Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Collaboration with a Purpose

Collaboration With a Purpose: Let’s Talk About Men (International Men’s Day)

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Folks, it’s International Men’s Day. And as promised, the bloggers who comprise Collaboration with a Purpose — including yours truly — are going to talk about men. We’ve talked about International Women’s Day before (here’s my post for that) and I, personally, mentioned International Women’s Day a couple of years ago…so it’s high time that International Men’s Day got its fair share, no?

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(Jane Love made the graphic above.)

Men, these days, often feel underappreciated. Too many times, they’ve been told they’re “privileged,” because they’re men. They’re expected to succeed from the get-go, and yet, they grow up with many of the same fears, struggles, and problems as women — what will I do? How will I become my best self? How can I find love and happiness? And so forth.

When men try to find ways to express themselves, they often aren’t understood. Compounding things for them, there are two big stereotypes that cause trouble; first, men are often expected to be the “strong, silent type,” and so showing emotions can be very difficult. Second, men are often supposed to be the breadwinners, even now, in most situations…to a much larger extent than most women, the garden variety guy out there worries about how he’ll take care of not just himself financially, but his family, too.

There are some folks out there now who seem to undervalue the fact that men struggle as much as women do with finding their place in the world. I don’t understand this. We’re all human beings. We have many of the same motivations, fears, desires, etc., and we all need to come to grips with who we are and what we’re going to do in this world.

But men, somehow, are just supposed to know what this is.

My late husband Michael assuredly felt like this. He told me, on multiple occasions, that when he tried to better himself educationally, his needs were not understood by his parents. He graduated high school a few years early, worked in a comic books store, signed up for the Navy as soon as he decently could (his mother had to co-sign, as he was still under eighteen)…and then, he had some sort of accident while running in Naval training that broke both knees.

He was eighteen years old. The only thing he’d wanted to do was now closed to him. So what was he going to do?

He went back home after his knees healed. He started work as a typist for the Naval Base in Oakland as a civilian, probably because it was the closest he could get to his old dreams. And over time, he became a contracts administrator, because he found he was very good at both problem solving and small differences in contracts…and these two things added up to a job he could do that was useful.

Then, his world was rocked again when the Naval Base closed. He could’ve followed his job to a different base somewhere else, but he didn’t want to do that. He was married — not to me, as he hadn’t met me yet — and his then-wife had found work and he wanted to stay where he was. He loved San Francisco, you see…the place he’d spent much of his young life, and most of his adult life also.

So he stayed. And wrote fiction. And edited, sometimes, for friends. And worked on his art — he sketched, and his drawings had real life to them (unfortunately, I don’t have any of them with me, as they were lost during our move somehow). He also did a type of macrame with ropes, and sewed, and cooked…basically, Michael was creative as Hell, and any way he could create, he was going to do it.

Then he met me. In 2001.

He had been unemployed except for temp jobs and working for friends for over two years. He’d been on some dates, as his previous marriage had broken up (they remained friends until the end of his life, mind; one of the true amicable divorces I know about), and none of ’em had panned out. The women he’d met wanted men who made money. Or had a home, as in San Francisco, that denoted wealth. Or at least had a car, as that, too, denoted more than the average amount of wealth, as on-street parking is rarer than hen’s teeth, and on-street parking where you didn’t have to pay anything at all for it is even more difficult to find than that.

He was in his early forties. Distinguished-looking. He didn’t see himself as handsome. He was only middling tall. He used a walking stick (not a cane; call it a shillelagh instead), because of the old double-knee break and the finding of chondromalacia afterward (a type of arthritis; that’s what put him out of the Navy, when they found that). He felt like no woman would ever care about him.

But he met me. And found out he was wrong.

I think, for once in his life, Michael was glad to be proven wrong. (Michael loved being right more than anyone I’ve ever known.) I didn’t care about him not having work at the time, because I knew how hard-working he was, and the more I found out about him, the more intrigued I was. I didn’t care about him not having any money, because I didn’t have any myself. And I did care about him being creative, because I was creative, too…and had been vastly misunderstood, too.

Anyway, I put that in there to try to illustrate why Michael felt there would be no one out there for him.

I wonder, sometimes, if other men feel like this. They aren’t wealthy. They don’t have big houses. They don’t have fancy cars. They don’t have Rolexes, or any status symbol possessions. And our consumer-driven culture makes them think that no one will care, no one at all, unless they have these things…

But being a man is about much more than making money. It’s about caring for others, nurturing them, helping them. It’s about finding out who you are and maximizing your talents. It’s about sacrifice, sometimes. It’s about making choices, and rolling with the punches, and finding your own way through the thicket of what is supposed to be “masculine” behavior. It’s about finding yourself, and working on yourself, and doing whatever you can to do good in this world.

My husband succeeded, as a man.

And I will celebrate that success, all the days of my life.

*****

Anyway, here are the other bloggers this month celebrating International Men’s Day with me; go read their blogs, too, and let them know what you think!

Ipuna Black — International Men’s Day: A Father

Jane Love — A Real Man, Part 1

Mylene Orillo — A Tribute to All the Men in My Life

Sadaf Siddiqi (will be posting later due to family illness)

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Written by Barb Caffrey

November 19, 2018 at 9:50 am

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

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

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

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

hd minimalism 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

hd minimalism 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sadaf Siddiqi – “Value of Minimalism

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

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

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

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

Divyang Shah

Swati Kadam

Do check them out, OK?

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 5, 2018 at 5:22 pm

We Must Do Better and Insist on Better Health Care (A Collaboration with a Purpose Post)

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Sorry ’bout the lengthy title there, folks…on with the show, er, I mean blog.

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I am especially cognizant this year of World Health Day due to the myriad of health problems my family has suffered over the past year. Because of all the times we’ve been to the doctor, or in the hospital, or in the rehab center, I am more aware than ever about how we need better quality health care in the United States. (I can’t speak for the rest of the world, though my fellow bloggers have done so brilliantly. Links will follow at the end of this post.)

What I’ve seen shocks me. (And I thought I was unshockable.) A woman who needs hearing aids was in one of the rehab centers my family member dealt with this year, and can’t get them because she can’t afford them. She is over sixty-five, is retired, has Medicare–meaning, she does have state-sponsored insurance that’s subsidized by the federal government–and she still can’t afford hearing aids.

This affects her quality of life.

This affects how she can interact with her family, her grandchildren, and those working with her to help her heal up so she can go home.

There’s something wrong with a country that doesn’t find a way to help someone who needs hearing aids find a way to get them. (She is willing to pay, mind. Her daughter told me that. But it’s a matter of making it affordable so she can, and still eat, pay her bills, and afford her medications.)

Or how about this? I, myself, have dealt with a problem trying to get any help with my vision. I have Obamacare. I am eligible to be seen and get glasses, which would be subsidized (but not free)…yet every time I try to set up an appointment, and I’ve been trying now for over two years, I am told there are none.

So, I continue to wear glasses that are over two years old. My backup pair is over ten years old. My vision hasn’t changed much in all that time, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have a checkup or get another pair of glasses that is perhaps a little bit more up-to-date than my backup pair.

How many other people are out there who can’t afford to pay full price for glasses, thus wait to be seen, and then never get an appointment because it’s supposedly always full?

Then, there’s the problem of paying for medication. My family members have radically different insurance. One has no help at all to pay for her prescriptions. Another has some help. But when your medicines can cost over $300 per month — yes, one of the cardiac meds my mother takes is at least that expensive — the co-pay is still plenty high. And when you’re on a fixed income, in retirement, coming up with that high co-pay is damned difficult.

Why is this considered acceptable?

Then, there’s the problem of getting doctor’s appointments when you’re sick. (I know first-hand about that one, too.) Getting your doctor’s office to even call you back is a pain in the buttinsky. And then, if you do get to talk with a nurse, they just send you to urgent care anyway, so why did you waste your time?

In short, there are major problems with health care.

Right now, we have a proliferation of forms, a proliferation of HMOs, PPOs, and all sorts of other alphabet-type agencies, that basically boil down to, “No, we’re not going to help you.” And that is utterly unacceptable.

Mind, there are wonderful people in health care. I’ve met more great nurses and doctors (much less PAs and CNAs) than I can shake a stick at. These people genuinely want to help, but they are overwhelmed by paperwork and there aren’t enough slots to see everyone who needs to be seen. And nothing at all seems to get done whatsoever about fixing these systemic problems.

The World Health Organization has done this World Health Day since 1948, to call attention to the need for better health care for as many people as possible. (Preferably, it would be for every single last one of us, and that is indeed their goal.) And this year, their slogan is called #HealthForAll.

I think we badly need to be reminded that health must be cultivated. We have to have enough resources to help people get hearing aids when they are on fixed incomes. Or afford expensive cardiac medicines when they are on fixed incomes. Or have access to doctors, nurses, and appropriate care, while being treated as the human beings we are rather than an inconvenience or worse, someone to be brushed off and ignored.

So I’m pleased that the Collaboration with a Purpose group wanted to talk about World Health Day this year. It is something that is close to my heart. And it is something we desperately need — better health care, for as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible, so we all can live better and happier lives.

Because if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.

Period.

Now, please go check out my fellow Collaboration with a Purpose group members, as they all have interesting takes on the subject. (Links will be added as their posts go up.)

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

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Dedicated to Women Worldwide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because that’s what matters.

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

Divyang Shah

Mylene Orillo

Tajwarr Fatma

Sonyo Estavillo

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

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

Ipuna Black

Swati Kadam

Sadaf Siddiqi

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 8, 2018 at 8:00 am

Celebrating the Love of Friends: A Collaboration with a Purpose Post

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Folks, the Collaboration with a Purpose group wanted to talk about love. But not necessarily romantic love; any sort of love we felt like, save self-love (which we covered last year), would do.

So I decided, after much reflection, to talk about the love of friends, and why it should be much more celebrated than it is.

February Collaboration (main)

We tend to celebrate romantic love in this culture, and around the Westernized world. But when romances end, it’s our friends who comfort us; when our parents are ill, it’s our friends who comfort us; when we’ve had a horrible day, it’s our friends who comfort us. And those unsung people are the ones we often lean on, far more than anyone else, in order to live the best lives we can.

And I, personally, know this is so, because it’s exactly what I’ve done. While I love my family, and I care about them deeply, most of the time it’s my friends who hear my innermost thoughts and feelings.

Why? Well, they listen. They don’t judge. They often have good insights that come from different angles than the ones I’ve already considered. And they remind me that the family you pick — your friends, in other words — is just as important as the family you were stuck with by birth.

Friends care, in short, in a way that’s deep and powerful. It’s every bit as important as romantic love, the love of friends; in some ways, it’s more important, because if you’re with someone you care about romantically but you aren’t actually friends with them, that’s not much of a romance. (Just saying.)

So, we think love is all about this:

February Collaboration (optional)

 

And while there is a lot of that, in love — the lightness of being, the feeling that you can do anything — and while that is a wonderful picture (which is why I wanted to use it, though it was our “alternate” photo this time), I think the love of friends is actually more important.

Because friends stay with you, through good and bad. And friends don’t stop caring, no matter what…which is why the love of friends, arguably, is just as important as romantic love. (And I truly wish it were just as celebrated. Really.)

Now, go take a look at these blogs from my Collaboration with a Purpose buddies!

Divyang Shah

Mylene Orillo

Ipuna Black

Sonyo Estavillo

Sadaf Siddiqi

Nicolle K.

Jane Love

Swati Kadamb

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 5, 2018 at 6:14 pm

Welcome, 2018! New Year’s Resolutions, Anyone? (A Collaboration with a Purpose Post)

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Folks, this is the first Collaboration with a Purpose post of 2018. And thus, our group of bloggers decided what would be better than New Year’s resolutions?

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My view of resolutions, mind, is probably not like many of the other bloggers. I figure, you need to first change your attitude, and only then make a resolution to keep that change active. (This is directly opposite how most people approach this.)

Why do I take that tactic? Well, I’ve seen too many people crash and burn when they make a grandiose resolution (or two). Here’s a few resolutions I’ve seen others make that definitely have not worked out:

  • Vowing to take more cold baths (I mean, who does this?)
  • Exercising more (Too broad; what counts as exercise?)
  • Eating less (Too broad; you can eat less, say, of veggies and more chocolate cake, and you’re still technically keeping this resolution)
  • Taking up veganism (Nice idea, in theory, but very difficult in practice. Besides, it’s incredibly expensive for most people to do properly, and money is in short supply ’round here.)
  • Becoming a vegetarian after being a lifelong meat eater (Again, nice idea. Hard to do. Easier than veganism depending on what type of vegetarian you want to become, providing it’s not vegan.)

Now, what resolutions do I think are possible, after the requisite change in attitude? Here we go:

  • Trying to see the other person’s point of view once in a while, even if it’s difficult and seemingly makes no sense. (The mental exercise is good for you. Kind of like taking brisk medicine you really don’t want, granted…but still, good for you.)
  • Eating one serving more of fruit or veggies a day. (Starting small is the best way for your change in attitude to work.)
  • Finding an hour a day to spend either writing, meditating, or some combination of the two. (This is a good idea and again, it’s starting reasonably small. In my life, usually my paying job of editing takes over, or taking care of my family may take over, or perhaps my health will act up. But trying for one single hour is sensible, even though of course I want much more than that over time.)
  • Spending ten minutes a day doing some sort of physical activity (probably walking; maybe if I’m lucky, swimming)

See? The last four resolutions are doable. They require a slight shift in attitude, and to try just a little bit harder. And aren’t flat-out impossible, which is what tends to stop too many people from keeping any of their New Year’s Resolutions in the first place.

Now, I know that some people swear by cold baths. (Seriously.) And yes, some swear by veganism. (Yeah. Really.) And some swear by both at the same time — which sounds a bit odd, but whatever floats their respective boats.

But that isn’t me. I believe in incremental change. I know I can make the effort if it’s small. And small things add up over time to big results, if we only believe those results are possible….and maybe that, ultimately, is what New Year’s resolutions are all about — reminding us that change is indeed possible, if we’re only willing to work for it.

Now, take a look at my fellow bloggers’ views on the subject! Here are links to their blogs…more specific links will be added later, once their posts are up:

 

And do let me know what you think of this post…especially as we of the Collaboration are looking for more topics to discuss of an inspirational (or at least interesting) nature in 2018.

 

Reflections on 2017: A Collaboration with a Purpose post

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Folks, I am happy to write another blog for Collaboration with a Purpose, this time on the need for personal reflections. As I continue to struggle with a respiratory issue (though I am getting a wee bit better), I’m happy to discuss something that I hope won’t be too controversial…though in this day and age, where people seem to take offense at the drop of a hint, who knows?

So, here’s my take on 2017…ready?

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First, let’s talk about the good parts of 2017.

  • I’ve made some new friends, particularly among the bloggers who’ve taken part in the Collaboration with a Purpose group, and that’s a wonderful thing.
  • CHANGING FACES was completed, at long last, and was published in February as an e-book.
  • I realized, not without a lot of effort that I might not have had to put in were I not so hard-headed at times, that the heart can expand to fit wherever it’s needed. There’s always room for another friend, for example…the only trick, if there is one, is to let yourself feel and not censure yourself. (Not that all of your feelings will make sense; nope, that’s too easy. But knowing I can feel deeply again is a very, very good thing.)
  • I edited at least fourteen books, most in the SF&F genre.
  • My story “To Exist within Memory” was published by the Twilight Times e-zine in October, along with a reprint of my poem “Break the Dark Lens.”
  • I played my first musical solo on alto saxophone in over ten years in July, the Isaac Albeniz Tango (with band accompaniment from the Racine Concert Band, of course).

The bad?

  • United States politics was completely frustrating, incredibly vexing, sometimes stupefying, and always, always maddening. I just did not understand much of what the government did, nor why they did it, and wondered just how these people thought they should get paid for doing nothing. (Or in some cases, worse than nothing.)
  • Roy Moore. (See my recent blog on the subject.)
  • I suffered from self-doubt, especially after CHANGING FACES didn’t make much of a dent in the marketplace. I wondered, often, if anyone would ever read what I was writing aside from the occasional blog post, and if not, what my life purpose actually was?

So, it was kind of a mixed bag.

Mostly, though, I’m glad the year is almost over. The good parts of the year outweighed the bad, but 2017 is a year I’ll be happy to put in the rear-view mirror.

Now, go take a look at these other posts from my Collaboration with a Purpose buddies, as they’re all different, all interesting, and all memorable:

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 5, 2017 at 6:58 pm