a first-time skater on the major stage to place in the top ten, much less the top five.)

We are fortunate, as Americans, as this certainly is Mirai Nagasu’s time, as she’s hitting her triple axel, and she looks good and wants redemption for the Sochi Olympics (where Wagner was placed on the team ahead of Nagasu, even though Nagasu had appeared to win a spot in her own right). Providing Nagasu hits her triple axel in both the short and long programs, she could medal, especially as the international judges are quite aware of her.

As for the pairs…eh. I like our pair team, the Kneirims. They are a married couple, and have lovely flow on the ice. But they’ll be lucky to finish tenth after a weak short program. (Edited to add: I somehow missed this, but they finished fifteenth overall.)

The dancers look strong, with the Shibutanis (otherwise known as the “Shib Sibs”). So we have a very good chance for a medal there, perhaps silver or even gold.

So, there’s been a lot going on, for me personally and with regards to the Olympics.

As always, I’ll try to keep you posted, so do look for blogs next week.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 16, 2018 at 9:52 pm

Beat the Heat and Stand for Something

with 3 comments

Folks, you may be wondering why on Earth I decided to combine these two topics. It’s mostly because it was 95 F with high humidity (and far from the world’s best air quality) where I live in Southeastern Wisconsin; originally I was going to talk only about standing for something, but it being so hot made me combine them.

So, hopefully my brain hasn’t melted, and this will make sense. Enjoy!

There’s so much negativity in this world right now. And the only way I know to try to fight against any of it is to find something to believe in, and take a stand.

What do I stand for? (I’m going to try to stay out of politics for the moment, as it’s so hot…) Literacy, for one. And education. And thinking for yourself, and making up your own mind after using reason, logic, or at least some sort of step-by-step rationale for making your decisions, rather than following the whims of whatever “in-crowd” seems to be dominating the airwaves this week.

This is important. You need to think for yourself. And stand for something, as well as stand against stuff that makes no sense to you.

Such as narcissistic contemporary behavior. And I am not alone in that.

Tonight, while watching television, I saw highly respected journalist and writer Gay Talese, speaking with MSNBC’s Ari Melber. Talese said that in his opinion, our culture is incredibly narcissistic. He pointed out that even when he goes to a baseball game, more people are watching their phones than watching the game — and he truly does not understand that.

(Neither do I, as a baseball fan. That just never has made any sense to me. Watch the game if you’re there, dammit. Or stay home and follow your phone…unless someone in your family has a health emergency, turn the damned thing off.)

Talese was speaking broadly, as well as specifically (as he was talking politics; someday, maybe soon, I’ll talk about that, too, but not today). But his point is well-founded. We are too narcissistic now, in the Western World in particular; we are not thinking about tomorrow so much as immediate self-gratification.

How do we combat all this? We need to stop undue navel-gazing. And instead, take a stand. Find something you like to do that will actually help someone else. And stop focusing on your own problems to the detriment of everyone else.

(I know, I know; I am at fault as much as anyone reading. But I’m telling myself to do this, too, as I really don’t want to be hypocritical. Trust me. Now, back to the regularly scheduled post, already in progress…)

Some ideas of how to help:

  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry
  • Volunteer with dog, cat, parakeet, or other animal shelters, and make sure those animals are well cared for until they find their “forever homes”
  • Send money to Florida, Puerto Rico, Houston, the Virgin Islands, or any other place that’s been devastated by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, or Maria

Those are just three ideas, but I hope that gives you some food for thought.

We’re only here for a short time. We have to help others while we’re here, or at least make a good attempt to do so; otherwise, why were we put on this Earth with millions upon millions of other souls rather than in our own hermetically sealed bubble, alone in our “perfection,” alone with our thoughts…and no doubt bored silly by same?

As the heat beats down, and the humidity makes the heat even worse, do your best to keep yourself focused on people other than yourself. That’s the best way to honor the better angels of your nature, and it’s the best blow against self-defeating narcissism I know.

P.S. It’s not that you shouldn’t care about what happens to you, mind…it’s that you also should care about what happens to others.

How do you help others? And what do you think of this post? Let me know in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 22, 2017 at 6:15 pm

Quick Wednesday Thoughts

with 8 comments

Folks, I continue to deal with hand issues, and I also have a number of projects hanging fire…so this will be a quick “hit-and-run” type blog, where I tell you what’s on my mind in blurb form.

Ready? Set?

First…what in the world is up with President Donald Trump? I mean, every day, there seems to be a new scandal, something worse happening than the day before. He seems to have come into the office completely unprepared, and due to his impulsivity and other issues, he seems to enjoy scaring the Hell out of people, at home and abroad.

My primary thought here is, “Please stop doing this, Mr. President.” (And that I have to call him Mr. President still irks me something fierce. What did we ever do to get this guy?)

And my secondary thought is, “If there have been criminal — or worse, treasonous — acts committed, the Republican-dominated Congress has to grow a spine or some testicular fortitude. Because we can’t have this happening in the ‘land of the free and home of the brave,’ at all.”

Second, the weather in Wisconsin has been all over the place lately. We’ve had cold weather, hot weather, not too much medium-range weather, and it either is raining in buckets or it’s dry as a bone. I can’t figure it out.

Except for one thing…as weather forecasters can seemingly be wrong every day of the year and still get paid, why didn’t I sign up for that gig? (Yeah, they need more math and science than I had, but I’m sure I could’ve learned it. Ah, well.)

Third, I wonder sometimes about relationships. Why is it that we can try so hard, and get nowhere in them?

I was very fortunate in finding my late husband Michael, but before him I made a couple of bad mistakes. (Of course, what is the definition of a “good” mistake, anyway? One that leads you to the New World when you’re looking for China?)

All I know is, if you’re the only one trying in a relationship, it’s not a relationship. It’s you talking to yourself, and pretending like fire someone else cares when he or she really doesn’t. (Or doesn’t care enough to be useful to you.)

Learn from my mistakes.

And learn from my lone success, too…there is someone out there who will get you, completely, even if you don’t know who that is right now. Refuse to settle for anything less.

Fourth and last…I refuse to give up. I will keep trying.

I just wish I could get a small break in the action where something completely positive happens for a change, that’s all.

Anyway, that’s about it.

What’s going on with you, and what are your thoughts? (What annoys you, or makes you smile, or anything?) Tell me in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 17, 2017 at 1:20 pm

When Life Gives You Lemons…

with 5 comments

You all know the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade?”

Sometimes, that lemonade can be sour, even bitter to the taste. But eventually, you will learn to tolerate that taste…and you might even begin to crave it.

Why?

Because it means you’re still trying. It means you haven’t given up. It means you know, deep down in your soul, you are doing everything in your power you can to make the world a better place.

You might be wondering what brought this on.

I’ve been dealing with a family health crisis this past week, and I’ve been running back and forth to the hospital. While I’d rather be doing just about anything else, I’m very glad to do this.

Why?

It means my family member is still alive, still fighting, getting better and doing whatever is possible to improve her health.

That’s a good thing.

See, the connections I have with my family and friends are essential. I want them to be happy, healthy, and to enjoy life to the fullest.

But no one can do that while sitting in a hospital bed.

Even though this week didn’t go at all according to plan, I’m glad that I was able to do something to try to help those who are important to me.

One final thought:

Sometimes, it feels like we’re not doing very much during a crisis. This is very human, but somehow we need to throw those feelings to the side.

Why?

Because self-forgiveness — which I’ve discussed before — is essential at times like this. We are not saints, and we can’t expect ourselves to act as if we are. All we can do is be ourselves, try our best, and do whatever we can to make life a little better place.

Including visiting those who are ill (if they’re up to visits), talking with them, and letting them know we care.

That’s what’s important.

Don’t lose sight of it. (Please?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 29, 2017 at 11:33 pm