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My Musical Journey (A Collaboration with a Purpose Post)

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Folks, World Music Day is later this month, June 21st to be exact. And the folks at Collaboration with a Purpose decided to write about what music is, why it matters, and why we care about it in our own words.

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I’m a musician. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you likely know this. I play the clarinet, the saxophone, and the oboe. I also compose music, though mostly for myself, and tend to think first in music, and only later in words.

I’ve played instruments since I was ten or eleven years old. Music always called to me. I loved the sound of a saxophone in particular, and remember telling my Mom that I would play that someday. (When my teacher in graduate school, Dr. Fought, said to me that the saxophone sounded the most like a human voice, I agreed with him. Perhaps that’s why I insisted I’d play it.) Whether it was someone like Clarence Clemons wailing away with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band or later, jazz musician Art Pepper’s clear and beautiful sound with advanced and interesting harmonic and rhythmic melodies (yes, you can have it all!), I was hooked.

So why did I end up on the oboe first, then?

I think they needed oboists, as it’s difficult to play well. (One of the common sayings, at least among musicians, about the oboe is that “it’s an ill wind that nobody blows good.”) And no one was going to tell me I couldn’t play a difficult instrument…that’s where psychology came into play, I suppose. (But I was only eleven, at most. You can see why this might appeal?)

I learned all sorts of things about the oboe. It has a beautiful sound if played well, a distinctive one, and for whatever reason, the sound I could get was a bit lower than most, tonally — this is very hard to explain in words, so bear with me — and a bit closer to the sound of an English horn, according to a few of my music teachers.

Personally, though, I think the reason my sound on the oboe was a little different was because I wanted to play the saxophone. And I wanted my oboe playing to be different, interesting, and memorable; I learned how to play jazz on the oboe, even, as there was one musical group — Oregon — that had a jazz oboist.

“But get to picking up the sax, Barb! That’s what we want to hear about…”

Yeah. Well, I wanted to play in jazz band. But they didn’t have arrangements for a jazz oboe player. And my band director, Mr. Stilley, believed that I could pick up the sax in a month or so. The school had an awful alto saxophone available to play; it was held together by string and tape. But I didn’t let this stop me, and I did indeed learn how to play the sax in a month as some of the skills I already had were transferable.

Then, I took up private lessons with two different instructors: one for the oboe, one for the sax. I found out quickly that the alto sax was the instrument most classical musicians play. Most of the good repertoire, including the Jacques Ibert Concertino da Camera and Paul Creston’s Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano, was written for alto rather than tenor, baritone, or soprano saxophones. And of course I learned these pieces, along with one that later became one of my favorites, Alexander Glazunov’s Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra.

I found that while I loved jazz, I loved classical even more. There were so many different ways to say things in classical music. From Robert Schumann’s Unfinished Symphony to Paul Hindemith’s Symphony for Band in B-flat, from Cesar Franck’s Symphony in D Minor to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (and it’s famous “Ode to Joy”), there were so many, many different ways music could be expressed.

And then, there was Debussy, Haydn, Mozart, Bach, Bernstein, Brahms, and the one composer I sometimes loved, sometimes hated: Gustav Mahler. (Mahler’s music can be beautiful. It can make me laugh. And it can make me scratch my head and go, “What the Hell?”)

I listened to jazz, too. And pop music, as I found along the way that I rather liked the diverse influences Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and even Linkin Park brought to the table. (Linkin Park in particular was a very big surprise, as they combined some aleatoric elements along with rock-rap and solid music theory, with not one but two singers: the late Chester Bennington with his soulful voice that could turn to a scream in an instant and Mike Shinoda, who could rap or sing, depending on what was needed from him.) And Creed, too…something about them hit me, emotionally, and I understood why they became popular on the one hand quickly, and didn’t last on the other.

The best of music evokes emotion, no matter what genre you play or sing or hear. Whether it’s Alice in Chains’ “Rotten Apple” or Soundgarden’s “Fell On Black Days” or Linkin Park’s “In the End” (or, much later, “One More Light”), or the second movement of Franck’s Symphony in D Minor, or Elvis (my mother’s personal favorite, and for all his fame, a truly underrated emotional stylist), or Art Pepper’s flights of fancy while playing “Over the Rainbow,” it is all about emotion.

See, words can only take you so far. Music, with all its complexity, all its chords, all its harmony, all its rhythm, can take you much farther.

It’s because of that, and my own, personal journey, that I decided my hero and heroine in CHANGING FACES were both clarinetists and both would use music as a way to survive incredible pain. Because music can describe things words cannot, music is able to heal a great deal more than words.

And that, I think, is why World Music Day is so important.

So do let music heal you, or inspire you, or at least give you the soundtrack to whatever you’re doing/writing/learning at the time. And let me know what music you move to, in the comments!

Also, please go take a look at my fellow collaborators, who’ve also written interesting takes on the subject (links will be posted as they go up, as per usual):

Nicolle K. — Intro Post

Nicolle K. (coming soon)

Sadaf Siddiqi — “A Musical Tribute

Mylene Orillo

Sonyo Estavillo

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N.N. Light Review of CHANGING FACES Live at New Blog

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Folks, the husband-wife writer team of N.N. Light have a new blog. It’s called NNLight’sBookHeaven, and as such, they decided to post (or re-post) books they’ve enjoyed reading that have any connection at all to the LGBTQIA community.

Enter my book, CHANGING FACES.

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CF didn’t make much of a dent last year in the marketplace, but I’m still proud of it.  And Mrs. N. (female half of the team) enjoyed CF quite a bit, as this review shows. Here’s a bit from that:

In this ground-breaking novel, Caffrey explores gender fluidity, love and coming to grips with self-identity. I was emotionally attached to both characters from the beginning and watching their love for each other grow through the most trying circumstances changed me. The plot moved at a good pace, although there were places where it lagged. The idea of gender fluidity portrayed accurately in this novel with honesty and heart stayed with me love after I finished reading. Being a romantic at heart, I highly recommend this book to everyone.

Thanks for enjoying CF, Mrs. N!

One of the reasons I was so happy to write and finish CF was because both my late husband Michael and my late best friend Jeff believed strongly in this premise. Love matters, you see. What your outer shell looks like doesn’t matter, so long as your soul is strong. And if two people are drawn to each other, why should they have to be anything but themselves?

I was fortunate enough to be a female person, born into a female body. And I realized early that I carried my differences internally, rather than externally…but coming to grips with that still took me quite some doing.

I don’t know how I’d have dealt with Elaine’s conundrum, mind. I do think I’d have been like Allen, and first panicked — but then said, “Hey, it doesn’t matter. I love you and I don’t want to be separated.” (That Elaine can’t accept it very well…? It’s the life she led. But I digress.)

Anyway, I want you to read what I wrote. (At least a little of it.) So you can get a feel for what I’m talking about.

And as I’ve never done this before, not at my blog anyway, I would like to share the first chapter of CF with you…in the hopes that you’ll like it so much (even if you’ve never read a novel quite like CF before), you’ll run over to Amazon and get an e-book copy, stat. (Hey. It’s only ninety-nine cents. Live a little, right?)

So, here we go! (Excerpt follows.)

#

Chapter 1

It was the middle of July in Nebraska. Sweat started dripping down my back even before I’d stepped foot outside my apartment. My hair was already sticking to my neck, and I didn’t know how I was going to play my clarinet. And I had to do that, because my best friend Jolene Harris was marrying her long-time partner Paula Adelson today.

You see, this was a very special wedding. Paula and Jolene had waited for years to get married, and until recently, they couldn’t. But the Supreme Court of the United States made up their mind a short time ago that same-sex couples are like anyone else-if they want to marry, legally, they should be able to do so. Of course I agreed with this. Anyone who ever saw Jolene with Paula and their son, Adam, for longer than two minutes would agree, if they had any sense at all.

Fortunately for me, my boyfriend, Allen, completely understood. He was coming with me-and playing his clarinet, too. (He was going to play Ave Maria at Jolene’s request.) Allen, unlike me, identified as straight, but he’s no bluenose-he’s even walked with me in Lincoln’s Gay Pride parade.

Yes, I knew I needed to tell him.everything. And soon.

But not today, as that might spoil Jolene and Paula’s wedding.

The sun was shining. The birds were chirping. We’d even seen a rare double rainbow last night, after a brief but intense thundershower. Most people probably would’ve thought that today was absolutely perfect for a wedding, if they didn’t mind having to stand outside in 90-plus degree weather.

Allen and I made it to the car, we stored away our clarinets and music stands, and started driving. Considerate as always, he turned the air conditioning on and let me bask in it a few minutes before he spoke.

“I wish it were our wedding,” he said wistfully.

Oh, no, not that again, I couldn’t help but think. I loved Allen-truly, I did-and I wanted no one but him. But.

“I’d rather get married in the winter than the summer,” I told him, trying to keep it light. “It’s way too warm right now for my liking.”

“Are you sure you’re from Florida?” he half-joked back.

“Hey, it’s humid there, but it rarely hits the triple digits.” At his cocked eyebrow, I added, “That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”

He laughed, as I’d intended, and the subject was defused. For now.

Somehow, I had to tell him what I really was. But I didn’t have the words just yet.

* * *

Allen:

I snuck a peek at Elaine as we set up our music stands. She looked gorgeous, as usual, though by her standards she was a bit dressed-down for such festivities in a burnt orange blouse, dark slacks and low heels, with an orange flower in her hair for the sake of whimsy. Chestnut brown hair cut short for the summer, bright brown eyes with flecks of gold only I could see, when she was particularly happy, high cheekbones.a beautiful woman, inside and out.

Who cared that she, like me, had been known to look at women from time to time before we met? Not I. (And no, I’ve never had that whole threesome fetish thing going on, thank you. I’ve always refused to share.)

Because it was hot, I’d worn dark slacks, a long-sleeved white dress shirt, and a tie with musical notes on it. (Jolene had told Elaine it was to be a less formal wedding, so what I wore would be more than good enough.) My glasses were starting to slide down my nose-occupational hazard, on a day as hot as this-but I knew the music well. Even if my glasses fell off, I’d be able to play and no one but Elaine should notice.

The caterers were still fussing with the food, and neither Jolene nor Paula was anywhere to be seen. It was an hour and a half until the ceremony, so this wasn’t entirely a surprise. Elaine and I liked to be early, to get ourselves acclimated, whenever we played a gig-not that we’d played a ton of weddings, but we’d certainly played at enough other places that this should not be much of a stretch.

We started with the Telemann Canonic Sonatas, easy enough pieces to play as they hadn’t been designed for the clarinet’s three-octave range. They were fun, though, and suited the day well.after a while, I noticed Adam, Jolene’s son and a burgeoning clarinetist, watching us avidly. His two-toned blond head bobbed to the music, and he seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. But he wasn’t dressed for a wedding; instead, he wore a t-shirt and ratty old jeans with shoes that looked two sizes two big.

When we took a break, I nodded toward him and asked Elaine, “He seems happy, don’t you think?” Of course, I wanted to say, What on Earth is he wearing? But I was far too polite.

“He’s probably glad I didn’t assign him to play these pieces,” she said with an arched eyebrow.

I stifled a laugh. “He’s still a beginner, so he doesn’t need to worry about that yet.”

“Ah, but does he know that?”

After we put our clarinets down, Adam came over and handed us each an ice-cold bottle of water. “You two sound great!”

“Thanks, kiddo.” I resisted the urge to ruffle his hair, taking a sip of water instead. “Are you wearing that to your mothers’ wedding?”

Adam shrugged. “They’re worried about what they’re wearing. I didn’t think they’d care what I wore.”

“Try again,” I said kindly. “I’m sure they’ll have someone taking pictures, as they’ve waited a long time to get married.”

“I don’t see what the big deal is. They’ve been together since I was a baby. Do they really need a piece of paper after all that?”

Before I could say anything, Elaine jumped in. “Yes, having the relationship matters more than the piece of paper. But they want that piece of paper. They’ve dreamed about having that piece of paper. And you, Adam, are going to go in the house and find yourself something to wear that shows you made an effort, or I’ll give you five extra scales next week.”

“And if you don’t find something better than that,” I added, “I’ll have to come in and help you.”

Adam shuddered dramatically. “Okay, okay already.” He went into the house.

The minister had arrived, a cheerful, fortyish woman. The food had all been brought out. The guests were starting to assemble, so Elaine and I played some more duets. The music flowed out of me, and I became so caught up in that that I didn’t care how hot it was. It was just me, Elaine, and the music.

Life was good.

By the time I looked up again, it was fifteen minutes until the ceremony. Jolene, tall and resplendent in a bright blue satiny long dress, was chatting with the minister, but Paula was nowhere to be seen. Then Jolene came over to us, murmuring, “Paula’s nervous. Says she can’t find anything to wear. And we went over this yesterday-I can’t believe this is happening.” She bit her lip, adding, “Maybe she wants to back out.”

“I’m sure it’s not that,” I put in, trying to settle her down. “She loves you to distraction.” My words were absolutely true. I’d never seen a more devoted couple.

Elaine sighed. “Let me guess. She won’t let you see her, because of that old superstition about brides-even though I’m sure you don’t care-”

“Got it in one,” Jolene said, nodding.

“And I can’t go to her,” I put in.

Both women looked at me like I’d grown a second head. “Of course you can’t,” Elaine snapped. Then, her eyes silently apologized.she must’ve realized I’d been joking. “I’ll go.”

“Would you?” The look Jolene gave her would’ve melted an iceberg-that is, if it hadn’t already melted due to the heat.

Elaine touched my hand, and was gone.

I turned back to my clarinet, and started playing the Miklos Rosza Sonatina, ideal for today as it required no accompaniment. Before I immersed myself fully in the music, I prayed that Elaine’s errand would not take too much time.

I didn’t get nearly enough time with Elaine as it was.

* * *

Elaine:

I went down the hall to Paula and Jolene’s bedroom, and knocked.

Paula let me in without saying a word. She wore a bra and a half-slip, but nothing else. The last time I’d been here, the bedroom had been painfully neat but a bit cluttered; now, though, it was as if a tornado had hit the place. Black pants were draped over the wooden headboard along with a shiny silver bolero; a red dress was covered by a bright yellow swath of something in the middle of the carpet-had I ever seen either Jolene or Paula wear yellow? I didn’t think so-while I saw green, brown, white, and checkered blazers, pants and skirts all over the place.

And a lonely light blue dress sat in the middle of the bed, crumpled as if Paula had thrown it.

Before I could say anything, Paula beat me to it. “Feeling femme today, Elaine?”

I blushed. “You two are marrying. It doesn’t matter what I feel like.”

“Then why the flower in your hair?”

Paula was the only person who’d guessed that I wasn’t simply bisexual, though I was certain Jolene knew something was off, too. Paula knew what I was in its entirety-I’m a gender-fluid person, and some days I feel female, others male. But I’ve never felt fully comfortable giving in to my impulses, not the way I was raised.

I realized I was woolgathering. “Who cares why? I’m here to help you. Jolene’s a mess. I think she’s afraid you’re going to call off the wedding.”

“No, never,” Paula said with a faraway smile. “But I have to have something to wear. And the blue dress that I was going to wear must’ve shrunk at the cleaners.”

“Are you sure this isn’t just bridal jitters?”

“Jitter me this,” Paula snarled, and put on the blue dress. Despite Paula’s tiny frame, the dress didn’t fit over her slender hips, much less meet in the middle of her back. “Could anyone wear this?”

“Maybe a dwarf could, but certainly not you.” I shook my head, and sighed. “You didn’t want to try it on yesterday, why again?”

“It’s a tradition in my family that we don’t wear our wedding dresses between the time we try them on and actually are about to get married. My parents are out there, and I figured they’d know-” She looked like she was about ready to cry.

“I understand that you want to be as traditional as possible,” I said gently. “But isn’t it more important that you wear something that you might actually feel good in on a day like today?”

“Point.” Paula smiled ruefully. “I certainly can’t wear this. And everything else, except for one outfit, I’ve already worn.and that isn’t very festive.”

“Show me the outfit,” I told her.

Paula pulled a charcoal grey sleeveless top with a bit of shininess to it out from under the pile of clothes on the floor, and grabbed a grey pair of pants. “I’d intended to wear this to dance with Jolene later. But it’s not good enough to wear now!”

“Put it on, and let’s see.”

After shrugging off her slip, Paula got into the outfit. The top fit well, but wasn’t too snug; considering it was at least ninety-five degrees in the shade, I didn’t see a problem with it. And the grey pair of pants looked comfortable and easy to move around in.

“To my mind,” I said, “this is the right outfit. Wear your best black shoes, and maybe add a black or white scarf? Or do you have a statement necklace, something that will visually draw the eye?”

“Who knew you knew this much about fashion?” Paula teased, as she got out her shoes and a white, fringy scarf. Once the scarf was draped, she added a chunky pearl-and-onyx brooch that went perfectly with the outfit, almost as if it had been designed for the thing.

“Don’t tell anyone,” I advised her. “It might ruin my reputation.”

As we laughed, I took her arm, and escorted her outside to her waiting father.

“Dad, this is Elaine,” Paula told him.

“I saw you playing the clarinet before, didn’t I?” But before I could answer, he added, “Thanks for your help.” He took my place at Paula’s side, and walked her down the flower-strewn path toward Jolene and the minister.

Allen started to play Ave Maria. Before he got four measures in, I saw people dabbing at their eyes.

Of course, Jolene and Paula both looked beautiful, Jolene tall and buxom in blue, Paula petite and dainty in grey and white. So that might’ve been it.but I still think Allen’s playing had a great deal to do with it, too.

I went to Allen, unnoticed in the crowd, and squeezed his shoulder. He put his clarinet down, and grabbed my hand; as I had been about to hold his hand, I had no problem with that at all.

We could barely see Paula’s blonde head back here, due to the crowd, but it didn’t matter. We were ready to play again long before Paula and Jolene shared their first kiss as a married couple, and before the audience had finished applauding, we were playing recessional music-Mendelssohn, I thought-that Allen had arranged for two clarinets.

After a while, everyone had gone toward the refreshment table but us. But before we could go get something, Jolene came up to us and insisted that we get our pictures taken. I hate having my picture taken, as my outer self doesn’t always match my inner self.and even on a day like today, where I felt more feminine than not, I still hated having the flower in my hair memorialized for all time.

Still, Allen’s kiss on the cheek was nice, and my smile at him was genuine. He was truly a good man, the best person I’ve ever known.someday soon, I’d have to tell him the truth about me.

And if he still wanted to marry me then, I’d let him.

* * *

Allen:

Later on, after we’d stored our clarinets away and the food had been cleared out, I took Elaine back out to the yard again. Toward the back, there was a patch of green grass near the fence that I didn’t think anyone had stood on today; an untrammeled bit of grass, if you will. The sky was breathtaking, all bronzy red and pinkish orange, fading into the deep twilight blue I’d only ever seen in a Nebraska summer sky. It was a sky Maxfield Parrish might’ve painted, had he the chance.

“Such beauty,” Elaine breathed.

“What better omen for a wedding,” I added.

For once, Elaine didn’t give me a reproving look. Instead, she looked soft, touchable, feminine in a way I rarely saw.I knew I couldn’t waste this moment.

As Jolene and Paula were saying goodbye to their guests, we were quite alone. Our temporary solitude suited me well.

I went down to one knee on the grass, and said, “Elaine Foster, will you marry me?”

Elaine bit her lip, which wasn’t the response I wanted.

So before she spoke, I tried again. “Look, Elaine. We are meant for one another. I love you to distraction. I want you to become everything you have always wanted-a great writer, a great educator. You’re already a great person, and the only woman I want to be with. Will you please put me out of my misery and say yes?”

At that, Elaine laughed, pulled me up, and kissed me. When I broke away again, I looked down at her shining eyes and said, “So, is that a yes?”

“It’s a yes,” she murmured. “But.”

Before she could say anything more, Adam came barreling out into the yard. “My mothers told me to come and find you.”

As we went inside, I thought, This is the happiest day of my life.

* * *

Elaine:

I loved Allen. So I said yes, when he asked me this time-hoping I’d be able to explain just who and what I really was, after. And it made Allen so happy, for a time, I basked in his reflected happiness, and felt transformed.

If only we could’ve stayed in that moment forever.

# End Excerpt #

Want more?

You’ve got two choices.

If you’re still not sold, but you at least want to continue without any worries about payment, go here to the Twilight Times sample chapter page for CF, and keep going.

Or if you are sold, please go to Amazon, get yourself a copy, and keep going! (Then, do let me know what you think. This is not a stereotypical LGBT romance at all…nor is it “SJW fluff” as one non-fan called it, once. Not if I did it right.)

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 6, 2018 at 7:00 pm

Little Things Matter (in Relationships, Too)

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In a way, this is part two of my last post about how little things matter. But it also stands on its own…enjoy!

Recently, I read something about what makes interpersonal relationships work, whether they’re friendships or something of a romantic nature. I’d expected something profound — yes, even me, someone who’s experienced a successful and happy marriage — but that’s not what the writer talked about.

Nope.

What this writer — whose name escapes me — said was that the way to predict whether a friendship or romantic relationship was going to work well was whether or not you shared the little, mundane, ordinary things with your friend or partner.

And my jaw dropped. (Seriously. It did.)

Maybe this idea, that all the little things — the petty annoyances, the grievances, the frustrations, not to mention the small victories (like remembering to pick up the milk when you’re dead tired, so your partner can have it for her cereal in the morning) — add up to something major may not strike you as earth-shattering.

But here’s the reason it struck me as exactly that.

We’re told all the time that little things like that don’t matter. That we’re supposed to talk about profound things instead. And that if we can’t or won’t talk about deeper issues, there’s no point to being there.

There’s a certain amount of truth to that last part, mind, insofar as you have to be able to talk over deep and difficult things, too. That shows you trust the other person, and without trust, you cannot have intimacy, whether it’s emotional, physical, or any other way there is.

But the reason the little things matter just as much, if not more, than the big revelations that we trust our friends and partners with, is because they show our vulnerability.

See, when we’re willing to talk about how much our feet hurt, or how the traffic on the road was, or any other thing that seems piddly on its face, it all adds up to something much more profound.

Talking about things like that, when taken in their totality, say, “I trust you” to the other person. And as I said before, trust is absolutely essential to any form of intimate, interpersonal contact.

So, when you share your vulnerabilities, you promote deeper connection between yourself and someone else you care about. And you do that not just by the ‘big reveals” of the stuff you don’t trot out on the first date (or even the fiftieth); you do that by showing every day who you are, why you care, and what on Earth you’re doing spending any of your time with your loved one (or friend).

That’s why the little things do matter, in relationships, just as they do in anything else.

What little things do you do to show your friends (and/or loved ones) that you care? And what little things did you never, ever, in a million years think would be important, but maybe actually are? Tell me about them in the comments!

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 30, 2018 at 3:42 am

With Creativity, Little Things Count

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Most of the time, it seems that when we don’t make major progress in one area or another, that we aren’t doing enough.

And yet, little things count. Little things add up. Little things, when they accumulate in big enough numbers, turn into medium-sized things, then big things…but it takes time.

It’s easier sometimes to pretend that these little things don’t count, mind. Because making a bunch of little things accumulate into something bigger takes time, effort, commitment, persistence, and a lot of faith.

With all that’s been going on lately in the news, and all the frustrations, headaches, and worries (not to mention utterly despairing things like the U.S. immigration system “misplacing” over 1400 children, some as young as two years old), it’s hard to believe in time, effort, commitment, persistence, and most especially the last item on the list: faith.

And yet, without those five things, what do you have?

What’s interesting about a bunch of little things is that while they don’t seem like much, it’s those fundamental things that are the building blocks of creativity.

But it all comes down to those five things. In short:

  • Will you put in the time, even when it doesn’t seem like it’s doing any good?
  • Will you make the effort, even though sometimes it doesn’t seem at all like anyone will ever care? (Just so long as you do, though, that’s enough.)
  • Will you prioritize your creativity, at least to yourself, and make a few minutes in every day (or more, if possible) to work on it?
  • Will you keep grinding away, day after day, month after month, year after year?
  • And, will you do your best to hold onto your faith in yourself (and, hopefully, the Higher Power that gave you these talents in the first place; if you don’t believe in the Higher Power, then the random chance that gave you these talents, I suppose), even when it doesn’t seem warranted?

If you can do all of these things, your little things can and indeed will turn into bigger things.

What do you do to keep going, even when you don’t feel a lot of hope? Let me know in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 28, 2018 at 3:50 pm

When Creativity (Temporarily) Dries Up

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As I’ve said for a few weeks now on my blog, I’ve been dealing with a family health issue that has pushed almost everything else to the back of the line. As that seems to be resolving, my creative life is re-emerging…and as such, I thought I’d write a blog about why I think my creativity (save my editing work) more or less dried up during the recent emergency.

You see, we all have so much energy. (I’ve heard this called “spoon theory” or even “so many f**ks to give,” so whatever terminology works for you.) And when most of it is going to manage an emergency of some sort, there’s just not a lot left.

As there are probably more people out there who have to deal with this sort of thing, or maybe have dealt with it in the past, I know I’m not alone in dealing with the lack of energy or utter exhaustion that dealing with a crisis (along with continuing to do as much of your own work as humanly possible without collapse). But it is difficult, while you’re in the midst of it, to remember that…you feel isolated, almost the loneliest person in the world, and your own needs go to the back burner while you take care of someone else.

This has been called “caregiver fatigue,” and is a known phenomenon.

What makes me feel like myself, more than anything, is to create, whether it’s words, music, or a combination of the two. (That’s how I saw my work on CHANGING FACES, at any rate. I still intend to cut a companion CD of some sort down the line, if I can raise the money for such and regain the energy and strength to play my clarinet at top form.) But I can’t create like this, or at least can’t create very much.

No one can.

You just don’t have enough spoons to play with, as creativity takes a lot of spoons — far more than it seems at the time.

I know, from past experience with traumatic events, that my creative impulses will come back online after I’ve regained strength, rest, and health again. (As dealing with the crisis, especially coming out of two full months of illness, wasn’t easy.) And I look forward to the day I can wake up with a story idea, happily write it down, and think hard about what I’m going to do next without exhausting myself even further.

However, I’m not there yet. And admitting that isn’t easy, because I want to be known as a strong person, someone who can do anything she puts her mind to…someone who writes ten thousand words a week, maybe, as I did while my late husband Michael was alive, and haven’t managed to do consistently ever since.

I think overall that the important thing to remember, if you’re in a situation like I’ve been, is that so long as you’re still alive, and so long as you are doing your best, your talents will re-emerge once there’s sufficient energy for them.

And as a persistent person (I’ve sometimes been called almost pathologically persistent, which I don’t think is exactly a compliment), it’s all I can do now to remember that, and trust — as my niece, Jenni, also a writer, told me — that my creativity isn’t absent. It’s just brooding, waiting, and will burst out of me again once the energy has been restored to allow it to flourish.

What have you done in similar situations to nurture your creativity? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 17, 2018 at 2:30 pm

Do All You Can…

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…even when it doesn’t feel like it’ll be enough.

That is my motto, right now.

As I continue to struggle with my health, I have to remind myself that sometimes, doing all I can means to rest. Recover. Eat as much as I can (with a raw throat, that’s not easy, but it is again possible), and in as balanced a way as I can…take probiotics, to keep the antibiotics I’m on from destroying my gut bacteria…laugh, because it’s better than crying. (Or pulling my hair out.)

I continue to work on my plotting exercise (I talked about this yesterday), and will hope this will keep me from going stir-crazy.

I did write a thousand words today, though it was a different sort of exercise entirely, and was prompted by home internet problems. (I hate that, but it’s a very minor woe, all things considered. At least I can get out and use the internet elsewhere. So it adds a step when I am not at my best. So what?)

And I looked at the two edits in progress, figured out where I am, and have a good idea where I need to be starting tomorrow to finish them both up.

So, I’m staying on top of it as best I can. And am doing whatever I can, even though as I said above, it truly doesn’t feel like enough.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 13, 2018 at 9:59 pm

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?)