Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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You Must First Try Before You Can Do

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I know Yoda said, long ago, that “there is no try,” but I disagree.

When you’re learning something new, you can’t help but try to figure out exactly how this new thing will work. For example, if you’re learning a new fingering for the clarinet (the altissimo register, or highest notes, can require some unusual fingerings), you try the new fingering out. You see if it works by itself, then you add in other notes around it to see if it works in context with the music. Then, finally, you try that fingering after playing in a lower octave (composers often write urgent things in piercing registers, or at least we can; lower registers are more about steadiness, sometimes, or at least about a rich sonority as the notes are easier to play), and make sure it works no matter what register you’d been playing in beforehand.

So, when you’re learning something new, you try it out.

Here’s another example. When you go buy a new car, you try it out. You see if it seems like something that will work well for you; you see if it’s comfortable, easy to manage, has enough room to carry your groceries or other important items on occasion, and you envision yourself in the car even as you’re taking it for a test-drive. All of the various amenities it has, or doesn’t have, don’t matter as much as what I’ve just mentioned. What does matter is how the car feels as you test-drive it — in other words, how it feels as you try the car, and put it through its paces.

Even in our personal lives, there is an example.

When I was younger, before I married for the first time, I had no idea of what I was getting into. Yes, I’d taken or at least sat in on a “Marriage and Family” course, I’d tutored some kids in high school who took similar classes also, and I thought I had a good grasp of what marriage entails.

I was wrong.

Why was I wrong? Well, I was envisioning only myself, plus the perfect husband for me, who would do everything right, all the time, without prompting, without me ever saying anything to him because he’d know everything before I mentioned it.

(Do you know how unreasonable and unrealistic this is? I didn’t, not at age twenty or thereabouts.)

See, I expected that anyone I was attracted to would be the same as myself, at least in one way. That way was regarding making the commitment to be with each other every single day. That meant that every day was a new one, where we built on what we already had while adding even more to the edifice…I know discussing a marriage like you’re building a house is an inexact metaphor, to say the least, but it’s the best I can come up with even with my additional experiences.

How did I get those additional experiences? I tried various things. I learned different, disparate things about myself along the way. And by the time I met my late husband Michael, I knew exactly what I wanted out of myself and exactly what I wanted and needed from him. I knew he could provide it, too, because he not only said the right words. He backed them up with the right actions.

(Perhaps that’s not a surprise, as Michael was a Zen Buddhist. They believe in Right Action as one of their tenets, I seem to recall. But I digress.)

I could do, by that time. But the reason I could do was because I’d tried and failed so many other times.

Here’s a final example. Musicians are told to practice often, including major and minor scales, scales in thirds (these are small jumps, for the nonmusicians in the audience; for the musicians, think C-E D-F E-G, etc.), sometimes even scales in sixths, to make playing any sort of music far easier from the technical standpoint. If we get the technique down, we can concentrate instead on other things, such as breath control (for wind musicians, this is essential!), blending with the others in the group, intonation (you don’t want to be sharp when everyone else is flat, or vice-versa, though it’s easier for people to hear “sharp” rather than “flat” for some reason), and actually making music rather than just playing a bunch of shiny little notes.

(I have nothing against shiny little notes. I use quite a lot of them as a composer. Moving on…)

What I’m saying is this: Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid of trying multiple times before you can do something, much less do that same something well.

Persist. Keep trying. Keep motivating yourself as best you can, because it’s not likely anyone else is going to do so…and start believing that the best, in some ways, might just be yet to be.

Only then can you proceed from mostly trying, to mostly doing.

Damar Hamlin Released from Hospital, Sent Home to Recover

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Folks, I am very pleased — and relieved — to know that Damar Hamlin, safety for the Buffalo Bills, was released from the hospital in Buffalo and was sent home to recuperate. This is not an outcome I would’ve expected last week when Hamlin suddenly, and scarily, fell backward. But it’s happened, and to me at least, it seems like a miracle.

Granted, there’s a saying I’ve heard that goes like this: “Miracles can happen through human hands, with God/dess flowing through.” That is, if we’re willing to help, if we’re willing to do whatever we can, then sometimes the Deity can use us. That certainly seems to be the case with Hamlin, as the trainers went right out and started CPR, then got out the AED (auto-defibrillator) and made sure his heart was in rhythm before the ambulance came to take him away.

One of the doctors at the previous hospital in Cincinnati said this is not only a very good outcome, but the rapidity of it seems remarkable. (I am giving my best paraphrase of something I saw on TV two or three days ago, so I hope this makes sense.) It’s an outcome that no one could’ve expected to have so soon…but it is warmly welcomed.

From what I heard tonight, it sounds like Hamlin will be working with the athletic trainers for the Bills along with a bunch of other specialists to help him heal. That he can do it from home, rather than from a rehab hospital, is possibly the biggest and best piece of news I’ve heard thus far.

See, recovering at home, when you can, is by far superior to having to stay in a nursing home (rehab place). You have more freedom, more autonomy, you can make more choices, and it’s far easier to relax in your own home, besides.

When I wrote the first blog about Hamlin last week, I had no idea what would happen. Like a lot of others, I prayed for a good outcome for him, as he’s only twenty-four. (I’d have prayed anyway, mind you, no matter what his age.) I hoped he’d wake up, know himself, know his family, know his team, and what he’d been doing before he collapsed, and he’s done all of those things. In addition, in the last couple of days (since this past Sunday, for sure), Hamlin has been Tweeting, and he’s also using his entrepreneurial spirit to sell t-shirts to raise money for the first responders who helped him.

So, in the span of about ten days, he went from sudden collapse due to a cardiac arrest to resuscitated due to the quick-acting and quick-thinking first responders to waking up and asking questions (including whether or not the Bills won the game) that showed he was “neurologically intact.” (This phrase was used several times by the Cincinnati doctors.) Then, after that, the ventilator was taken out, he started talking, then he started to Tweet again, was released from the hospital in Cincinnati to be flown to a hospital in Buffalo, and now he’s been released to go home so he can rehab on his own (with a lot of helpful people on his side, to be sure).

That’s amazing.

That’s the outcome everyone I knew was hoping for.

To my mind, it’s a medical miracle that Hamlin not only is alive but seems to be thriving (as much as anyone can, ten days out from a cardiac arrest).

Again, I am very, very happy that he’s back home and doing so well. May it continue to be so.

Tuesday Insight: Love and Meanness Do Not Go Together

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Folks, I’ve thought for a while about writing something on Tuesdays that would be more introspective — similar to what I often write on Sunday, except without as much of the spiritual element. Today’s blog is the result.

Recently, love has been on my mind.

This is not much of a surprise. There is an element of romance with nearly every story I write. Furthermore, my late husband Michael also wrote romance into many of his stories — though his romances were usually subtler than mine.

So, you might be asking yourself, “Barb, what brought this on today?”

It’s simple. I started thinking about how love should be patient, kind, honest, sincere — and completely without gratuitous meanness.

Tennessee Williams’ play A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE has a line spoken by Blanche (the main female lead) that goes like this: “Some things are unforgiveable. Deliberate cruelty is unforgiveable.”**

In other words, if someone is going out of their way to hurt you, they do not love you.

You may be wondering about someone who tries to make up for their utter rudeness and complete and total lack of respect. I can almost hear you say, “Isn’t that good enough that they apologize?”

It depends on the circumstances. If someone came home from work, needed to be alone for a half-hour (or however long), and said so, but their significant other gave them no space, then I might understand why someone was curt or to the point when it wasn’t necessary.

But rude? Outright nastiness just to hurt you?

No. That should not ever be tolerated, because that’s how people start to hate one another. Or at best, treat the other with contempt — contempt being possibly the worst thing that can enter a long-term relationship — as both of you pretend to still care, but actually don’t.

Yes, one of you in that scenario can still care, and often does, for that matter. But if you both aren’t in the marriage 100%; if you both aren’t pulling together at least 95% of the time; if you both aren’t trying to “fight fair,” and instead bring up old and dead topics again just to make the other person angry…well, if you are doing any of that, your marriage (or long-term relationship) is probably doomed.

You see, I’ve been there. (Not with my late husband, obviously. But with previous exes.) And while I’m glad those relationships ended, so I could marry Michael and know what love truly is all about, I went through a lot of pain and heartache to get there.

Anyway, what you must remember about love is that it truly should be patient, kind, trustworthy, and caring. Yes, everyone has disagreements, but a loving couple fights fairly and asks, “is this what you meant?” in as level of a tone of voice to make sure you’re understanding your spouse (or partner) if there’s any ambiguity about what the other person means.

So, a relationship that’s healthy and helps both you and your spouse (partner) to live a better, happier life needs cooperation, contemplation, sharing, kindness, honesty, a willingness to communicate even on (or especially because of) tough subjects, a rock-solid commitment to doing what you say you will and saying only what you will do, and much, much more.

What it should never contain is gratuitous, willful cruelty.

Now, I figured I’d also point out that most people want to believe the best of the person they’ve chosen to spend their life with. That’s fine, providing you are being honest with yourself when you do it.

In other words, if you would not want your best friend to be treated the way you’re being treated — or a sister, cousin, aunt, uncle, etc. — why are you putting up with it?

I do have a solution for you, though. It’s counseling. That will help you learn how to fight fair and treat each other the way you want to be treated. (If your partner refuses to go, please go alone.)

If you can’t afford counseling, pick up my friend Karl Ernst’s book ROCKING CHANGE: Changing the World Through Changing Ourselves. It’s eye-opening, refreshing, and different. (I know this, because I edited it.) Read his book, think about it, and then ask yourself why you are with a person who only seems to care about themself, rather than you, your kids (if you have any), your friends, or your job (in short, anything that matters to you besides them).

Karl’s book is about $10 at Amazon as an ebook. You may think this is a steep price, but I don’t. Compared to counseling — especially if you need it badly, and don’t have insurance — ROCKING CHANGE is downright cheap.

———–

**I was reminded of this idea after reading a Washington Post chat led by main advice columnist Carolyn Hax from May 6, 2022. (The WaPo is behind a paywall, so I don’t know if you’ll be able to see my link. But if you can, read the entire chat. It’s quite insightful.)

Damar Hamlin, 24, Still Alive After Collapsing on Monday Night Football (Update)

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Folks, a few days ago I wrote a post about Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin. He’s only twenty-four years old, a second-year pro football player in the NFL. He collapsed about three seconds after participating in a hard hit of Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, and most cardiologists consulted on TV, Twitter, or elsewhere believe what happened is called commotio cordis. This occurs when at precisely the wrong time, someone gets hit directly over the heart when the rhythm is about to reset. (I am not a cardiologist, obviously, nor a doctor. I hope I’m stating this correctly, and any doctors in the audience may feel free to correct me. Or EMTs, paramedics, etc., who all know far more than I.) This causes cardiac arrest as the heart goes into ventricular fibrillation (also called v-fib).

Fortunately for Hamlin, he was given immediate CPR on the field, plus an AED — a type of automatic defibrillator — was used. This allowed him to survive and get to the hospital and gives him a fighting chance to survive this ordeal.

Surviving a few days after such a horrible thing means the chances of waking up and knowing yourself and your family, friends, teammates, etc., is far higher.

Damar Hamlin’s collapse and resuscitation feels personal to me, and not just because I’m a football fan. It’s because of how my husband Michael collapsed years ago. Michael fell backward the same way and survived only ten hours after having his first heart attack. He was in a coma after his second. He had two more heart attacks before he passed away, still at a young age, still with absolutely no explanation that made any sense to me. They put on his death certificate “acute myocardial infarction suspected,” along with the beginning of arteriosclerosis. That last part should not have been enough to kill him. (There was so much damage, I’ll never know what caused Michael’s four heart attacks.)

Michael went into v-fib for certain after the second heart attack. He was out for eighteen solid minutes before he revived. After the third, he was out for at least another ten minutes, and when he came back to life again and I was allowed to see him, I was told by the doctors and nurses that they’d never seen anything like the fight Michael was putting up for his life. They said he obviously had everything to live for, and they hoped he’d pull through.

He didn’t.

Anyway, I pray that Hamlin will continue to improve and that he’ll be able to wake up soon. At that point they can figure out what to do next, as there are a number of outcomes — some really good, such as no memory damage due to oxygen deprivation — and some that aren’t. I want Hamlin to fully recover, even if he never plays another down of pro football.

Some of you may wonder how Hamlin’s GoFundMe for Xmas toys is doing. It’s up now to over $7M in donations. (No misprint.) Famous sportsmen like Tom Brady and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay have donated, along with tons of other football players including the Bills’ next opponent, the New England Patriots. (As a side note, Russell Wilson, former quarterback at Wisconsin and now a member of the Denver Broncos, and his wife Ciara donated, along with Wilson’s foundation.). But the majority of the donations have been from regular people. They’ve donated $5, $10, $13, $23, $33, etc. (Hamlin’s number is 3), because they want to do something, anything, that’s positive.

If Hamlin can wake up and know himself, eventually he can administer all these funds and help needy kids the way they deserve to be helped.

That is my hope. Hamlin is a good man, who set up that GoFundMe before he even was drafted and is someone who’s tried hard to help others by from what everyone has said since he was in his teens (if not sooner). He deserves to wake up and make a full recovery if any of us do.

I also want people to lay off Tee Higgins, who did nothing wrong whatsoever. What happened was a freak accident. This could’ve happened to Hamlin on any football play, if the heart was at the wrong point of its cycle. Football is a tough, violent, hard-hitting sport, but this particular risk usually is miniscule. It had never happened before in NFL history, and I pray it never will again.

So, at this hour (1 a.m. Central Standard Time), I continue to pray for Hamlin, his family, his team, the Bengals (the opposing team), Higgins because he’s being unfairly blamed, and the entirety of the NFL. I also pray for those who, like me, have watched loved ones die from sudden heart attacks and could do nothing about it.

For those people in my situation, I urge you to do your best to remember that so long as you are alive, at least a part of your loved one is also alive. It isn’t enough. I know it’s not. But it’s something, and it may at least give you a way to go on.

Monday Night Football Game Suspended After Bills Safety Damar Hamlin Collapses

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Sometimes, we forget that life is far more important than sports.

Tonight, however, is not one of those nights.

Late Monday night, during the scheduled Monday Night Football game on ESPN, second-year pro Damar Hamlin, a safety playing for the Buffalo Bills, collapsed on the field. He’d just taken part in a hard hit, and he’d stood up…then collapsed. CPR was performed, and an AED — a type of auto-defibrillator — was used to restart his heart. He was unconscious and not breathing for what appeared to be over nine minutes. (I can only say “appear” because a wall of players, coaches, and staff surrounded Hamlin while the EMTs worked on him desperately to keep Hamlin alive.)

Hamlin is only 24. Previously healthy. No heart issues indicated.

So how did this happen? Why did it happen? How is it that a 24-year-old man is in a Cincinnati hospital tonight, with football fans and others around the country praying for him and hoping he makes a full recovery?

No one knows yet, or if they do, they’re not saying. There are theories, some given by MDs, about types of heart conditions that could’ve possibly occurred. I believe these theories have been postulated because so many people are very upset. Any of them could be right. Or none of them could be right.

We must wait for facts, here. And we must hope that Hamlin wakes up, as the last word given was that he was intubated and in critical condition. No one’s said if he’s regained consciousness, and no updates are going to be given until morning (probably at least 8 or 9 a.m. Eastern Standard Time).

All we can do, as decent human beings, is pray that Hamlin recovers.

You may be wondering what happened to the game. Well, it’s been postponed. No one has any idea when it will be played, or even if it’ll be played, as of this hour (12:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, Central Standard Time).

That’s as it should be. Lives are more important than football.

As a side note, a charity Hamlin started before he became a member of the NFL that gives toys to kids has raised almost 3 million dollars as of this hour. It had a stated donation goal of $2500. (Yes. Twenty-five hundred dollars.)

I believe this is happening because fans want to do something as they pray. Some have said in their comments that they want Hamlin to wake up so he can distribute all the toys his fund will buy, while most are just commenting that they continue to pray for him, his family, his team, and for the entire NFL.

I, unfortunately, am in between paychecks right now. I can’t contribute to Hamlin’s fund, though I will keep it in mind the next time I’m paid. But if you want to donate to help bring toys to needy kids in Hamlin’s name, that would be wonderful.

All I can do, as a football fan and as a human being, is to pray that Hamlin recovers. I am doing that partly because a 24-year-old man should have many years left, and partly as the widow of Michael B. Caffrey, who died in a similar way after fighting for ten hours to stay alive. Michael was no football player, but he did stand up, then collapse backward…an AED was not there when Michael needed it, but CPR was started right away by a neighbor EMT, and Michael had the best of care for the remaining ten hours of his life.

I don’t want the Hamlin family to have to see anything like what I saw.

I want him to live. To fully recover. To distribute all those toys. To enjoy his life, and know himself, and be happy with who he is, even if he never plays another down of football again.

Please. Pray for Damar Hamlin, his family, his teammates, and the entire NFL, most especially the players who risk their lives every single week to give enjoyment to millions.

Please.

Discussing Two Deaths: Postal Worker Aundre Cross, and Dancer Stephen “Twitch” Boss

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Stephen “Twitch” Boss was a dancer, performer, husband, and father. He’d come to prominence partly due to So You Think You Can Dance, where he finished second. He met his wife Allison there as well. And over time, he met many people, including former First Lady Michelle Obama and former talk show host Ellen DeGeneres (he was her DJ, and eventually an executive producer also, for her show).

He also — though it didn’t seem like it due to his bubbly, effervescent nature — suffered from depression.

The public didn’t know that until he took his own life yesterday at age 40.

Aundre Cross was a 44-year-old postal worker in Milwaukee. He was killed by random violence; as he was delivering the mail around six p.m., someone shot him. The police do not yet have any suspects, and it’s been about a week since Cross’s death.

Now, you may be wondering why I’m pairing these two men in death. The main reason is, Cross, like Boss, was the same type of person by all accounts. Cross was someone everyone liked. He could go into a funeral home — as he often did, delivering the mail — and make people smile. He also didn’t shirk from the tough times his friends had; he was always a shoulder to cry on, or a person who could uplift you when you needed it.

Both of these men encouraged others to feel better about themselves and what they were doing. They understood setbacks, they understood how difficult life can be, and yet they went out of their way to be one of “the helpers” that Mr. Rogers used to talk about all the time on “Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood.”

When people like this go out of this world, it hurts us, whether we know it or not. That’s ’cause we all need to believe more in ourselves and our talents; we need to know that someone “gets” us, all the way through, and understands why we are trying so hard when it seems like nothing will ever break our way. These were men willing to talk, willing to help, willing to overcome, and willing to persevere. Their lives were both inspirational and educational, and while Cross wasn’t anywhere near as well-known as Boss, Cross shared light wherever he went — just as Boss did by all of the various tributes pouring in via social media and elsewhere.

If you are struggling with depression, please don’t wait. Speak to a friend. Speak to a crisis line. Speak to someone — a doctor, even. Do it for the memory of Twitch Boss, if you can’t do it for yourself.

And if you see someone shooting an innocent mail carrier and leaving him to die, please report this and stand ready to testify in whatever way you can.

People should not have to live in fear, whether it’s from themselves as in depression, or of others as in the traumatic and tragic case of the death of Mr. Cross while working and delivering the mail.

A Post of Quiet Contemplation

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The last few weeks, I’ve needed to take a breather.

I’ve been doing what I can to watch nature as the weather starts to turn. There is a plethora of birds to see at this time of year in Wisconsin, and many are small and cute. While I’m no ornithologist, I enjoy bird-watching, as it reminds me that troubles are mostly transitory. Eventually, we fly away from our cares.

(BTW, jazz saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker had a song called “Ornithology.” That’s how I learned the word — and if you don’t know who Charlie Parker is, shame on you.)

I try to be aware of the various animals around at this time of year. We often have ducks crossing the road, or sometimes a pack of squirrels (with maybe one or two laggards)…there are some folks with outdoor cats that I’ve seen, too, along with a number of geese (rare at this time of year, as they usually like much warmer surrounds than Wisconsin in November).

When I see an animal wounded or dead on the road, I say a prayer for them. (I know that has to sound ridiculous, but it’s true.) They remind me of something that happened a few years ago now, you see.

There was a duck in the middle of the road with its feet up. It was only a two-lane road, and it was a county highway. There was no way for me to get off the road as there was no shoulder (road construction, I think, at the time); I couldn’t do anything except hope and pray my wheels would not hit the duck in its throes.

Unfortunately, I ran over the duck. I felt terrible about it. I kept wondering if there was anything I could do. (My bird-loving friends said no, there wasn’t.) I wanted to go back and get that duck and bring it to the side of the road, so it could die in peace, rather than perhaps getting run over by even more cars (I don’t think mine was the first car to hit the poor thing).

While I couldn’t do that then, I have tried to do similar things with other animals in the road. I haven’t found any live animals since that duck, but I have been able to get a few cats off the road and one poor little dog (no tags on any of them, and no collars, either). If all I can do is pick them up with a bag or some paper toweling to put them on the side of the road, at least I feel slightly better for it.

I wonder, sometimes, if we are like those poor things. Most of the time, no one knows what we’re doing while we’re doing it, and we seem to only be appreciated in retrospect. We mostly hurry, scurrying here and there, not watching the road very much as we just try to keep going about our business in our daily lives.

What I believe, mostly, is that we owe it to all of the Deity’s creatures to respect them and do our best to love them, if possible. (I have a hard time loving a flea or a mosquito, so when I see one, I mostly hope it goes somewhere else. But that’s probably a flaw in my faith.)

So, if you are out and about this week — and many will be in the US, as it’s the week of Thanksgiving for us — you owe it to yourself to fully partake in nature’s surroundings as best you can.

Look at the trees. See how they keep growing, changing, yet somehow keeping their essence the same despite all the seasons of their lives.

Look at the few flowers that have made it through the frost (if any are left); otherwise, look at the evergreens, and ponder how shrubbery makes it through all the seasons more or less unscathed.

Look at the animals, including rabbits, geese, ducks, birds of all sorts, and squirrels. See how they just go about their business, preparing for winter, but enjoying what they have in the meantime (even if it’s just a stray bar of sunlight now and again).

Don’t forget these things. Let them ground you, motivate you, or maybe both…but no matter what, keep an eye on them.

These are the things that matter, you see. Everything else, save love and faith, is extraneous. The animals know it.

We should know it, too.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 21, 2022 at 2:49 pm

Halloween Musings

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Folks, as I write this, it’s two days until Halloween. Three days until All Soul’s Day. And the official Day of the Dead ceremonies go from October 31 to November 2, 2022.

As this is a time where we’re not quite to winter, yet it’s colder more days than not, there’s an awful lot of personal reflection going on. (I don’t think I’m alone in this.) What have we done this year? What would our loved ones on the Other Side be proud of, and maybe not-so-proud of?

When I was young, I was like everyone else. I wore cute costumes (I think I went one year as a pink fairy; Mom and Grandma helped me make a “wand” with aluminum foil that looked a bit like a Star of David), went out to get Halloween candy, and possibly went to a few minor parties. (They were all very tame parties. A “lock-in” at the local Aladdin’s Castle, a place to play a ton of video games, was one of them. Another was at a good male friend’s house; I knew he was gay, but we didn’t talk about it then, and I had a huge crush on him anyway.)

As I got older, I read a great deal about the significance of Halloween. It started out as Hallowe’en — as in, the evening before All Soul’s Day. (All Hallow’s Eve got contracted to Hallowe’en.) It was a Christian religious observance that happened around the same time as Pagan Samhain (“Sow’en” is the pronunciation), and it’s possible — I think likely — that the early Christian church kept the day and most of its rituals in order to help people convert without having to “convert” people by taking up arms against them.

Of course, Samhain this year is on October 31. (Many years, it coincides. But not always, to the best of my recollection.) It is celebrated from dusk to the dawn of November 1. It is thought by many, particularly those in the NeoPagan community, that Samhain is when the veils between this world and the next are the thinnest. (Note the similarity with the Day of the Dead celebrations. I’m sure it’s not accidental.)

For me, as a NeoPagan, what I do is very similar to what I did as a Catholic, earlier in life: I light a candle, and think about my loved ones. I have several that I think about in addition to my beloved husband, Michael…I think a lot about Grandma, great-grandma on my father’s side (called “Aiti”), my uncle Carl and aunt Laurice, my best friend Jeff Wilson, my good friend Larry (dead for over thirty years, now, via suicide, but not forgotten), and more.

If I can find it, I will buy a Mountain Dew (diet, even though that’s not what my husband drank; he drank the regular stuff, thank you very many, and he preferred Code Red or the orange Livewire if he could find them), and sip it slowly. (I don’t know what foods would appeal that much to any of my relatives or to Jeff, but I know for a fact that Mountain Dew and a few specific candy bars and such are what Michael would like, if he could taste them through me.)

But most of all, it’s about reflection. What have I done? What can I still do? Would my loved ones approve of what I’ve done or what I’ve at least tried to do?

So, yeah. It’s not all about the candy and the costume parties for me. Not anymore.

What are you planning to do this year for your Halloween/Samhain/Day of the Dead festivities? Let me know in the comments…and if it’s that you’re going to a costume party, that’s good (so long as I don’t have to go!)

Recapitulation or Reversal?

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Folks, I’ve come to a fork in the road.

Earlier this year, I discussed what it felt like to be dismissed from the Racine Concert Band. I’d been in that band on and off since I turned fourteen, played three different instruments in it at various times, soloed on all three instruments in front of the band, and done everything I possibly could to represent the band well.

Being told I was no longer welcome was a major reversal.

Suddenly, a bedrock of my life was no longer there. Even though I’d had previous experience with bedrocks not being there (what else could I call widowhood, except that?), it stung to know that people I’d known most of my life had no compassion or understanding.

When you’re hurting, whether it’s from physical illness, depression, protracted grief, or anything else, you need both of those things in order to heal. You also have to learn how to be compassionate toward your own self — something I’ve found incredibly difficult — as you struggle with it all.

“But Barb,” you ask. (Yes, I can hear you.) “What’s this bit about recapitulation about?”

In music, recapitulation is a statement of the main theme, usually toward the end of a movement or piece. (For the musicians in the audience, yes, I know full well I’m oversimplifying.) In writing, a recap is restating the main points of whatever your argument is, and a recap often summarizes that selfsame argument.

Basically, I’m trying to figure out what my life means now that my time in the RCB is over.

As my Facebook motto says, I’m a writer, editor, musician and composer. I am all these things, and I will always be all of these things.

Eventually, I hope to play again in some sort of band or orchestra. Music feeds the soul (as my friend Lika has put it so well), and right now my inner self feels very far from fed.

For now, though…I continue to work, slowly, on my various musical compositions. (I write melodies first, and fight with harmonies later. I know that sounds odd — harmony isn’t supposed to be a struggle! — but the melodies come very easily to me, while the harmonies don’t.) I continue to work on my writing, too, while also editing, proofreading, or doing whatever I can to aid another writer and/or editor providing it won’t drive me straight into the ground.

I guess, if I had to pick one of the above — reversal or recapitulation — I’d go for the recap instead. At least with the recap, you’re hitting the high points…and if you’re talking about yourself, in your own life, sometimes reminding yourself there have actually been high points is necessary.

Especially when you’ve dealt with too many reversals, too quickly, to be borne.

What have you done, when you’ve come to a fork in the road? Or when you’ve had too many reversals hit you, all at once? Please tell me, in the comments…as at the moment, I feel akin to someone shouting into the void.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 18, 2022 at 4:06 am

Milwaukee Bridge Opens Unexpectedly, Kills Tourist

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Folks, last week in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, there was a shocking accident.

A man, Richard Dujardin — a retired writer and religious reporter who’d covered the Dalai Lama, Pope John Paul II, Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell — was visiting Milwaukee along with his wife, Rose-Marie. They were walking over the Kilbourn Avenue bridge over Milwaukee River. Rose-Marie had safely crossed, but her husband was behind her, slowly navigating the bridge, and looking at his iPad. The bridge unexpectedly opened, Mr. Dujardin grabbed for a railing and held on for a few minutes, but then plunged over seventy feet to his death.

This is hard to fathom for many reasons.

First, when bridges open and close in Wisconsin, there are lights, sirens, and alarms. These all functioned properly and should’ve warned Mr. Dujardin. But he was 77, hard of hearing, and focused on his iPad.

In other words, he didn’t hear or see anything until it was too late.

Second, the bridge was operated remotely. More of Milwaukee’s bridges appear to be operated this way, rather than having someone directly on site who would’ve been able to see that Mr. Dujardin was still on the bridge before opening it up. No one has any idea how the poor man was missed, as far as I can tell.

(This is one reason I waited almost a week to discuss this.)

Third, the remote operator apparently didn’t see that Mr. Dujardin was still holding on to the railing for a few minutes before he fell!

This seems to be an egregious lapse, to put it mildly.

Anyway, I have felt terrible ever since I heard about this accidental death. I know how it feels to wake up a wife and suddenly, without warning, end up as a widow.

More importantly to me than that, though, was the detail that his wife had already crossed the bridge. That meant she was in front of him. She could not help him when this happened.

Longtime readers of my blog probably know this, but that’s exactly the situation I was in when Michael collapsed on the lawn at our rented duplex years ago. Normally he’d have been in front of me, or we’d maybe be side-by-side holding hands. But this one day, he was behind me…and then he fell backward.

(Yes, I rushed forward, but I couldn’t do anything to break his fall. That I would’ve dislocated both arms had I somehow been in position to catch him makes no nevermind.)

I’m now nearing the eighteenth year of my widowhood. I still see Michael falling, me unable to catch him, in blinding technicolor.

I would imagine that Mrs. Dujardin may end up having similar flashbacks.

Anyway, I’m well aware that life is short, that we have no idea whether today is our last or if we have eighteen more years of widowhood in our future. (Or whatever.) We can only do the best with every day and honor the memories and the love we shared as we continue to go forward in whatever halting way we can.

I feel bad for Mrs. Dujardin. I wish I could help her.

(I couldn’t help Eric Flint’s widow, Lucille, either, though I hope someone is. And someday, maybe I’ll get to meet her again and attempt to show kindness as well as respect, ’cause she deserves it. But I digress.)

All I can ask you, right now, are two things:

Number one: Be kind.

Why do I say that? Well, many people are on edge due to the ongoing Covid pandemic, politics seems even more brutal than usual, and folks have forgotten they have more in common with each other than not.

Some have decided as the world is bleak, they have permission to be their worst selves. They spread misery.

Don’t do it. Refuse the impulse.

Be kind, instead.

Number two: Help the widows and widowers in your life, no matter how long — or short — it’s been since their spouses died.

See, I can tell you for a fact that I still want to talk about the most important person in my life, who’s ever been in my life. That’s my husband, Michael.

Other widows and widowers have said the same.

Too often, we who are grieving are told to just “move on” and in that spirit, we’re supposed to look toward the future and either forget the past entirely or suppress it.

I’m sorry. I refuse to do either. And most widows and widowers that I’ve spoken to over the years feel the same way.

We want to speak about our favorite people. Our formative influences. Our various experiences.

We need to do that. It’s part of who we are.

Hell, even those who’ve ended up finding a second great spouse to marry have said the same things. They can love their second husband (or wife) even better because of the experiences they had with their first spouse.

Otherwise, I hope that Mrs. Dujardin finds out why the remote bridge operator screwed up. She needs to know why that was the final day of her husband’s life.

But I also hope that the people around her will be kind and support her in her hours of grief. She will need that kindness and support for the rest of her life (whether it be short or long).