Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘in general’ Category

When People Disagree: A Rant

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Folks, if you’ve been following my blog for the past few days, you may have noticed that there was a disagreement between me and a long-time reader of my blog. Over politics, of all things…the most fraught subject in the United States, partly because everyone seemingly has made up his or her mind already. Worse yet, most of the folks I know of any political persuasion won’t change whatever their initial snap judgment was in the first place, and thus we stay stalled out.

Nothing gets done, because we can’t even agree on the basics anymore.

I don’t know what to say about this, except that it saddens me.

In this case, my former reader was a Trump supporter. I am not, and never have been. That said, I do read George Will (a conservative columnist) regularly, watch Shep Smith regularly (the best newsman on TV, and he works on Fox News), and sample a number of conservative blogs every week, including Hugh Hewitt’s (a Trump supporter and radio host).

Do I agree with much of what any of them say? Hell, no, I don’t**. But I owe it to myself to find out what they’re saying, because sometimes I do agree with a little here and there. (And every great once in a while, I find myself in agreement with someone like longtime Republican strategist Rick Wilson. Granted, he’s a #NeverTrump guy. But he still is a true conservative, and thus doesn’t have a ton in common with me in some ways.)

And one thing I do know we all agree on, whether it’s Hewitt or Will or Wilson, is that we need to believe our government works for us. Rather than them doing whatever the Hell they want (or don’t); rather than our Congresscritters (and other governmental folks) acting like pigs at the trough and getting all they can, as long as they can; rather than them acting like complete and utter idiots, out of touch with people in the middle and lower classes (so they can’t possibly make decent laws, having no idea of what the true issues are).

The way to find consensus is to read exactly what’s written, and not impart what we think the other person is writing instead. The former reader decided no matter what I said about politics that I hated Trump so much, “Trump was Hitler.” (He said this in several comments.) And I said no such thing.

In fact, what I did say was, “I don’t like Trump. I don’t trust him. I don’t think he’s a good POTUS (president of the United States). But he’s not Hitler.”

I should’ve gone further, though. Which is why I’m writing this right now.

Many dictators and authoritarian-types who’ve come to power shut down the freedom of expression as the very first thing they do. Whether they are from China or Chile, Venezuela or Uganda, or anywhere else that’s featured dictatorial rule in the past century (including Cuba), the one thing a dictator can’t handle is the freedom to say, “I don’t like that guy, and here’s why.”

With all of Trump’s faults — and he does have many — he has not done that. He’s not even tried to do that. And I think one of the reasons the hard-core Trump supporters out there (including the former reader of my blog) get so frustrated is that some members of the media have worried incessantly that Trump will do that. And worse, some of the most loudmouthed members of the chattering class believe it’s only a matter of time, and have already decided Trump is guilty of suppressing freedom of the press right now.

Know, please, that I am not among those folks.

But back to the matter at hand. It isn’t fair to impart motives to my writing that do not exist. That frustrates the Hell out of me. As a writer, I try to be as blunt and to the point as I can, and make it blindingly obvious what I think when I’m writing my blogs or anything of a nonfiction nature. (Fiction, by definition, is different. And you have to take different tactics there as a writer to do the job. But I digress.) I do that on purpose, because I do not want to be misunderstood.

What I do know, though, is this: If we can’t agree even on how to disagree, we’re in big trouble.

I realize many people, myself included, are worried about all sorts of things, big and small; that said, we have to at least be willing to agree to disagree sometimes, and be civil about doing it. And not just storm off in a huff when you’re not getting your point across, or you don’t particularly want to agree to disagree, either. (That’s something the US Congress does very well. We, as people, should not.)

My belief, overall, is that you don’t have to agree with me. (In fact, I hope you don’t always agree with me. How boring would it be to have a bunch of echo chambers around all the time?) But you do have to be civil about your disagreement, and you really should try to see what the words actually are, rather than what you think they are.

End rant.

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**I like Shep Smith’s newscasts, and I agree with how he presents the news. He is objective and principled. I like that. I wish we had a lot more of it.

 

Teensy, Tiny Personal Update

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Folks, I can’t recall if I had mentioned this here at my blog or not, but in July I sprained my right ankle. I did so just before I played my clarinet solo with the Racine Concert Band, but it got worse rather than better over the next week to week and half.

Then, one day, I put my foot wrong somehow, and my ankle’s ligaments felt like they were going to tear. My leg buckled. I caught myself with my other leg (as I’d been trying to go up a steep stoop), went the long way around to get my stuff (don’t ask), then hightailed it to the doctor, where I found out I had a severe sprain. I had ligament damage, too. They could feel it. And the whole area was a big mess.

So, they gave me an ankle brace that laced up (so I could still drive, natch), and sent me on my way.

Until yesterday, I wore the ankle brace every single day for many hours a day. (Whenever I had to go out, or walk around more than a few steps in the house, that brace was on.) Slowly, the limp associated with the sprain went away; the pain lessened; the swelling lessened significantly; the ligaments quieted down.

In short, I healed. Properly, for a change.

My hope now is that I will be able to do more blogging in the not-so-distant future, as well as more actual work on my stories beyond “hey, wouldn’t it be great to do that when I actually had some energy and time, and wasn’t injured?”

So, what’s going on with you? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 7, 2019 at 5:52 am

Unlock Yourself, and Get Out of Ruts

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I realized, earlier this evening/morning (as my mornings and evenings have been all screwed up for a while now), that I hadn’t written a blog in a while.

Shame on me.

There is a reason, of course, and it’s the usual one: I have a sinus infection, and it’s getting in the way of most fun things in life, including reading, writing, playing music, and just about anything except playing Sudoku and online card games.

Still, one thought kept crossing my mind, and I thought I should blog about it. Here goes: “Unlock yourself.”

What do I mean by that?

When you are in a rut, or you know you have to make a change but don’t want to do it, you are stuck. It’s like you’ve put a lock on yourself, on all of your abilities and talents and goals and dreams.

Worse yet, most of the time when you do this, you don’t even realize it. You are so brain-numb from whatever is going on in your life and/or work and/or circumstances that you just can’t deal with anything. Then you try to do what you normally do, and can’t. And feel worse about yourself.

I’ve learned that half the battle, when I’m brain-numb, is realizing exactly that. And once I do realize it, I can back off; take a break; do something fun; or at least try to get my rest. Any and all of these strategies will help me get back to living my life without feeling like I’m just going through the motions.

While the strategies above will help no matter what your circumstances are, being in a rut is not a fun thing. Most of the time, something major needs to happen for you to evaluate yourself, realize how deep the rut you’re in actually is, and make positive changes to get away and out of it.

The goal here is, you need to think about things differently. Maybe put your best friend, or your sister, or your mother, in your place; how would you advise them in a similar circumstance? (Surely you wouldn’t want anyone you cared about to stay in that rut, right?) And try to turn tragedy into opportunity.

Thus, “Unlock yourself.”

“But Barb,” you say. “I don’t get it. I need to change my attitude? But my attitude didn’t get me in this rut, so how will that help?”

That’s not exactly what I’m getting at, here. I know attitudes alone do not put anyone into a rut. But refusing to evaluate your circumstances, or re-evaluate as needed, and tote up the pluses and minuses of wherever you’re at, contributes to ruts. And if you don’t do these things, it’s easier to just go brain-numb, as I said before, and go through the motions…and the rut gets deeper, and deeper, and deeper.

Worst of all, for most of us, that shuts down our creative facilities something fierce.**

That’s why I say the key to everything is unlocking yourself. Your own potential. Your own belief that you can, and will, do whatever you set your mind to doing…just so long as you get proper rest, eat well, and treat whatever problems are going on all around you accordingly.

What do you think of my strategies? Did “Unlock yourself” make any sense to you? Tell me about it in the comments!

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**Those of you who don’t have this happen aren’t necessarily better off if you can get around this, mind. I know one person who swears he has to be unhappy to write, or he can’t do it; that, to my mind, is just awful. But there’s no talking him out of it, because it’s his way of thinking — his rut, if you will — and the only one who can get him out of there is himself.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 29, 2019 at 4:42 am

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

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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