Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

A Post of Quiet Contemplation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We should know it, too.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 21, 2022 at 2:49 pm

Halloween Musings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updates on Ukraine, the Empathy Gap Essay, and a Discussion of Muslims, Cigarettes, and Virtue-Signaling

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Folks, I wanted to write a blog today about Ukraine along with updating last week’s blog about the empathy gap. I also veer into a discussion of smoking that may surprise you. So do keep reading, OK?

Sometimes, a news commentator utterly surprises.

Why am I saying that? Well, Malcolm Nance, a longtime MSNBC analyst, has joined the international force doing their best to push Russia right back out of Ukraine. He is a Navy vet, and he said that he was “done talking.” Therefore, he went to Ukraine, where he’s been now for over a week, and has been doing whatever he can to aid the fighters there.

I’m glad Ukraine continues to resist Russia’s stupid and pointless invasion. (Well, not stupid and pointless to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President. He wanted the Ukrainian bread basket, as the land is exceptionally fertile there. And rather than pay for the grain like anyone else, he thought he’d just take the country, so he would just get the grain as well.) But it saddens me to see the destruction of once-beautiful cities like Kyiv and Mariupol.

Not to mention the loss of human lives, which is utterly incalculable.

I hope that whatever Malcolm Nance continues to do over there works. He has always struck me as a highly intelligent man, though I didn’t always agree with him. (I don’t always agree with anyone. Even with my late husband Michael, we had an occasional disagreement. Spice for the mix, I always thought, especially as we made sure to “fight fair” and not drag up old and dead issues over and over.)

Anyway, the next piece of old business has to do with my essay on empathy a week-plus ago. Paul, a regular reader, asked why I didn’t bring up someone on the left who’s sparked my ire as much as Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert have on the right. Another reader, Kamas, mentioned Maxine Waters — a very able legislator in her way, but also someone who seems to enjoy verbal conflict and hyperbole from time to time. And I’d brought up two other D legislators who seem to get into trouble on a regular basis, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

Rep. Omar is in the news right now for calling out a double standard on airplanes. Apparently, a church group that had just come back from working with Ukrainian refugees sang a Christian hymn on the plane. This upset her, as she believes Muslim groups would be shut down from singing on planes. (Maybe this has happened to her, but if so, she hasn’t said so specifically.)

My view of this is simple. The folks who went to Ukraine or the borders of Poland and Romania and elsewhere that border Ukraine, and did good work, deserve to celebrate any way they like. If their song wasn’t bothering anyone else on the plane, let them sing.

Mind, I’d also say the same thing for a Muslim hymn. There are many uplifting Muslim hymns, I believe, but we almost never hear of them — much less hear them — because Muslim in the US tends to equal “Shia or Sunni rebel” rather than pious person doing their best for God and country.

Still, why Rep. Omar waded into this one with both feet, I don’t know.

Centuries ago, the Muslim people were often literate, learned, urbane, and often had no trouble with other “People of the Book” (meaning Christians and Jewish people). The Muslims came up with algebra, created music and art and poetry and architecture, and did many wonderful things.

We tend to forget all that with the current crop of fundamentalists over in Iraq and elsewhere. Those rigid, ruthless sorts are not what being a Muslim is all about, any more than, say, the so-called Christians who helped burn down Minneapolis and Kenosha and other places in the last few years have anything to do with most actual Christians. (The Christians who protested are fine. The ones who burned for the sake of destruction are not. We forget about the former because we have had to dwell on the latter in order to rebuild.)

I have an online friend, a doctor, who’s a proud Muslim woman. She lives in India. I’ve known her now for several years, while she’s been at university, then started medical school in earnest (from what it sounds like), to studying for boards (which sounds harrowing) and being a medical resident (which, like the US and the UK, consists of many hours of work for not that great of pay, and is exhausting).

Tajwarr, my friend, loves makeup, loves to dress up, does not wear a hijab (not in the pictures I’ve seen of her), and writes poetry. She has many gifts, including that of putting people at ease. She is unfailingly polite, and does her best to be cheerful with patients, family, and friends without losing one ounce of authenticity.

I admire her.

In India, where she lives, Muslims are being persecuted. Hindus, by far, have the upper hand there. And like anywhere else, the folks with the most seem to lord it over those with less. So the populous Hindus have made it harder for Muslims — an ethnic minority in India, I think — to enjoy being themselves and to enjoy their own culture, religion, music, etc.

I say all this to point out one, simple thing: You can’t put all people in a box. Not all Muslims. Not all Christians. Not all Neo-pagans. You just can’t stereotype people like that.

One of the folks I know, who I worked with on Hillary Clinton’s campaigns in 2008 and 2016, worked on behalf of Joe Biden in 2020. She is a Black woman. Very smart, able, all that. She knew Biden would not be perfect, but she worked for him anyway. Part of the reason for this might have been that Donald Trump signed a bill that raised the minimum age to smoke from eighteen to twenty-one. She felt that was no one else’s business, and that if you’re old enough to go to war, you’re old enough to smoke.

(Even though I don’t smoke, I agree with her.)

My friend has always smoked menthol cigarettes, such as Newports. But Biden’s FDA banned menthol cigarettes citing their “adverse affects on Black Americans.” (This was often the phrase used by journalists and TV analysts when this happened last year.) Menthol, you see, masks some of the harshness of the tobacco, and it apparently opens up additional nicotine receptors. (I have never smoked, so all I can say is apparently.)

At any rate, my friend was absolutely furious about this. She felt it’s her body, her choice. Alcohol is allowed in many flavors, and alcohol kills many more people than cigarettes.

She also was deeply unhappy, and remains deeply unhappy to this day, about how people who smoke get treated like second-class citizens. Being a smoker is now worse than being a drinker, and that’s just wrong.

I’m not saying any vice is good. But I have two vices of my own: lottery tickets, and diet soda. (Well, three if you add in Snickers bars.)

Most of us have at least one vice, and for most of the time, this vice is harmless or reasonably harmless. (Some folks, knowing that I am a plus-sized woman, probably would tell me that a Snickers bar is not harmless in my case. Too bad. I definitely agree with my friend regarding “my body, my choice.”) Those who drink in moderation are not shamed in the same way as those who smoke in moderation.

My late husband, and my late grandmother, and most of my grandmother’s family before her, were all smokers. My grandma lived to be 89 years old. My husband’s heart attacks were almost assuredly not caused by smoking (this from the ME at the time), though it probably didn’t help. Most of grandma’s family lived to be 75 and up…they drank, smoked, gambled, some of the men probably wenched, and they enjoyed life to the fullest until the day they died.

Look. I am asthmatic. Smoke and smoking can cause trouble for me. Michael, my husband, knew it, and did his best to smoke outside. The smell on his clothes was minor that way. He used breath mints and did his best to keep the nicotine taste out of his mouth so when we kissed, we had a better experience.

In short, he did his best to minimize the effects of smoking. Plus, he was trying hard to quit — he tried at least six times during our marriage (we only got two-plus years together as a married couple, remember, so this is actually rather impressive), and was down to only four cigarettes a day from a pack-and-a-half habit. (He could not use the patch because of his skin issues. He didn’t do well with the gum because of his dentures. And the only other option for him, nicotine water, was so foul that he could not stand it. I didn’t blame him.)

Therefore, I cannot and will not censure any smokers. And, quite frankly, I do not understand anyone who does unless they’re “virtue-signaling.” (Yes, me, a left-of-center more-or-less liberal person, is using that term.)

We all have faults. We all have vices. We all have “Achilles heels.”

Lording it over anyone because you do not like their legal vice is not just stupid, pointless and wrong. It’s also cruel. So if you’re someone who’s told yourself, a non-smoker, that smoking is evil and have forgotten all about how the cigarette companies did everything they could to keep people hooked by altering the levels of nicotine, etc. (look up the old “60 Minutes” episode if you don’t believe me), and have decided to blame the smoker rather than the cigarette company, you need to stop doing that.

Right now.

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.

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

By Their Fruits, Ye Shall…

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Folks, it’s Sunday. And I’ve been thinking (always a dangerous enterprise, believe me), mostly about Matthew 7:16. (A Biblical verse from the book of Matthew, that indicates.)

The King James version of this verse states:

“Ye shall know them by their fruits.”

But for whatever reason, in the modern era, we’ve turned that around. I’ve mostly heard it the other way, “By their fruits, ye shall know them.” And it is a warning, in either sense, of falseness — false prophets, false witness, prevarication in all forms.

So, when I hear something on CNN about former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe being fired less than two days before he could’ve taken retirement, I am outraged. Whether you liked McCabe or hated him, he was a career public servant and deserved his pension. And firing him — supposedly with less than twenty-six hours before he could’ve put in for retirement — is flat-out low-class.

There is no reason whatsoever to do this. If you have any tact, decency, or even a working knowledge of the federal government at all, you let this man take his honorable retirement and go. He worked hard and he deserves that money. End of story.

The corollary is, if McCabe was such a “bad actor” (not that I believe he was), why wait until only twenty-six hours before he can take retirement to fire him? And why do it on a weekend, when it’ll be harder for him to respond or get his lawyers involved, as now they must, to fight for his pension?

If there has ever been a clearer statement of “by their fruits, ye shall know them,” I don’t know what it might be.

But let’s step away from politics, shall we? (I know that’s a mine-field.) And talk about personal dealings.

I’ve been sick now for at least a month. (Yes, this is germane, I promise.) I finished up an edit, and have been working very slowly on two more, and I haven’t given up. But I want to talk about the responses I’ve gotten since I admitted how sick I was. (I’m going back into urgent care this morning, BTW, and I hope they’ll find a way to get me a consult to an ear, nose, and throat doc.)

Two very good friends I hadn’t talked with much about this stepped up immediately and have asked daily about my health. They are honestly worried and I appreciate that. They care. That’s good.

By their fruits, I know they are worthy people.

Another very good friend brought me some food and went out to breakfast with me, on one of the few days I felt I could get out at all.

By her fruits, I know she is a worthy person.

Any number of others have written or inquired and asked me how I am, including my friend Tajwarr in India, who’s just finished up her training to become a MD. I very much appreciate this, too.

By their fruits, I know they are absolutely wonderful.

And not everyone knows I’m sick, and I get that.  Certainly not their fault I’m sick, and some people don’t know how to speak to someone who is sick…though I do wonder about them, and what that says about their fruits, if they know and say nothing, or know and choose to say nothing.

Jesus believed that you help the poor, the meek in spirit, the sick, the damaged, those in need of healing. He believed that you should comfort the afflicted. Nurture those who need it, out of the goodness of your hearts, out of the kindness of your souls, because when you do that, you are tapping most strongly into God’s love for us. (Or the Goddess’s, if you prefer, and I definitely do prefer.)

Anyway, I appreciate those among my friends who’ve tried to do that in their various ways. I will never forget it.

And those who have known, but said nothing?

Unfortunately, I will never forget that, either. Because their fruits have proven to be rotten. And I don’t need that in my life.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 18, 2018 at 7:10 am

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.

A Meditation on Forgiveness

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Sunday tends to bring some serious thoughts out in me, so I thought I’d discuss something that’s been on my mind lately. Namely, forgiveness…why is it so hard, and what are we supposed to do when it seems nigh onto impossible?

I was thinking about something Jesus apparently said any number of times, as quoted in the Bible. “Go, and sin no more.” Usually this was after someone had asked Jesus to absolve him (or her) of a sinful action. (Sometimes, it may have been because it was expected of Jesus, for all I know.) Which means the people who went to Jesus were looking for divine forgiveness, just showing that forgiveness has always been somewhat of a difficult art.

I don’t think you need to be as good of a soul as Jesus Christ was to forgive someone, mind. But Jesus helps to point the way when times are hard, bad, and it seems nearly impossible to forgive. (Mind, my late husband used to make the point all the time that someone has to ask for forgiveness, otherwise it doesn’t mean much. Without someone asking, there’s no acknowledgment from the transgressor that there was a problem in the first place, making any proffered forgiveness a moot issue.) Jesus pointed out that we should do our best to forgive, and hopefully that person would “sin no more” against us.

I would imagine it wasn’t all that easy for people to go to Jesus and ask for forgiveness or any sort of help. People don’t change that much over time, and we’ve always been a stiff-necked lot, we humans. As affable, as warm-hearted, and as caring a personage as Jesus undoubtedly was — without those qualities, the Twelve Apostles never would’ve followed him — it still took courage for people to go to Jesus and ask for help, especially at first when Jesus was not known as a prophet, healer, or Son of God.

So, why did they do it anyway?

My best guess is that people, then and now, want to be absolved of guilt. They may have hurt someone, without wishing to do so. They may have coveted another’s wife or goods — in this day and age, we don’t seem to worry about that as much so long as people don’t act, but back then, coveting was definitely seen as halfway to action. They may have had a horrible fight with a loved one, and now want to know how to come back from that mess and let their loved ones know that was an aberration, something they’re going to try to get past…

Something they don’t intend to repeat, if they can help it.

Maybe they tried to go to the person they hurt, and the words came out wrong. Maybe the person they hurt wouldn’t listen. Maybe they were so injured in spirit, they didn’t hear the remorse…or perhaps the person now seeking forgiveness truly doesn’t know how to ask, so it came out sounding like mockery instead.

I don’t know about you, but I have tried to ask for forgiveness in the past, and that is exactly how I sounded. And I’m sure I’m not the only person among all the human beings who’ve ever lived on Earth to sound this way.

That’s where Jesus came into play. He was willing to listen, and people were willing to go to him and confide, because of two things: Sometimes, people are more willing to tell a stranger their troubles than a loved one, because the stranger doesn’t matter as much in the long-term scheme of things nine times out of ten. And if you’re lucky, that person you’re confiding in, that stranger, is a good person who truly wants to help you, and will point the way toward a better resolution for you and the person you have hurt without injuring your pride too much in the process.

See, that’s another thing about we humans. We are also a prideful lot. And half the time, we get our backs up precisely because of pride.

Yet another thing that gets in the way of asking for forgiveness is our unwillingness to admit to making mistakes. (As a perfectionist by nature, I understand this one, too. But we aren’t called upon to be perfect; we can’t be. As the old bumper sticker used to say, “I’m not perfect. Just forgiven.”)

So, we need to get past our pride. We need to admit to making mistakes. And we somehow have to keep from getting our backs up when we need to ask for forgiveness — or when we actually do our best to forgive someone.

Now, that’s the next layer in this forgiveness onion that makes it tough. Too many people say they’ll forgive someone, and then they mouth the words but don’t actually feel the actions. They don’t feel their heart get lighter. They don’t try to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. They don’t try at all to do anything other than go through the motions, maybe because they don’t know that forgiveness is a verb — or at least, it should be.

So, if you decide you’re going to forgive someone — after they’ve no doubt asked for forgiveness — you need to make damned sure you’re actually going to do that very thing. It may not be easy. It may take a while for you to forgive. But you should search your heart, and your soul, and do whatever you can to empathize with those who’ve transgressed, because that’s the best way forward overall.

Anyway, I don’t know if I, or anyone else, can “Go, and sin no more.” But what I do know is that I can do my best to care. And try to rectify any mistakes, while being humble enough to admit I do not know everything and cannot know everything.

None of us can, except the Almighty/Higher Power. And that personage (of which Jesus is surely a part of) is not telling us everything, probably because that takes half the fun out of living.

And yes, making mistakes, and having to ask for forgiveness (as humbling as that is), is also part of living. So if you can’t “Go, and sin no more,” keep doing your best.

Because life, as we know it, is a work-in-progress. And we forget that at our own peril.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 7, 2018 at 5:08 am

Why I Can’t Stand Roy Moore

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Folks, Roy Moore is a candidate for the United States Senate in Alabama. He’s a Republican. And he has been accused of serial sexual assault, with many of the women he’s allegedly kissed, groped, fondled, or worse being under eighteen years of age.

And I can’t stand him.**

Maybe this sounds weird to have to point out. But in this day and age of extremely partisan, tribal politics, I have to do so.

Mind, I didn’t like Moore before this. And had good reasons for disliking him.

Why?

Well, the man has always been a holier-than-thou sort. There was the whole issue of putting a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Bible up, commissioned by Moore while he was the Chief Justice of Alabama, and how he refused to remove it until he was successfully sued.

To my mind, while I dislike that, it’s not so horrible I’d be writing this post. (Not without the allegations of serial sexual assault, many of his accusers being under eighteen at the time, some as young as fourteen.) But one of the other things he did before all these other allegations came out was extremely troubling, too.

What was that, you ask?

Simple. Moore told judges and justices in his state of Alabama not to honor the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that LGBT couples would now be allowed to marry legally in all fifty states, and was removed from his post as Chief Justice because of it.

So, Moore doesn’t seem to believe the rule of law applies to him. We know this by both of these decisions.

And getting back to the current accusations against Moore, I must point out that some of the accusers who’ve come out against him — again, some being as young as fourteen — have said Moore was a District Attorney (and in his early thirties, at minimum) at that time.

I have a real problem with that, too.

Look at the evidence of the things we do know for absolute facts, that of the Ten Commandments decision and the refusal to allow LGBT people to marry legally in Alabama despite SCOTUS’s decision. These two things show that Moore seems to believe only in himself, and his own views, and dislikes, distrusts, and disbelieves everything else.

If that’s the case, it’s much easier for me to believe that Moore may well have believed that anything he did, said, or felt was right, and didn’t even hear any of the young (or younger) women who have apparently said “no” over and over again.

That Roy Moore may still win the Senate seat in Alabama really vexes me. He is, at minimum, hard-headed, difficult, frustrating, and believes only in the most narrow-minded version of Christianity (the type of Christianity, I think, that Jesus Christ himself would neither condone nor accept). He hates the LGBT community, he doesn’t seem to like women, he doesn’t seem to like anyone other than himself…

And at maximum, Moore has probably assaulted many women. Some as young as fourteen. Which should be an immediate disqualification from office…period.

So why am I writing all this? Because Moore has no shame. Anyone else would’ve gotten out of the race, but not Moore. Instead, he’ll stay until the bitter end, and is making a great deal of money from small, grass-roots donors (who either don’t believe Moore’s accusers, or don’t care; I’m not sure which is worse).

That is disgusting. Shocking. Reprehensible. And should not be borne.

And yet, the GOP Governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, has said two contradictory things:

  • She believes every single last one of Moore’s accusers.
  • But she will still vote for Roy Moore.

This makes no sense.

So, here’s the upshot, folks. I am appalled that this man is running for the Senate. I can’t stand him, and I wish he’d get out.

But since he won’t get out, I hope the voters of Alabama will do the next, best thing: vote for anyone else. (Including their dogs, their cats, or a wet piece of carpet lint.) Because any of them would make a better Senator than Roy Moore. Guaranteed.

—————

**Before anyone asks, I am against this sort of behavior. I detest it with a passion. I would hate it no matter who did it, and no matter what his/her political party affiliation. (That I have to even say this in 2017 is both maddening and frustrating. How tribal have our politics become, that I can’t even say I am very angry that a man accused of serial sexual assault is running for the high office of United States Senator without pointing out I’d detest that a Democrat, a Libertarian, or an alien did the same thing?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 17, 2017 at 6:16 pm

Sunday Reflection…about CHANGING FACES?

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Folks, over the last month or so, I’ve told you a lot about my new novel, CHANGING FACES. I’ve told you some of what I was about when I wrote it, and about my process in writing it, and about all sorts of other stuff…but as it’s Sunday, I thought I’d tell you the real reason I kept going.

After my husband Michael died in 2004, I was absolutely devastated. (I think everyone who regularly reads my blog knows this.) For a while, I didn’t recognize myself, at all…I was in so much pain, I could not create, could not write, could not play music, and saw no purpose to my life at all.

In the middle of 2005, one of my good friends asked me to come to Kansas City for a convention, ConQuesT. I had another friend offer to pay for my expenses while I was there; she and her family put me up in her house. It was the first time I’d tried to go that far away since Michael died, and because I was worried about the length of the drive, I took the Amtrak train from Chicago.

Little did I know that doing that would change my life. But it did.

I went to the convention, stayed with my friends, talked with my other friend (who was also at the convention), met some writers, all that. I felt a little better, being around people who were more like me; they didn’t see me as inherently flawed, inherently broken, or inherently irredeemable, just because my beloved husband was dead.

But that was not what changed things. (I’m getting to that, trust me.)

On the way back to Chicago, I met a minister and his wife. His name was Reverend Evans, and was an older black gentleman. He told me about his life, and his work, but mostly listened to me as I told him about everything going on — my frustration, pain, anger, rage, all that. And about how I couldn’t write, but had two novels in progress — ELFY, and CHANGING FACES. And that I wondered if there was any reason, any reason at all, I was still alive.

Rev. Evans could’ve easily thrown platitudes my way. But he didn’t.

Instead, he said that God is love, and that I knew that, because I’d seen it. Reflected in the eyes of my husband, for one; and in every word I wrote, and had ever written, for another.

This all made sense to me.

And he talked a great deal about CHANGING FACES. He said he thought I was still here to finish it. Because the world needed to know that we all need love. Regardless of race, creed, sexuality, gender preference, love is what matters.

And finding love, reflecting that love, is what’s most important.

But believing in yourself, and your talents, is also important.

Why?

Because that’s how we best enhance the Godhead.

See, our creativity comes from the Higher Power, and as such, when we are creative, we are reflecting that love and faith…and it gives back to the universe, which gives back to us.

I view talking to Reverend Evans as one of the most pivotal moments of my life. He reminded me that I still had things to do. And that even though Michael had been embraced by God/dess, and was no longer here for me to embrace, I could still be a testament to that love, so long as I kept trying.

And I’d like to think that in getting ELFY published (albeit in two parts, as AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE) along with CHANGING FACES, I have done some of what I was put here to do.

*****

There are two guest blogs I’d also like to point you to, before I go. The first is new today, and is up at Kayelle Allen’s blog…it’s about writing bisexual characters. (Or at least a bisexual character.)

Here’s a bit from that:

Now, as to why (Elaine) still couldn’t accept herself as gender-fluid easily? Well, as a society, we’re only beginning to learn about people who don’t always feel male or female. Sometimes they feel one way, sometimes another, maybe a third time they have a mix of both traits. Gender preference is not the same thing as sexuality; not by a mile.

So, Elaine has dated women and men. She sees the worth of a person and is not automatically attracted only to one sex. In a way, Elaine isn’t attracted by anyone, sexually. She’s only attracted mentally and emotionally, and then, much later, sex comes into the picture. But that’s not that strange, considering she’s a scholarly sort. She can see into a person, and evaluate who that person is, in a way most people don’t. She doesn’t even think to do this because how she views people is part of who she is.

Ultimately, love is love. Who you love is far more important than what gender your love happens to be. Seeing a person’s soul, seeing a person’s heart, seeing a person’s worth, is far more important than whether that person is straight, gay, bisexual, or Martian.

Obviously, I believe this. (So did Reverend Evans. So did my late husband, Michael.)

And the second is an interview with Mayra Calvani; here’s a bit from that about my favorite authors (hint, hint — I mention Katharine Kimbriel, Jason Cordova, and Chris Nuttall here, so do tell your friends):

First, Lois McMaster Bujold is one of the best writers working today. She combines humor, scientific expertise, world building, romance, characterization, heart, and much more in a package that is incredibly appealing. She’s considered one of science fiction and fantasy’s modern masters by many, and for good reason.

Second, the work of Katharine Eliska Kimbriel is phenomenal. She has written three hard SF books in her Chronicles of Nuala series, and three alternate history/fantasy books in her Night Calls series. They are all excellent books with great writing, wonderful characterization, world building to spare, humor that arises from the characterization…just can’t say enough about her books. (And that she isn’t as well-known as LMB just vexes me. Writing of this quality should be celebrated far and wide, methinks.)

Third, I’m fond of Linnea Sinclair. She combines romance and SF in a way I find very appealing.

Fourth, my early mentor, Rosemary Edghill, writes exceptionally well in a wide variety of genres, from detective stories to Regency romance to urban fantasy (and beyond). The way she uses language is wonderful, and I always learn from her work, whenever I pick it up. (It’s like meeting an old friend.)

“But Barb,” I hear you protest. “What about the male authors?”

Oh, I have a number of favorites there, too. Robert A. Heinlein, Stephen R. Donaldson, David Weber, Dave Freer, Eric Flint…and don’t discount my friends Chris Nuttall or Jason Cordova, either. (Chris is so prolific, he’s put out at least ten books a year in various genres for five years running. Chris has gotten so good, he just might end up with one of those major awards like the Hugo or Nebula one of these years. And Jason can write anything…just give him time, and he’ll figure out a way to write it and sell a ton of books. That’s just how he is.)

So, there you have it.

Have a good Sunday, folks.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 19, 2017 at 4:17 pm