Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Inspirational stuff’ Category

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.

What Holiday Books Are Your Favorites?

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Folks, we’re close to the Winter Solstice/Yule, to Christmas Eve and Day, to Kwanzaa, and to Hanukkah. (The last starts tomorrow, in fact.) Because of these pending holidays, I’ve been thinking a lot about holiday books.

I have some favorites of my own — which I’ll get to in a moment. But I’d really like to know what your favorite books are, and why? (If they’re books you first read on a holiday, that would also fit in this category.)

The books I’m about to mention are uplifting, hopeful, meaningful, and — at times — joyous. These are books I tend to read and re-read, and not just at the holiday season. The only criteria, other than it either invoking Xmas or another winter holiday and/or somehow lifting moods and spirits, is that the book must be published as an ebook. (In other words, if the book is only published in paperback, the book doesn’t qualify.)

So, without further ado, it’s time for some books.

First, if you have kids (of all ages) in your home, you owe it to yourself to go buy — and read — two books. The first is Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s KINDRED RITES. The second is Jason Cordova’s A CHRISTMAS SURPRISE. The latter deals directly with Xmas, and with a young girl getting a present she didn’t want but finds out she absolutely adores. (No, I will not say anything more. Go read the book, will you?) The former starts out with our heroine, Allie (short for Alfreda), reflecting on Christmas and how the spirit is eternal. Both are fun reads, and neither book hits you over the head with an excess of preachiness.

Next, I thought a nonfiction book might fit the bill. The first one of those I thought of was the riotously funny THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS by C.S. Lewis. While it’s not specifically about Xmas, it is about temptation and how to either wallow in it or rise above it. (Note that this is the most expensive ebook you’ll see in this list.) It’s satirical, but it’ll make you laugh, howl, cry, cheer, and perhaps even wonder how hypocritical life — and yourself — have become.

Next, I thought of some Xmas romances I’ve enjoyed. The first two I thought of were Anna D. Allen’s MISS PRITCHARD’S HAPPY, WANTON CHRISTMAS and Victoria Alexander’s HIS MISTRESS BY CHRISTMAS. The former is a book set in the Regency era about a thirty-eight-year-old woman who believes life and romance have passed her by. She gets stranded in a snowstorm with an eligible, good-looking man of about her age and experience, and comes to know him better than she’s ever known anyone else. Then there’s a whole bunch of circumstances that keep these two lovers away from each other for quite some time, until… (it’s a romance, so you have to assume a happily ever after unless otherwise stated). The latter is about an independent widow in the Victorian era meeting up with a famous explorer. She’s looking for laughs and good times; he’s looking for marriage. (I loved this inversion of the particular romantic tropes.) Why is she doing that? Well, in the Victorian era, unless you were widowed, it was hard to stay independent. Once you had a taste of independence, especially if your previous marriage wasn’t what you’d hoped for, it was hard to give it up. So, he wants it all; she wants it just for now. Who’s going to win, and why? (I leave it to you to read, but if you enjoy any romances at all, you’ll love these two books.)

Finally, I couldn’t let this column go by without mentioning my all-time favorite of author Kayelle Allen’s books, A STOLEN HEART. Luc is a sexy, immortal badass, high up in the Thieves Guild, and has done and said seemingly everything. But when he meets a three-year-old child, and fosters said child, his life changes in just about every way imaginable. This is a marvelous book about fatherhood, all unlooked for, and the choices that a new father must make…including some that are exceptionally difficult, frustrating, and draining. (There is a “foil” character for Luc who more or less shows what Luc could’ve been, had he gone bad, which also makes this book perfect for the holiday season.)

Best of all, Kayelle’s book is free right now! (Who can resist free? Not I.)

Anyway, what are you reading during the holiday season? What makes you feel uplifted? What has caused you to re-think your life in a good way? Tell me about your favorite holiday (or holiday-related) books in the comments!

Opposites Attract: The Jerry Falwell and Larry Flint Friendship

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Folks, I’ve been thinking a great deal about friendship. Must we always be just like our friends? (You know I’m going to say no.) Can’t we appreciate different things in different people? (I would assuredly hope so.) And have other people managed to find common ground despite their differences?

Too many people get caught up in their “tribes” of folks who say they believe every single thing down to the last jot and tittle as themselves. They don’t challenge themselves, or their assumptions; they aren’t strong enough, perhaps, or maybe they just see no need.

Yet Larry Flynt — the famous owner of Hustler magazine (a men’s magazine that, shall we say, specialized in raunchiness rather than photographic artistry) — and Jerry Falwell, the famous Protestant minister, ended up friends after fighting like cats and dogs for years due to their obvious differences. (To say that Falwell did not approve of pornography, much less graphic porn like Hustler, is a severe understatement.)

How did they become friends?

Well, there’s a story behind that, and it goes like this: After Jerry Falwell lost a big lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court, he went to Flynt and said, “I believe God wants us to be friends. Goodness knows we’ve tried everything else.” (This is my best paraphrase from several things I’ve read over the years.)

Flynt had some God-fearing friends, such as Ruth Carter Stapleton (former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s sister), and had converted, at least for a short time, to Christianity in the 1970s. (I think he made it about a year before he again proclaimed he was an atheist.) He respected them despite their differences. But no one, not him and probably not Falwell, would’ve believed that these two wildly disparate personalities would become friends.

Why? Well, to put it mildly, most people do not become friends after they lose such a high-profile lawsuit. (Or any lawsuit.)

Yet Falwell extended Christian charity to Flynt, and Flynt responded. Flynt once said (again, from my best paraphrase), “We had almost nothing in common, yet he was a great friend.”

These two were unafraid to discuss their differences, too. They knew in many ways they were diametrically opposed. Yet…they also had some things in common, such as beliefs in integrity and fair dealing. They also believed people should honestly confront themselves, plus both believed in the rights of people with disabilities to fair treatment and understanding. They also were both, adamantly, against the death penalty, and Flynt backed it up when the gunman who paralyzed him was on death row as Flynt asked for the death penalty not to be applied.

In writing circles, we have a few other “opposite attracts” friendships, including the professional collaboration and long friendship between David Weber and the late Eric Flint. I know from my own knowledge of reading various posts by both men at Baen’s Bar (find it by going to baen.com and look for the link) that both men were intelligent, spirited, and tough but fair when discussing their various differences. (The respect between the two men was never in doubt.) What they had in common was personal integrity, honesty, commitment, a strong work ethic, and a willingness to work together to write excellent fiction.

My late husband Michael was a major admirer of David Weber, years ago. He had all the Honor Harrington books, plus the Bahzell books, and several other ones. (I can’t remember all the names now, but I’d probably recognize the various covers.) Michael, like myself, believed in traditional small-l liberal values and tended to vote for centrist candidates. (This was quite right-wing for San Francisco, he proudly used to say. I think Michael loved being contrary. But I digress.)

See, it is possible to respect and admire someone no matter what providing people are of good will and no malice. Flint and Weber worked together, were great friends, and appreciated each other. And the oddest couple of all, Flynt and Falwell, certainly became great friends and appreciated each other.

Knowing of these friendships makes me believe that people in general can, still, become friends with folks who seemingly have nothing in common.

So, when you abhor the state of the world — and truly, there are very difficult things going on all over the place, including a ton of stupidity — remember this:

It is possible to be friends with someone of a different political party. It is possible to become friends with someone of a different gender or sexual expression. It is possible to become friends with someone who worships differently than yourself…and it definitely is possible to be friends even if all of these things are present, providing we are people of goodwill and do as much listening as we do talking.

(That’s hard for me, but I’m working on it.)

Anyway, what “opposites attract” friendship have you wondered about? Tell me about it in the comments!

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

Inspiration Is Where You Find It

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I want to talk about inspiration for a bit, because I truly do think inspiration is where you find it.

Consider, please, that when you go outside, you see small animals. Birds. Squirrels. Rabbits. Assorted critters of various sizes along those lines.

Observing wildlife, just watching them, gives you the idea that the struggles we face aren’t a patch on what they do.

In the middle of fall, as we are now in much of the Northern Hemisphere, a squirrel is storing away food to make it through the winter. A bird is figuring out where it’s going to nest, or perhaps lighting out for warmer climates. A rabbit…well, who knows what’s going to happen to it, as there are many competitors for that rabbit, and most do not indicate a long life.

Yet they continue to get up, move around, and do whatever they can to extend their lives. It’s instinctual, sure…but it’s also inspirational.

None of us know the future. None of us have any idea what will happen tomorrow, or the day after that either. Yet we continue to get up and do what we can, in the hope that it’ll matter down the line.

All we can do is our best. Every day. In every way.

If we realize that, and if we are observant, we can find many things to inspire us and also to give us hope, even during the darkest time of the year. (As Ned Stark put it in Game of Thrones, “Winter is coming.”)

The most important thing to do, though, is the hardest.

Believe in yourself. Believe in your talents and abilities. Give them a chance to flower, no matter how rocky the ground is, and no matter how much fertilizer you have to put on that ground in the meantime.

If you can do that, you’re one step closer to where you want to be.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 4, 2022 at 12:17 am

Sunday Thoughts: Creativity and the New Matrix Movie, Resurrections

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I found no way to write this without spoilers. If you have not seen Matrix Resurrections yet, proceed at your own risk.

As a writer, I am often inspired by unusual things.

I take note of all sorts of things, you see. I observe them. I think about them, sometimes only subconsciously, but I ponder them. And I wonder, often, what would have happened if I’d have chosen a much smaller life.

(I do not think that would’ve been a good idea, mind you. But let’s stay with the concept.)

This all matters to me, as a person, especially due to the fact that I’ve been creative my entire life. And as I’ve grown into midlife, there are so many different messages that have been thrown at me. “Grow up,” says one. “Stop fantasizing that your career will ever matter,” says another. “What you do as a writer…what’s the point of it? No one reads what you say, so who cares?”

And then, there are the bills. The obligations. The chores. The never-ending minutiae of life.

All of this can weigh me down. Add in health problems, as anyone who’s read this blog for a while has to have figured out, and the weight of sorrow as my life-partner has been dead now for over seventeen years, and it sometimes seems overwhelming.

“But Barb,” you say. “What about the new Matrix movie, Resurrections? You put that into your title, right? You are going to talk about it, aren’t you?”

Yes, I am. Because I think much of the commentary regarding Matrix Resurrections is flat-out wrong. They are missing the point, which is this: Just because you’re older, your love shouldn’t be trivialized. And fighting for love matters more than anything in this world.

Anything.

Very few of the critics have even touched on this, and that annoys me. Even those critics who’ve enjoyed the movie have discussed more obvious themes and have pointed out that Resurrections builds heavily on what has gone before in the previous Matrix trilogy. (How it was supposed to do anything else is beyond me. But let’s not go there.)

Mind you, some of the commentary is quite interesting, as it discusses trans rights and “deadnames” — that is, the name you were given at birth is not the name you go by (such as the fate of the late Leelah Alcorn) — and some of it quite rightly points out the romance between Trinity and Neo carries the film.

But they still are missing a huge point, and I can’t help but point out the elephant in the room.

Look. It’s easy, when you get into midlife, to let those messages I delineated above overwhelm you. It’s really easy to let the weight of words, and life itself, stop you from being who you truly are.

Neo, in Matrix Resurrections, is again going by his original name, Thomas Anderson. Trinity is now a character, only, in a game Thomas supposedly created. (That the Matrix was diabolical enough to do this is another problem entirely, mind you, but often when we get to midlife, people completely misunderstand what the Hell we’re doing as creative sorts. I tend to take that as allegory, personally.) The person who’s alive and should be Trinity is now named Tiffany (going by Tiff), and she has children and a husband. And only Neo knows that “Tiffany” is really Trinity.

But how can he convince anyone of that, when he can’t convince anyone that he’s Neo, not simply Thomas Anderson? Especially when other people only see an older and broken man, someone who’s survived a suicide attempt, and who lives alone and mostly unnoticed.

Hell, he doesn’t even have a pet to take care of. He’s that isolated.

Those around him completely misunderstand what he’s about, and he’s been led to believe that the one person he’s ever loved was someone he made up himself.

I understand all of this very well.

For Neo to reclaim himself, to reclaim his life, and to free Trinity so the two of them could go on and live the lives they were born to lead is the most important part of this film. (How they get there is not relevant to this discussion, but I will say that as an editor of SF&F, it worked well for me.) That they have a true partnership, a true meeting of the minds, and a truly good relationship where both are more together than they are separately (even though they’re both interesting, separately) is extremely important, to me as a widow.

(Yes, I like vicarious wish-fulfillment, sometimes. Sue me.)

At any rate, I was deeply moved by Matrix Resurrections. I loved the new characters (Bugs in particular, a blue-haired and fierce female warrior/captain), I enjoyed the main plot, but the subtext and the emotion was what got to me.

I believe in love. I believe it matters more than anything in this world. And I believe in soul bonds that endure between one creative soul and another, that call to us despite all the noise this ultra-connected world throws at us.

I also believe that memories matter. And that no one can frame your memories except yourself.

So I urge you to check your assumptions at the door before you see Matrix Resurrections. But do see it, and then if you are in midlife — as I am — ask yourself these questions:

Does what I do matter? (Hell, yes.)

Even if no one ever reads what I write, should I continue? (Absolutely.)

Can you reclaim your life against nearly impossible odds? (I would like to think so!)

What do you think of this blog? Have you seen Matrix Resurrections, or are you going to see it? Tell me about it in the comments!

Neither Fish Nor Fowl

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I don’t know about you, but I sometimes don’t feel much like anyone else.

In general, this is a good thing. I have no doubts about my individuality or individualism. I know who I am; I am self-aware; I work on being my best self, especially as I know full well what my worst self is (and want no part of it, thank you).

Mind, I don’t want my worst self to dominate. And I’m not the only one who has ever thought of this, as we shall see.

In a classic Star Trek episode, Captain Jim Kirk was split into his two biggest “parts.” One half was good but weak. The other half was evil but strong. The good half waffled and could not make a decision as his compassion was so strong, every decision felt like the wrong answer. The bad half made snap decisions, tried to pretend he was something he wasn’t (that is, the full Jim Kirk, when he was only half), and had no remorse even after making the wrong judgment calls. Obviously, both halves of Jim Kirk were necessary for the full Jim Kirk to be able to be decisive–yet moral–at the same time.

So, the worst self I have, that can be ruthless and even cruel at times, has to be taken into account as part of who I am. Suppressing it isn’t the right answer, either, as too much suppression of part of ourselves has difficult and sometimes unwieldy consequences.

That’s why I often feel like I’m neither fish nor fowl.

Of course, the conception of an author’s blog usually is to explain more about why the person writes what they write than explain the person themselves. My answers are huge, sometimes elliptical, yet they boil down to one thing: This is who I am.

So, when I write a romance like Bruno’s and Sarah’s in the two Elfy books, it’s because I believe that romance is–or at least can be–vital to people’s well-being. When I write a romance like Allen’s and Elaine’s in CHANGING FACES, it’s because I believe love can indeed conquer all, even though there will be unforeseen difficulties, and even if the people in question have lots of work to do on themselves to be good partners.

Even in the short stories I’ve written, there usually is a romantic component. In “Baseball, Werewolves, and Me,” psychic Arletta James is a huge baseball fan, married to a werewolf, and has been brought in to consult for a major league baseball team due to unforeseen events. Her husband Fergus is her perfect foil, smart, dedicated, and not willing to take any crap from anyone. The two of them make an excellent team. (I also have a second story about them in the works, for those who’ve asked.)

The two stories about Marja and Tomas, the first a shapeshifter and the second a telepathic Troll, are also in the same vein. They found romance where it was least expected. They both feel like outcasts. (For that matter, so do all the others I’ve mentioned already, particularly Bruno and Sarah of the Elfy books and Elaine of CHANGING FACES.) But together, they thrive, and they use their talents to their best advantage.

I have other short stories that have no romance, mind. And I have a few others that do have at least the glimmering of a romance. But I think you get my point, which is that life should be shared with those you love.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a romantic partner who understands you, celebrate that every single day.

If you’re not, but you have friends who understand and love you for who you are, celebrate that.

And if you’re the most fortunate of all in that you not only have a living romantic partner to stand beside you but have good, caring and decent friends as well, recognize that you live in a bounty of riches. Do not take that for granted, ever. And do what you can for everyone you know, because life is fleeting.

So, while I continue to feel as if I’m neither fish nor fowl, I recognize that my skills and talents can still be effective.

I do hope this blog will give someone the hope they need, or at least some points to ponder. (Let me know that you’re reading, will you? I’m still smarting over that “comment” from Malwarebytes about how “lightly trafficked blog sites often carry viruses and malware.”)

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 15, 2021 at 4:31 pm

Sunday Thoughts: We Are All Works in Progress

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Lately, I’ve had one very important thought running through my head. That thought is, “We’re all works in progress.”

Think about it, please, for a moment, and perhaps you’ll understand.

Our lives are happening right now, all around us. We are a part of history, whether we understand it or not. Whether our lives feel important or not, we partake of something akin to an infinite tapestry…our shades of thread are different from anyone else’s, and what we do with our gifts and talents is up to us.

Yes, there are obstacles. Yes, there are frustrations, and pain, and problems, and many times we wonder if what we’re doing makes any sense. Yes, there are issues with getting along with others, even those you are most motivated to understand. Yes, there seems to be more and more difficulty, the older you become (in experience, if not in age), of how to put yourself first or at least get it into the equation (rather than automatically putting yourself last, which does not work and only adds to the frustration, pain and problems accordingly).

Every day we get up, though, we can accomplish something.

Even if we’re sick, we can get up and take care of ourselves the best we can. Get our rest. Eat whatever we can tolerate. Save our strength.

And if we’re lucky, even on the bad days, even on the sick days, and even on the least encouraging days, we can find that spark of creativity that lies within us.

I live for creativity. (No, it’s not just for pointing out Michael’s memory to people who didn’t get a chance to know him. Though that’s important to me too, as I’m sure you know if you’ve spent any time at my blog at all.) So when I can’t create, it stifles me.

The only thing I know is that as a work in progress myself, every day brings a new chance to do something good. Something creative. Something positive.

Or at least to help a friend and/or loved one feel a bit better about the burdens they’re enduring.

We can do something to help the world around us. We can do something to become our authentic selves.

On this Sunday, reflect upon what you can do to make the world a better place. Then, perhaps, call a friend if you’re up to it, or write, or cook up a storm, or crochet, or do whatever you can that feeds your spirit and gives you positive reasons for living.

That, to my mind, is the winning strategy. And it helps us fill in our own works in progress with more beauty, delight, and joy, too.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 3, 2021 at 10:08 am

Sunday Thoughts: Reject Hate

with 5 comments

Lately, I’ve been very worried about how the United States — and the world around us — has given in to both tribalism and despair.

I understand despair better than I wish, but I don’t understand tribalism.

Why? Well, it seems to be a conduit for hatred. And we need to reject hate, in all its forms, as best we can.

We are all human. It can be hard to remember that, with some of the awful things that people do. But we are all human, and we are neither the least of our actions nor the best of our actions.

Instead, we are the sum total of our actions.

Where I live, we’ve seen an uptick in senseless violence in the past several years. Last week, some guy with a long gun ran out into the middle of a busy highway, and carjacked not one, but two people. He wrecked both cars, and was killed by the police before he could do any more harm.

I don’t know what caused this man to run out into the middle of the street with a long gun, much less carjack two different people. But I do know that he gave them nothing but pain. Their cars are wrecked. Their finances will take a hit in trying to get new ones (and in this area, the public transport is so spotty, you absolutely need to have a car), their mental health will take a hit in that they were hostages, and their emotional health will take a hit because they were helpless to affect their own lives in those moments.

I don’t know if this man hated everyone, or hated himself, or hated his situation. But he spread nothing but vitriol in the last hours of his life on this Earth.

I also don’t know what the answer is to people like this, except for trying to be a better person myself. As I said above, I know we’re not either our lowest moments (what my good friend calls our “blooper reel”), and we’re also not our highest moments (what she calls our “glamour shots”). But I can try, the best I can, to help others, to understand them, or at least make that effort in trying to understand.

That matters, even when I think it doesn’t. (Does this make sense? If it doesn’t, blame the lateness of the hour.)

I don’t know about you, but I often wonder if I am making a difference. After all, the Earth is huge. The amount of people living on Earth is staggering. And it’s only possible to get to know a few, select people most of the time. That means there are so many others we don’t know, that we can’t ever know, and yet we have to act as if we know them all.

Or at least as if we want to know them all.

Anyway, I know that any given human being (myself included) can only reach so many people, whether it’s emotionally, or mentally, or (even fewer people) physically. If we’re fortunate, it’s also possible affect them in a spiritual sense, too. (Hopefully for good, and not for ill. But I digress.)

And every little bit does help. Every time you can help someone, even if it’s just smiling at them and actually seeing them, or if you can listen for a while without judgment (very tough to do, if you do it right, but necessary), or if you can run an errand for someone who’s shut-in, or if you can be good to a stray animal and find that animal a home…every little bit helps.

When I’m depressed, or worse, despondent, I think that everything I’ve done has no meaning. I am honest about this, which I guess is unusual in and of itself.

I know it does have meaning, though. Even if I don’t exactly know what that meaning is, I know it does.

So, I will continue to do my best to reject hate in all its forms. I will continue to do my best to help others, as best I can. And I will continue to live my life on my own terms, and hope I can affect others’ lives for the better in the process.

May we all choose to reject hate. (Please?)