Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Inspirational stuff’ Category

It’s Mother’s Day (in the US)

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Folks, last week I asked a friend of mine who lives in Scotland if he was going to do anything for Mother’s Day, and he drew a blank.

Then we both figured out that Mother’s Day isn’t celebrated on the same day in the United Kingdom. This year, Mothering Sunday (what they call Mother’s Day) fell on March eleventh.

So, for those of you in the United States, you probably know that Mother’s Day is today. Sunday, May thirteenth, 2018. And beyond all the hype you see online or on television regarding “you must get Mom this special something NOW,” there’s a quieter, more reflective holiday underneath it all that deserves your time and attention.

I realize that not everyone has a mother who’s still alive. (I am very fortunate that I can celebrate this day with my Mom, and am glad to do it.)

I also realize that some people don’t have mothers at all. (One of my best male friends is raising a daughter, alone. I’ve told him before that he should celebrate both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, as he’s doing all the work.) And days like this are hard for them.

Personally, I think you should celebrate as much as you can, as often as you can, with the people who matter the most to you. If those people have nothing to do with your biological (or adopted) families, well, then they just don’t.

But you should let people know when you care about them, as often as you possibly can.

Why? Well, this world can be a cold and lonely place from time to time. The people we care about the most help bridge those times, and remind us that we do have family, friends, and loved ones to give us strength when we have little ourselves. And remind us of our past successes when we’re instead dwelling on our current failures, because they’ve seen it all and know we can rise, as phoenixes, from the ashes of futility yet again, given time.

Nurturing is hard work. And the people who do it don’t get anywhere near the credit they deserve.

So on this particular day, I hope to celebrate my mother. And my sister. And my friends who are mothers. And my friend the single father (who really should get to celebrate today, too). And everyone else who needs to be remembered for nurturing the next generation, so they can in turn nurture the next when their time comes.

What are you going to do for Mother’s Day? (Or what did you do, if you’re in a place that’s already celebrated it?) Tell me about it in the comments!

 

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Written by Barb Caffrey

May 13, 2018 at 4:52 am

Why Minimalism is the First Step Toward Non-materialism — a Collaboration with a Purpose Post

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Since I was in my mid-teens, I’ve believed in non-materialism. People, I thought (and still think) are far more important than any possessions. And while you need some things in this life (for me, these are a car, musical instruments, a computer, some clothes, books, etc.), you don’t need to go hog wild and buy everything in sight.

This feeling is now being expressed as minimalism. People who’ve never once thought about non-materialism are trying to become aware of how many needless possessions they have, and get rid of the ones that truly aren’t necessary.

It’s because of that viewpoint that the Collaboration with a Purpose group decided to discuss minimalism and its related elements this time around.

hd minimalism 1.

Jane Love put this picture together, along with the later one in this post, to give you an idea of what we’re talking about.

See, what we need is a place to call our own. We don’t need a whole lot of stuff around us that gets in our way and stifles us. (I know, I’m a fine one to talk. My room is cluttered with all sorts of things, though I blame some of that on not having enough space to do everything I need at the moment. Though it certainly has made me figure out what I do need, and why, living in a smaller space than I’d prefer…but as always, I digress.)

The point of minimalism is to identify what you do need, and use that. Appreciate that, yes. But don’t go overboard, and don’t clutter your life up with unnecessary things that serve no purpose other than to make you feel better for a brief moment about buying the latest hot gadget or late model car.

But I started off talking about non-materialism, didn’t I? So how does this relate?

There are grades of non-materialism, you see. Minimalism, I see as one of those shades along the non-materialist spectrum. And the two operate in much the same way: The goal is to give the irreplaceable — the people, furry friends, and true passions — the space and respect in your life they deserve, while minimizing the effect of everything else.

Take a look at the picture below (the second of Jane Love’s wonderful efforts this month) if you don’t believe me:

hd minimalism 2.

Here, you see a chair. A vase with some flowers. A bunch of books on a table. And one piece of art. And nothing else…because you don’t need anything else if you’re sitting down to read, providing you have enough light to read by in the first place.

See, anything else just distracts you from reading. And what is the point of that?

As for other possessions, I don’t really understand why folks feel like they need to “keep up with the Joneses” and the like. Because there’s truly no point in it.

See, a fancy car doesn’t advance your life goals much. Nor does having the latest high-tech gadget.

What will advance your life goals, then? And why does embracing minimalism or, its stronger cousin, non-materialism, do anything to give you the idea that you’re coming closer to them?

I can’t tell you what your own life goals are; only you can do that. But I can tell you that most of us want a few of the same things. To be loved for who we are. To be appreciated for who we are. And to be understood for who we are.

What you do for a living isn’t as important as those three things.

Now, we aren’t all alike, of course. But most of us do share those three things as among the highest aspirations we have. And none of them — none — have anything to do with materialism.

Minimalism forces you to realize what you need, and what you can live without.

And being a non-materialist forces you to realize that what truly matters are people, not things. Our minds, hearts, and spirits are far more important than anything else. And once you understand that, you can embrace the fact that possessions, for the most part, do not matter.

I believe strongly in this month’s topic, in short, and hope you will take the time to visit all of my fellow Collaboration with a Purpose authors (though you don’t have to do it all in the same day, of course!), as they all have different takes on the subject of minimalism. (Though I don’t know how many, if any at all, will discuss non-materialism, I’m sure their posts will be extremely valuable in their own right. They always are.) Links will be added as their posts go up, so do come back in a few days for the full and entire list of posts.

Nicolle K. (Intro post) – “Alert: A Collaboration for Minimalism

Nicolle K. (regular post) – “Three Ways I’m Applying Minimalism as a Highly Sensitive Introvert

Jane Love – “Mind Minimalism: Life Doesn’t Get Better With Worry

Sadaf Siddiqi – “Value of Minimalism

Ipuna Black – “Minimalism: What Gives You Meaning in Life?

Gelyka Dumaraos – “Being More With Less: Embracing a Simple Life By Being Zero-Waste

Mylene C. Orillo – “How Grief Taught Me to Keep My Life Simple

Sonyo Estavillo – “Minimalism for Success: Why Little Wins Count

Divyang Shah

Swati Kadam

Do check them out, OK?

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 5, 2018 at 5:22 pm

A Woman’s Work Is…Everything? A Collaboration with a Purpose Post

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Dedicated to Women Worldwide

Folks, it’s International Women’s Day (March 8, 2018, to be exact), and as such, the Collaboration with a Purpose group wanted to celebrate women. I thought long and hard about it, and decided I was going to talk about what women’s work is — and I decided it must be everything, as all the strong women in my life have shown.

The first two strong women in my life were my mother and grandmother. Mom was one of the first trained computer technicians in the United States, while my grandmother was a traditional housewife — though she took care of all the bills, as my grandfather was a telephone lineman and wasn’t home. She cooked, cleaned, shopped, read books, listened to radio and TV, believed in bettering herself…and my mother also did all of that, plus learned how to be a computer technician.

My Aunt Laurice raised my father and their other siblings after their mother died when he was eleven, and she was about sixteen. She was the oldest one. She knew she had to do it, and that’s what she did…though it wasn’t easy, and there were stops in orphanages (yes, orphanages) along the way. (Their father wasn’t in good shape after his wife’s passing, and the only way to keep the family together was the orphanage. So they all decamped there, and Aunt Laurice took care of them as best she could.) She also was a kindergarten teacher, sang in women’s choirs (the last one being Opus 2000, formerly the Sweet Adelines), was active in her church, raised a huge family of her own, and as her husband (my uncle) started to decline as a senior citizen, took care of him devotedly until the end of her life.

My best female friends also do a great deal. One has been looking for work for quite some time (a full-time job in and of itself, if you ask me), and yet she drives her husband, son, and friends around, cooks and shops for the family, cleans the house, even shovels snow when she must. Another works three jobs: her main, forty-hour-a-week affair, her secondary, which is around thirty hours, and is an Army Reservist. And takes care of two kids, several cats, and maintains an old and creaky house as she’s a do-it-yourself person. And the third helped her family catalogue her beloved mother’s personal effects after she passed last year, then stayed to help the family while she continued to write and plot her books and take care of her health (as dealing with all that is a stressor of the first water).

So, rather than saying women’s work is everything, I’d like to ask the corollary: What isn’t women’s work?

I mean, my sister is an electrical engineer. And she’s damned good at it.

One of my blogger-friends, Tajwarr Fatma (who got me involved in the Collaboration with a Purpose group in the first place), just finished up medical school. In India.

One of my other good friends is married to a doctor. From Malaysia.

And the other various bloggers in the Collaboration with a Purpose group hold all sorts of jobs, present all sorts of views, and do many, many different things in a day.

As for me? I’m a writer, editor, musician, thinker, composer, and I try to help my family and friends in whatever way I can.

If all these different things I talked about don’t give you the idea that women’s work is everything, I don’t know what will. But in case you didn’t get the point, the next time you look at the women in your life, pay attention to what they do. And how they do it. Then the next time you can, tell them how much you appreciate them.

Because that’s what matters.

Now, go take a look at my fellow bloggers’ takes on the subject…(links will be added as they post):

Divyang Shah

Mylene Orillo

Tajwarr Fatma

Sonyo Estavillo

Jane Love (who again made two great pics for us, for International Women’s Day; Brava, Jane!)

Nicolle K. (updated post: Go read this now!)

Ipuna Black

Swati Kadam

Sadaf Siddiqi

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 8, 2018 at 8:00 am

Sunday Thoughts: Working Through Pain

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Folks, as it’s Sunday, it’s time for me to reflect on something bigger, something more profound…or at least something I usually don’t.

This week, I wanted to talk about pain, whether it’s physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. We all deal with pain from time to time in our lives, and it can seem overwhelming. And dealing with the pain is damned hard, because it takes so much of our energy just to keep functioning while we hurt.

I wish I could tell you that the pain will go away tomorrow. Unfortunately, I can’t. (Refer back to the apocryphal Buddha story of how everyone suffers in life for further details. I wrote a blog on this a while back.)

What I can tell you is that you’re the same person you were before, with a few more life experiences under your belt. And that none of us — not one, single, solitary, blessed person — gets through life unscathed.

But while you’re in pain, it’s very hard to function. Especially when the pain is new and raw.

All you can do at such times is take it day by day, moment by moment, sometimes even minute by minute. And remember that who you are at your worst is not who you are any more than who you are at your best; it’s all the places in the middle that matter more to you, as a person, than that. (Though of course most of us try to be our best selves as often as we can, that isn’t always possible. And we have to forgive ourselves when we can’t do it — while vowing to do better later, natch.)

My late husband Michael had a trick that I always attributed to his adherence to Zen Buddhism, in that he told me at times like this to feel the pain, no matter how bad it is, for ten minutes. Then, after ten minutes, tell yourself, “OK, self, I’ve heard you. I’ve felt this pain. Now I need to get on and do what I need to do anyway.” Most of the time, doing that will allow you to carry out the rest of your day unscathed; some of the time, though, you may have to repeat this exercise two, three, even four times a day, just so you can do whatever you can the rest of the time, and tell yourself that you have, indeed, heard and felt what your inner self is insisting you must hear and feel right now, thanks.

I know these tricks do help. They aren’t a cure-all, no. They aren’t going to make the pain go away. They aren’t going to make you feel that much better, either…because that’s not the purpose of the exercise.

Instead, the purpose is to help you remember that you can still do things.

You aren’t stuck forever, in short, unless you want to be. (And most of us don’t, though sometimes it does take a while to get through the pain. It took me nearly twelve years, after my husband died, to deal with the worst of it, for example. I still have moments where it seems overwhelming, even now.)

You do have options, even in times of great pain. There may not be many, and they may be just the best of all the available horrible options. But you do have a few, and you have to be able to look coldly and rationally at what they are, so you can make the best decisions possible for yourself.

As I’ve said before, you do matter. Who you are, who you want to be, who you’ve always been…that all matters. And what you do for yourself to create beauty, joy, and purpose is also incredibly meaningful.

These are the things that make life worth it, in spite of the pain. (Or maybe because of it. But that’s a separate, future blog post.)

So, do your best to look past the pain, if you can. (Can you tell I’ve dealt a lot with pain in my life?) But if you can’t, feel it as long as you need, and then go forth and do whatever it was you were going to do anyway.

That’s the best way to go, and eventually you will realize that you still have more to offer…even if it wasn’t quite in the exact, same way you’d hoped.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 4, 2018 at 3:13 am

Thoughts in the Stressful Mist

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

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

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

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

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

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

But don’t let it consume you.

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

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

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

And that you, too, do matter.

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday Thoughts — Advice for the Downtrodden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Good…to Yourself?

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Folks, I have been thinking about something for the last week or two. And I hope it makes some sense.

We see all sorts of bad stuff on television, on the internet, and any other way we consume media these days. And it can be hard to keep going. People dying in Florida at a school shooting (why, oh why?) is only the latest awful thing to take over the airwaves.

This affects everyone, whether you know it or not. People dying when they don’t need to is hard for society as a whole to bear. And it seems to happen over and over again.

So, why am I saying to be good to yourself, rather than all the stuff I normally say? It’s simple. I think in addition to talking to your legislators (if you feel the need), making donations to groups you support (including those supporting responsible and safe gun ownership), you need to remember to take time for yourself in your day, especially when times are hard or bad.

Most of us don’t do this. And then we wonder why we get worn down to nubs at the end of the day.

I have friends who have multiple jobs, and also write. I have other friends who are like me; they try to help their family members and friends as best they can, do their work, and cram in writing whenever possible. (Tonight, mind, I’m also cramming in a concert with the Racine Concert Band, another thing I enjoy doing.)

We don’t remember that we, ourselves, are the priorities in our lives. We think about others. We don’t think about us, because we’re taught not to, and the few who do seem to think about themselves at all are so blatantly narcissistic, any reasonable and decent person wants no part of that.

But there is a continuum, you see. You don’t have to be a narcissist to be good to yourself.

All I ask you tonight is, try to do something good for yourself every day, if only for five minutes. Listen to some music you haven’t heard in a while but you really like. Read a chapter of a book you’ve been meaning to get around to. Take a bubble bath. Go find one of those massage chairs (or ask a friend) and get your neck and/or back massaged.

That way, it’s easier to do everything else you need to do — including when you need to deal with bad news you’d rather not have to deal with (such as the latest school shooting) — with a fuller heart.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 20, 2018 at 7:35 pm