Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Archive for the ‘Prescient observations’ Category

Sunday Musings: You Can Only Fix Yourself

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Over the past several weeks, I’ve been grappling with something that has completely vexed me. To wit: Why do I allow myself to get so frustrated over what other people do?

See, we can’t fix other people. It’s impossible for us, as human beings, to wave a magic wand or think a magic thought or do something otherwise that changes the outcome of someone else’s behavior.

It just doesn’t work that way.

Because I’ve chosen to be friends — and, in some cases, family — with some rather iconoclastic people, this means sometimes I just don’t see eye-to-eye with them. I understand this, but I still get upset when I realize we can’t meet in the middle…and sometimes, we can’t even agree to disagree. (That last bothers me greatly, but unfortunately I can’t do much about it.)

See, people are who they are. They only change when they’re good and ready. They only make it easy for you to stay in their lives and talk with you and be communicative when that’s what they want, too.

Again, as a communicator — and, perhaps, as a peacemaker — at heart, this is something I have a hard time wrapping my head around. The whole idea of a casual long-term friendship where people dip in and out of my life on a whim isn’t something I do, as a general rule.

Now, what do I do instead? I try to be as steady as a rock with my friends and family. I don’t always succeed at this, but that is my intention. I do my best to live up to my obligations; I do my best to live up to my own, personal belief systems; I do my best to be ethical, aboveboard, and honest; I do my best not to throw vitriol for the same of throwing vitriol.

But if you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you probably know all these things. So what’s got my goat to the point I felt I needed to come blog about it?

I think what got to me most, lately, is the idea that came up in a friend’s telephone chat. He mentioned that everyone lies in public. Everyone puffs themselves up. Everyone puts up a front.

I think many people do. But I try hard not to.

What’s the difference in what I do versus what my friend said everyone supposedly does? Well, I’ve decided that I am not going to waste my time or energy pretending to be something I’m not. I see no point to that whatsoever. And because I see no point to that, I don’t expect other people who know me well to still want to put up fronts.

Why we can’t all meet in the middle, sometimes, is just beyond me.

Still, this all relates to my overarching theme somehow. (It must, or I’d not be typing this out. Picture me smiling ruefully here.) And that theme is that we can’t fix other people.

And just as they can’t make us be what they want us to be (how horrid would that be, huh?), we can’t make them what we want them to be either. We can only choose to accept them as they are, or not. And get to know them on their terms, just as they get to know us on ours. Or not.

So, for all of the above reasons, I urge you to remember this: The next time someone vexes you, because they aren’t who you want them to be, remember that they don’t have to be anything but themselves. Just as you don’t have to be anything but yourself, either.

If the two of you can’t figure out how to be friends under those circumstances, well, then maybe the friendship is doomed. (But I’d like to think it’s not.)

And either way, you can’t fix them. Just as they can’t fix you. So you can delight in being different…or you can walk away, knowing you tried your level best. (The choice is yours.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 5, 2020 at 6:34 am

Sunday Meditations on a John Wesley Quote

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I have been taken with this John Wesley quote for a while now. As it’s Sunday, let’s dive in!

https://quotefancy.com/media/wallpaper/3840x2160/38351-John-Wesley-Quote-Do-all-the-good-you-can-by-all-the-means-you-can.jpg

The above quote resonated with me the first time I heard it, which was sometime in junior high school. So I’d like to dissect this quote, starting with “do all the good you can.”

Too many of us think we can’t do any good at all, so we don’t do anything. And that’s not wise, nor is it smart. We can all do something to help our fellow man, woman, and/or child…it may be something small, like carrying in some groceries if you’re able-bodied and the person you’re helping isn’t. Or it could be something big, like helping someone fix a car when they can’t do it themselves but desperately need it.

(Note I’m talking about individual big things rather than societal big things. But I will get there.)

The key words there are “good” and “can.” Do your best, always; do what you can, always. And if you are in distress, and all you can do is offer good thoughts one day, do that. If you can offer a shoulder to cry on (even a virtual one, these days), that’s even better.

“But Barb,” you say. (Yes, I can hear you.) “What if I truly can’t do anything? I’m in a nursing home. Or I’m in the hospital. Or I’m just…tired, I guess.”

If you’re in a nursing home or in a hospital, the best thing you can do is to heal up. But while you do that, speak kindly to the nurses, doctors, and the staff. Encourage other patients, if you see them. Continue to learn whatever you can learn, via the TV or books or magazines or computer. And again, heal up.

If you’re just tired — and I know the feeling, because I often feel this way myself — you have to look at it a different way.

If you have had an abysmal day, just one from the Hells, and there’s nothing at all you can think of to do that’s any good for anyone, the best thing you can do is to calm down. Talk to a friend. Read a good book. Watch a movie that makes you laugh. Listen to some music that moves you. Whatever works, but do something to get your mind off these problems that are plaguing you.

Anyway, on to the next part of the quote, which is “by all the means you can.” Here, I think John Wesley was talking about the various ways you can help someone. Yes, you can help financially, but you can help emotionally, you can help physically sometimes, you can help spiritually (often we need that the most no matter what it looks like from the outside), and you can do it in whatever fashion you want.

The main thing is to not give in to despair. (Or if you need to, use my late husband’s Zen Buddhist trick and give in to it for five minutes. Then say to yourself, “Self, I’ve heard you. Now let’s get on.” I have used this trick frequently in recent days, and I know it works.)

Wesley here is saying again that you can make a difference by whatever means necessary. And that’s important.

The next part of the quote is “in all the ways you can.” I have already covered this, to an extent, in my previous paragraphs, but I will reiterate for the record: do whatever you need to do to help others in whatever possible ways you have available. Even if they seem small, they can do wonders.

For example, if you are at the grocery store in these days of Covid-19, you can be extra-nice to the cashiers. (Or just polite if you’re normally rude, I guess. Though I would hope none of my readers are rude on a regular basis. Yes, that’s a small joke. Probably very small. Moving on…) You can also help others get their groceries to the car if the clerks are too busy to do it or are unable to do it. You can be polite in the parking lot and make sure you give extra space and time to people walking to and from the store, and pay extra-close attention to the various cars in the lot because not everyone else is.

These are all small things. But they add up. And the clerks will appreciate someone who is not rude or abrupt. The people you deal with, in or out of the car, will appreciate that you are paying attention whether they realize it or not. And if you are helping someone get their stuff to the car, that is vitally important and will probably have made someone’s day.

Small things do add up, you know.

Wesley goes on to say “in all the places you can.” I think what he meant by this is for people not to stop thinking about ways to help others when they walk out the door of the church. If you can help someone in the store, do it. If you can help someone on the road, do that. If you can help a friend by listening even if it’s the tenth time you’ve gone over the same subject and you’re just tired of it — but you can rein in your frustration, and listen and empathize anyway — these things matter.

The next part of Wesley’s quote is “at all the times you can.” I think Wesley put it this way because of what I said before about “days from the Hells.” But it could also be that he dealt with too many people who thought the only time to be charitable was when they were actually in church. And once they walked out the door, that was it for charity for the week, almost as if they had “banked” the charity by going to church and enduring the hour-long sermon. (Or whatever.)

The message here is simple. We are all children of God/dess. (Or Deity. Or “Hey, you, big guy in the sky.” Call Deity what you wish; I don’t think it matters much to Deity.) We are all fallible, imperfect, mortal, all that — just as I’ve said in many other blogs — but along with that fallible, imperfect, mortal stuff comes some pretty good basic instincts. We, most of us, want to help others; we want to do good, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it makes us feel better to do it. (Maybe that was a biological thing Deity built into us, for all I know.)

And when we deal with those who just don’t seem to care, or don’t seem to want to do the right thing to help their fellow man (or woman or child), it can be frustrating to know that you’re doing your best but someone else is slacking off.

(I don’t know if that’s something Wesley considered during the writing of this, but it makes sense to me.)

The next part of the quote is, “to all the people you can.” I think here Wesley was saying that you should not stop caring about those you dislike. That you should try to find ways to help everyone, not just your own family, your own church, your own clique. That you should make a point to reach out, even when it’s hard (some days it’s very hard; I know!), to help someone who needs it. (Especially as some days, that person is going to be you. But I digress.)

And finally, Wesley closes his quote with, “as long as ever you can.” (I know that reads oddly to modern readers, but Wesley died in 1791. Word choices were different then.)

What does that mean, exactly? Well, I think Wesley believed you needed to keep doing whatever you possibly could to help others for the entirety of your lives. Period. Full stop.

Now, I did some digging into this quote. Wesley is attributed with it because of several sermons he gave during his career as a minister. This was seen to be his overarching philosophy, but Wesley probably never put it exactly the way this quote is put now during his lifetime.

(Which does make me wonder about that “ever you can” stuff, but again, Wesley died in 1791.)

What is important is that Wesley believed we all could and indeed should make a difference. That we indeed should do these things outside the church as well as inside; that we should do these things in the stores as well as our homes; that we should help those we knew and those we didn’t; that we should continue to pray for those we don’t understand and even those we dislike, along with those we know and do understand and deal with on a regular basis.

On this Sunday, take a minute and ask yourself, “What can I do to help someone else today that I normally don’t do?” And then, if you can, do that thing; if you can’t do it today but can do it tomorrow instead, do it then.

But do it. Because it matters. Even when it seems like it doesn’t.

Thoughts on Stereotypes

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Years ago, here at my blog, I wrote a piece about discrimination. At the time, my mother had urged me to write it because I was frustrated at the amount of ridiculousness in this world when it comes to discriminating against people different from yourself.

Right now, we have additional problems with discrimination and stereotyping, which kind of go hand-in-hand. There’s way too much stereotyping going on, and way too many people over-reliant on stereotypical behavior.

We are all human beings, regardless of creed, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, or any other thing that could possibly be used to divide us. We were all created equal. We were all created by love (at least, at the highest level possible, the Deity Him/Her/Itself).

But we forget this when we rely upon stereotypes.

I was talking to a good friend the other day about how he gets stereotyped often. He is not white. And while I guess he could pass, on some days, if he truly wanted to (and you didn’t know what his last name was), why should he have to worry about this?

I mean, isn’t he the same no matter what?

It’s about the content of your character. Not anything else. (I’m still with Martin Luther King., Jr., on that one, and always will be.) Your actions flow from your character. Your mind and spirit and heart are informed by that same character. And you, as a person, should never be judged by externals — never.

That said, it happens far too often.

With the recent murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis, I was reminded again that stereotypes can kill someone. He was stopped for apparently passing a counterfeit $20 bill (this is the best information I heard/read anywhere). And I know, from past experience as a cashier, that police do not have to kill you to get you to go to court to defend yourself. It’s a misdemeanor ticket if you’ve passed one, and if you can prove that you didn’t know, you will not be charged or blamed.

But Mr. Floyd was black. He was tall. It was a hot day, and he wasn’t wearing very much. And perhaps he looked offensive in some way — I don’t know how, mind — either that, or the white police officer just didn’t like the man on sight. Mr. Floyd was stereotyped as a dangerous individual solely because of his race.

It’s hard for me to type that. Because I want to believe we’re all better than that.

I referenced a good friend of mine from high school in my first blog about discrimination. I would like to talk more about her now, because I think it’s relevant to the discussion.

My friend was a viola player, and one of the best viola players in the city of Racine. She was easy to talk to, and we talked music, some sports, current events…you name it, we probably talked about it. She was cultured. She was opinionated, in the best of ways. She was intelligent. And yes, she was black.

I gravitated toward her because of her abilities, her interests, her intelligence and quick wit, and because I found her an interesting and admirable person. I didn’t care one whit about her color then, and I don’t now either.

But I do wonder what her life has been like since. Did she have the money to go to college? (I never asked.) Did she keep playing? (I wasn’t here in Racine for many years, and by the time I got back, I couldn’t find her in the music scene.) What happened to her?

I feel terrible that I lost track of her, as we all seem to do with many of our high school friendships. But I wish I knew all these things, because I’d like to ask her what she wants people to know right now regarding the murder of George Floyd. What she thinks about stereotyping, and how to get past it…what she believes will work to get people to see the content of people’s character, rather than only seeing the externals as we seem to be doing now.

Mind, I have other friends, as I’ve said, who also aren’t white or straight. They’re Latino, or Asian-American, or black, or mixed-race; they’re gay, lesbian, transgender, and gender-fluid/queer. I have friends of all shapes and sizes, and I’m glad of this. Because it means I can see past the stereotypes to the human beings underneath.

While there’s no way to turn the clock back so Mr. Floyd doesn’t die (or, on a happier note, that I didn’t somehow lose track of my old friend), we can have a better and brighter future. One based on the content of our character, rather than the outmoded and outdated stereotyping and discrimination that we’ve seen thus far.

May that day come soon for us all.

Sunday Thoughts: On Forgiveness

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We all go through moments in this life where we wonder, “What is the point?” Especially when we’re on the outs with people we feel close to and care about, as not getting along with loved ones makes everything seem pointless and unfulfilling.

“But Barb,” you protest. “Your post is supposed to be about forgiveness. How on Earth does this relate?”

I’m getting there, I promise. But this may take a while. (Settle in with a cup of coffee, or tea, or some sort of beverage of your choice.)

Recently, I’ve reconnected with an old friend I’d been estranged from for quite some time. Life took us in different directions. It was hard to talk with this friend for a while, though I did keep trying; on my friend’s part, I think it was difficult to keep trying, and eventually, communication just stopped.

I often wondered what the point was, after this happened. Because this friend was quite close to me, and was one of the few folks I felt understood me. It was difficult for me to do without this friendship. And it was frustrating not to know what was going on with this friend, as I truly did care — and, obviously, considering the recent reconciliation, still do.

It turned out that there were miscommunications between us that drove a wedge into the friendship. And those had to be talked out so we could move forward. Which led to inertia, which led to…pointlessness, I guess, at least on my part.

But over the time of the estrangement, I learned how to forgive myself for this. I can’t be everything to everyone, as much as I’d like to some days; I can only be myself.

And I forgave my friend, too, because I understood — as best I could, anyway — what led my friend to make their decisions. (Yes, I’m using singular “they” today. My editorial side doesn’t like that much, but I’m getting used to it.) I understood what was going on with them and I knew what had happened to get them to this point. So forgiveness was a must, a moral imperative…or, at least, the best way to live with myself and the end of this estrangement.

But saying that is easy. It took two solid years for me to process all this, and to get through it; it also took two solid years for my friend to process all this, and to get through it, before we could attempt to repair our friendship and move forward again.

And those two years were not easy. Not for me. And, I suspect, not for them either.

I know I am fallible, mortal, have my biases and quirks and habits; I do try to get past these things, but I still have them, and some days I am much more limited by them than on others.

I also know that my friend is just as fallible and mortal as I; they have their biases and quirks and habits, too. And I suspect they try hard to get past these things, but still have them, and some days are better than others in dealing with it all, too.

All of that led to what I like to call “the road to reconciliation.”

It’s not an easy road. It sometimes can be a damned hard road, in fact; your feelings get shoved in your face, by yourself, and you have to figure out what you’re going to do about it. You’ve been hurt before, and you don’t want to get hurt again…all of these things are natural and normal thoughts, but they are also self-limiting, not to mention frustrating.

But forgiveness makes the most sense, to me. I still care about my friend. I want to know what happens to them. I want to try to help in whatever ways I can, without damaging myself, to help them enjoy life a little better and to know that they are valued and understood no matter how imperfect or flawed.

Personally, I think we gain value from our imperfections, not to mention our flaws. But they are not always easy to deal with. (Oh, no. That would be far too easy.)

Anyway, I also continue to work on the idea of forgiveness of the self for getting to this point. I’m not a perfect person; far from it. (Then again, no one is.) There are things in the past — and not just in the context of this friendship — that I wish I’d done better, or differently.

That said, I have learned from my mistakes. I’ve drawn value from my imperfections, as best I can. And I’ve tried to husband wisdom from all of it, and be a better friend because of it, while realizing that life is a process and a choice as much as it is about your circumstances beyond your control and what you do about them.

So, those are my thoughts on forgiveness, both of the self and others, for today. What’s on your mind, and what did you think of this blog? Let me know in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 14, 2020 at 2:38 pm

Sunday Meditation: Learning to Let Go

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It’s no secret that over the years I’ve had a hard time letting go of things, good and bad. The best I can do with certain things is agree that I’m going to go on with my memories intact, and do the best I can with them. With my late husband’s death, that’s the level best I can do — letting go is not an option, because that would also let go of all my hopes, dreams, aspirations, and anything else positive that I still wish to obtain.

But maybe I can let go of how angry I am that he died too early. (I’m not angry at him. I’ll never be angry there.) And maybe I can let go of some of the nonsense I saw immediately after my husband died, including some of the rudest comments any widow could ever get. (Including one idiot who said that I would be just fine because I was young, and could still remarry. Um, what?)

So I’m not great with letting go, but I’m working on it.

This becomes more imperative with other things in my life, though. Things I regret doing, that I cannot change now. People I wish who had been different, or better, or less toxic; again, I can’t change that now either. And things that frustrate the Hell out of me…again, if it’s not an ongoing occurrence, why waste any more time on it?

So just for today, I’m going to do my best to let go of all the negative emotions I feel and focus instead on whatever good I can find in the midst of this pandemic, including the love of friends and family who’ve stayed in my life (not to mention good books and good music).

While I know it’s going to be a work-in-progress, I have to do what I can to keep going and give myself a chance to find happiness. Or at least fulfillment. Or peace. Or all of the above.

If you are like me, and you need to let go, try to tell yourself, “Just for today…” and see what happens. (Then do let me know about how it went for you in the comments, OK? I care.)

Stupid People Doing Stupid Things, Part the Nth

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Folks, today I felt like writing a blog. But the only things that I saw all day today were dumb things. People driving badly — as I had essential business today, I got to see the bad drivers in all their non-existent glory — was just the start of it.

There’s so much stuff in the news these days that’s just awful to behold. Whether it’s the death toll from the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis, the nonsense being spewed at various political briefings in Washington, DC, the nonsensical decisions of various governmental departments (why did the SBA decide to limit loan applications to $150K? That shuts out nearly every business that needs help!), it seems like there’s just nothing going on that’s any good.

I know that’s an illusion, mind you. There are so many good people in this world. And there are so many good things out there, too, including music, art, good books, word games, video games…all of those have worth and value and are worth far more than the bad drivers of the world. Or the bad politicians of the world. Or the bad decisions from otherwise sensible people, for that matter.

But today, I saw the dumbest thing I’ve seen in a while now. And I figured I had to come talk about it.

I was in line at the bank (did I mention I had essential business today? Yes?), and had just finished my transaction. As I started to drive off (as all banks in the US that I know of are still doing drive-thru banking only), the next car drove up — but a pedestrian somehow darted in front of the driver. This pedestrian had been in my blind spot, and I had no idea the guy was there. It was very bright out, and I was under an overhang; so was the next driver in line. So that guy really took his life into his own hands darting out like that, to put it mildly.

I know I would’ve hit the guy, had I been the next person in line. And I’m surprised the driver behind me didn’t hit him, too.

I call people like this “self-selectors for the Darwin Awards.” Because really, there’s no excuse for that. If you are a pedestrian and you have to do your banking, and for some reason you can’t use an ATM (which at the branch I was at was conveniently located on the side of the building; best of all, it was not under the overhang so no one in their right mind could miss a pedestrian there), you should get in line behind all the other cars and you should keep a healthy distance. Carry a flag, or something anyway, to get other drivers’ attentions, if you need to. But definitely go to the back of the line like everyone else and stand there; don’t dart in and out of traffic and act like an idiot.

This isn’t the first person I’ve seen to do this, either. And while I have sympathy if you don’t have a car or a bike or a motorcycle and you have to get food (which for the most part is done through drive-thrus these days) or go to the bank (ditto) or do anything at all that requires you being in a line outside, you have to be cautious and sensible.

While I can’t do a whole lot about many things these days (what am I going to do about Covid-19, anyway? Tell the virus to go away? Ha!), I can at least implore you to take care when you’re doing your banking business. Or going through a drive-thru anywhere at all if you are on foot, because it’s dangerous to do that — and if you’re going to do it anyway, you need to be cognizant of other drivers and pay attention to your surroundings.

Otherwise, you’re an accident waiting for a place to happen. (Or, as I put it above, a self-selector for the Darwin Awards.)

What stupid things are you seeing these days? Tell me about them in the comments!

Relationships and Covid-19

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Folks, I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks now, but here goes: I think people’s relationships are being tested in many unexpected ways by Covid-19.

I have some sympathy for this, even though my husband has been dead now for quite a number of years. Early in our marriage, we had a period of time where we were flat broke. Neither of us was working steadily, and that meant we were home most of the time. With each other, trying not to get in each other’s way…doing whatever we could to keep each other’s spirits up.

I think of that time when I think about people in long-term relationships, shut in with each other, and Covid-19 now. Because providing neither of you are ill — and God/dess forfend, I hope you aren’t — that’s what you’re enduring right now. You have 24/7 companionship, you’re unable to leave the house very often (if at all), and you must be trying to keep each other’s spirits up.

(If you’re not, I’d wonder about you. But again, as per usual, I digress.)

Because Michael and I found each other a bit later than many couples, we had already faced a number of challenges before we had to deal with our marriage being tested by being home, together, nearly every minute of every day. This made it a bit easier for us, as we had committed to talking things over before we ever got engaged, much less married…and we had also agreed before ever getting married that we’d make the commitment to stay together every single day, too.

What this meant, in practical terms, is that we talked things out often. The way he did things wasn’t necessarily the way I did things. But we both enjoyed each other’s company so much that we were able to compromise, or at least agree to disagree. And it led to some of the most delightful hours of our marriage, those hard times — all because we let ourselves talk to one another.

Well, refusing to deny what we felt was part of it, too. If one of us was having a bad day — and I admit, that person usually was me — being able to say I was having a hard time and get reassurance that it was perfectly acceptable to dislike the situation we were in helped me go on. And on the rare occasions Michael needed the same thing from me, I of course willingly gave him the same thing.

Now, as to how you can apply what I just discussed in your own situations, being trapped at home 24/7 and disliking the fact you can’t go out intensely? My best advice is to talk to one another. Admit that you feel bad, at least some of the time, that you can’t go out and do what you’d normally do. Admit that you are frustrated with the current situation, because no one has any idea when Covid-19 is going to let up; there’s still no vaccine (obviously), there’s no idea yet as to whether plasmaphoresis is going to work; there are very few drug treatments that have shown any ability to shorten the course of illness (if any at all); and because of the shadow of Covid-19, you don’t know when one of you is going to get sick!

See, all of this is scary stuff. But if you can admit to it, you’re ahead of the game.**

Anyway, I do understand how difficult it is right now for those of you in relationships. And while I don’t know if what I just said helps much, I figured saying it can’t hurt anything, either.

Just remember that eventually we’ll get back to some semblance of normal. But until then, treat each other gently.

———

**And guys, I know what you’re thinking. Trust me: being vulnerable to the one you love is sexy as Hell. (Got it?)

Governor Evers Extends Wisconsin’s “Safer-at-home” Order, and I Have Questions…

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I apologize for the long, unwieldy title in advance…

Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI) has extended the Wisconsin “Safer-at-home” provisions until the day after Memorial Day, which is in very late May; they were set to expire on April 24, but we all knew it was likely it would be extended a few more weeks at minimum. However, no one expected that it would be extended until late May.

I, for the most part, support the Safer-at-home order. And I said so in an e-mail I just sent to Governor Evers. (Unfortunately the cut-and-paste I had planned so I could show you exactly what I sent went awry, so I’ll have to describe what I said instead.) I urged the Governor to carve out some exceptions for hair salons/barber shops, car washes (we have a very strange situation going on here in Racine County where if the car wash is attached to a gas station, it’s open even if it has human contact, but the car washes without any human contact and total automation are closed because they don’t have an attachment to a gas station), and emergency situations.

Now, what is an emergency situation? (You may be asking this.) I view it as this: you’ve lost something important to you, whether it’s your home, your vehicle, your stove has gone on the fritz and you can’t cook (or your microwave, or hot pot, or whatever you’re using). Or you have just been granted an emergency foster child, but that child is under three and you need a car seat you don’t have (but can’t buy in many counties in Wisconsin, as unless the store has food in it, it isn’t allowed to stay open under the safer-at-home provisions). Or you have lost weight (or perhaps gained it), and your clothes no longer fit or are so frayed you can’t wear them…but again, unless the store has any food in it, you can’t get any clothes to wear. (And I don’t know about you, but unless you can try on things, it’s hard to find something to fit properly. The only things I’ve managed to buy and wear well online are nightgowns. And a few Brewers t-shirts.)

So, I told Governor Evers that.

I also said that while I agree with him that people’s lives are far more important than any amount of money, extending the Safer-at-home order until the day after Memorial Day is too long. We’re about to go into the summer season. And there are folks like my father who have no air conditioning at all. (He doesn’t want any, either.) If you want relief from the heat, you usually have options such as going to the grocery store, going to the movie theatre, going to the Zoo and walking around by Lake Michigan…but right now, you’re supposed to limit your grocery trips to essentials only, the movie theatres are closed, and the Zoo is also closed. (So is the public library. So are most government buildings.)

I said that I would rather he had extended this for another few weeks and re-assessed in mid-May. If there were still Covid-19 hotspots then, I’d understand extending the order a bit more than I do now. But I would wait until then because no one knows what’s happening now, except that they’re scared and they’re broke.

Here’s what I’ll add, though, for folks who know me and have known me a long time (as I am going to assume you have, if you’ve read my blog; if not, you can catch up in the archives if you’d like.) I think people’s lives are far more important than money. And I do think we have to be wary and prudent right now with regards to Covid-19 because it’s a virus with no cure, no treatment, and no way to alleviate.

That said, people are going stir-crazy at home. We have flattened the curve to some degree already. And if it is flattened more in two weeks, I think a graduated restart of Wisconsin’s economy is in order; if it’s not, then maybe Gov. Evers is right and nothing will be done until Memorial Day anyway.

But I would like to know his rationale for this. Why did he pick that date? Why is it that other states Wisconsin is allied with, such as Ohio, have earlier “opening” dates as of this time? Why is it that New York state, which has the worst amount of cases in the nation, is going to try to re-open faster than we are here?

I didn’t say that in my letter to him, but I should’ve.

I do support that we have to stay home more than go out right now. But we also have to realize that businesses will close up shop if they don’t get help. And some of ’em, like beauty salons/barbers, can re-open with limitations (I said in my letter that if five people were getting their hair cut at a time and no more, that would work. That would limit the gathering to ten people or less. And you could maintain social distancing in the salons, too.) Getting a haircut gives you an emotional lift. We need that right now, too.

Rest assured that I did point that out to Gov. Evers.

And the thing with the car washes: Yeah, they’re not essential. But they do give you an emotional lift of sorts for not too much money. Cleaning the car in the late spring and early summertime — and remember, we are about to go into the hotter season, much though it doesn’t feel like it right now — is extremely helpful in many senses, too; it gets the last of the winter sand/salt off the car, which is good for the life of the car. And it helps you spend less money on car maintenance, which we all are going to need because we all are going to have a whole lot less money due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Anyway, if you, too, live in Wisconsin and want to contact Governor Evers, go to this page and make your comment. (Please be civil, as life is too short for incivility.)

And if you live in other states or countries, write to your public officials about whatever it is that makes no sense to you. Because that’s needed right now — public opinion is vital, especially if it’s reasonably stated.

That’s the only way we’re going to be able to figure out how to go forward with the least amount of stress and heartache.

Easter Musings: The Resurrection of Hope

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Folks, I woke up this morning — or afternoon, as the case may be (being the inveterate night owl that I’ve always been) — thinking about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This is not surprising. It is Easter, much though it doesn’t feel like it with a pandemic ravaging the world. And around Easter, we usually as a people talk about redemption, hope, faith, and of course the resurrection of Jesus.

But Jesus’s resurrection wasn’t just about being raised from the dead. It was about the hope that something good would come from Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. It was also about the belief that three women had, mourning outside Jesus’s burial site, for three days. And it was about the astonishment they had, along with the embodiment of their hopes, when Jesus rose again on the third day.

Other ancient religions had talked about resurrection, too. But they hadn’t been so much about hope, it seems to me. And they certainly didn’t talk about the folks who were left behind quite so much as early Christianity did, and has to this day.

We need hope right now, as I’ve said before. But we also have to believe firmly in resurrection, too. Those of you who aren’t Christian (some days I don’t identify with it, other days I do; I’m more like G.K. Chesterton, who once said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”) can still appreciate the idea of resurrection in this sense, as explicated by the Cambridge English Dictionary: the act of bringing something that had disappeared or ended back into use or existence.

Right now, what we’ve viewed as the normal comings and goings of society has disappeared. Ended. And we’re mostly at home, wondering whether the virus known as Covid-19 will ever stop ravaging the Earth. Doctors and nurses and other medical personnel are struggling, as they’re the only ones who have the tools and training to help the rest of us deal with this. And as yet, there is no cure; there is no vaccine to temper the virus, either; there is no therapy; there is nothing.

It is a humbling thing, to know that you can’t stop Covid-19.

Yes, everything we’re doing right now — the vast majority of us in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, etc. — helps to mitigate the damage. Staying at home lessens the reach of the virus and allows the amount of people sickened at any one time to flatten out, so hospitals and clinics don’t get overwhelmed. (Or at least not as overwhelmed as they could be.)

Some of you are probably saying, “But Barb. That is not nothing. We are being proactive. We’re staying home, even though we hate it. And we’re doing everything we can to let this virus die out.” (New Zealand, in particular, has been particularly good at squashing this virus flat.)

That’s all true.

But it’s not enough. People are still dying. And the world outside is radically transformed. Economies have crashed, and will continue to do so, until some sort of medical mitigation occurs. Our way of living has suffered; our way of belief, that we can come together as people, and enjoy each other’s company, and lessen each other’s sorrows in person as well as online, has been shown to be, at best, incomplete.

My view is, today should be not just about Jesus Christ, though his life and teachings are well worthy of study.

I think today — the Easter of 2020 — we need to believe in the resurrection of hope. The resurrection that our society will someday get back to some semblance of what we’ve seen before: openness. Being able to give hugs to loved ones. Concerts. Ball games. Being able to go outside, in public, unmasked and without fear…being able to go anywhere you want, at any time you want, without being hassled (or at least being worried you might be), and without risking your life either. And our first responders — our medical personnel, police, fire, rescue, etc. — not to have to risk their lives every day in every way because they have no idea who’s carrying Covid-19, no idea who’s had it, and no idea whether or not their protection is good enough to keep them from getting it.

I think Jesus would appreciate us believing in all of these things, in addition to believing in Him today. (Or at least believing in what he showed us can be possible.)

And that is all I can say today, prayerfully, because I know it to be true.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 12, 2020 at 2:36 pm

Thoughts for Valentine’s Day: What Love Is…and Is Not

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I keep meaning to write this, every single Valentine’s Day. And then I never do. So I guess today’s the day…enjoy?

In my writing, I’ve tried to show what I believe love is.

In the Elfyverse (so far comprised of AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE; more to come), it’s care, compassion, support, loyalty, friendship, and many other things that lead to intense romantic feelings for the young Bruno and Sarah. Bruno had a good marriage modeled for him by his late parents; Sarah’s parents did not give her good models, but her grandmother at least gave her someone to love who was worth the time.

Mind, even with that, love is a work-in-progress for the two of them. And I think that’s something we all deal with, as we go. It’s not like being in love waves a magic wand over you and says, “Now, everything will be wonderful.”

Instead, what love does is to make any problems that befall you far more bearable to deal with. Because you’re not alone anymore. You are supported. You are appreciated. And you are understood. (Or it’s not the love you’ve been looking for…but more on that, anon.)

Problems come to everyone, you see. And it’s how you communicate that helps you deal with them. Or not.

Bruno and Sarah, despite their tender ages, both know that. And they’ve made the commitment to stand by each other, to love one another, to appreciate each other’s differences as well as each other’s things in common…they’ve done what they need to do, in order to forge a strong bond between them.

But that’s not my only take when it comes to love. Far, far from it.

In CHANGING FACES, my stand-alone LGBTQ-friendly fantasy romance, Allen and Elaine’s plight is different. They know they love each other, and they can communicate well…except for one issue, that being Elaine’s gender-fluid nature. Allen knows Elaine considers herself bisexual (and monogamous! She’s not about to sleep with anyone but Allen, regardless of what her outer self looks like.) But he doesn’t know that Elaine considers her gender to be fluid, especially as Elaine likes the pronoun “she” and is a feminist scholar. And when he finally finds out, both he and Elaine don’t know how to handle it. But eventually, they find a way. (I hope that’s not too much of a spoiler for you, but if you are a long-time reader of romances, you know most of ’em go for happily-ever-afters. So why can’t mine?)

What I was trying to get at, in CHANGING FACES, was that love can conquer anything. But that you have to be willing to be vulnerable. You have to be willing to tell your partner, “Hey, I’m like this. Can you deal with it?” And if you’re really ambitious, you can be even more vulnerable and admit, “I’m not so sure I can always deal with it. But I appreciate that you have my back while I try.”

These are hard things to do. They’re very adult things.

So, while Bruno and Sarah are young adults and are finding their way — fortunately! — through a meaningful and deep love, Allen and Elaine are older and yet still have some of the same issues going on. I did that on purpose, because I think no matter what your age is, you’re going to have issues. And it’s how you deal with them that matters.

Either way, though, they show what love is. Commitment. Shared sacrifice. Honesty. Communication. Vulnerability. Loyalty. The willingness to laugh at yourself when needed, or with your partner as needed. The ability to say to yourself, “I don’t have to be perfect every day,” and of course that your partner doesn’t have to be perfect either, in order to be loved for who you are. To keep trying to communicate, even when it’s hard. To keep doing whatever you can, as long as you can, as often as you can, to let your partner know that you care, you appreciate them, you want them in your life, and you are going to do whatever you can to facilitate that so long as they feel the same way.

As I’ve heard it said, a romantic commitment takes 110% from each partner. I think that makes sense. (Though if you are a mathematician and are pointing out that it can’t be more than 100%, that’s OK, too. Just so long as you give your all, and your partner gives his/her all, that’s what matters. Not the number we put to it.)

Before I go, I want to talk about what love decidedly is not.

It’s not about gifts. It’s not about wealth, or fancy cars, or how big the bouquet of flowers is on any given day. It’s not about fancy restaurants (though I’m all for them, when possible); it’s not about what you can get from your partner.

Instead, it’s about what you give.

I hope most of you realize by this point that love is a two-way street, one you both want to be on at the same time and in the same place. And that anything else is not worth the price.

But if you’re doing all the giving in your relationship, and your partner is doing all the taking, that is not a love-relationship I’d want to have.

Anyway, I hope this has helped you figure out what’s worth it in a relationship, and what isn’t. And why I still think love matters more than anything…even though aside from the love of friends and family (predominantly agape love), I haven’t had it in over fifteen years.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 14, 2020 at 10:33 pm