Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Collaboration with a Purpose

Why Is Self-Acceptance So Damned Hard?

with 30 comments

Folks, this blog is part of Collaboration with a Purpose. This time around, we have fourteen bloggers talking about the difficulties with self-love and acceptance. And as I have a really difficult time talking about that l-word when it comes to the self, I’m going to use the term “self-acceptance” for all of it.

Collab with a purpose Self Love

Why is accepting yourself as you are so damned hard?

Think about it. If someone you know is having a hard time, don’t you reach out and say, “Hey. I care. I am here for you. It doesn’t matter how you screwed up. It doesn’t matter at all. I care, I’m here, and I want to help.”

But you don’t do that for yourself. (At least, most of us don’t.) Instead, we beat ourselves up for our mistakes. Because we’re supposed to be perfect, even though it’s OK if everyone else isn’t.

So why is it that we have such a hard time with self-acceptance, anyway? Why can’t we be as kind to ourselves as we are to others in similar situations?

I don’t know. I’ve pondered this for a long time, actually, but despite that, I still have no answers.

Maybe we’re supposed to struggle with this. Maybe we’re supposed to learn, no matter how slowly, how to see ourselves as others do. Or at least how to learn to forgive ourselves for things we’d forgive anyone else…to appreciate our own humanity, even though that means we will make mistakes, and plenty of them.

And sometimes repeat them, even though we’re working on not doing so, because that’s part of being human, too.

It’s hard to unlearn old habits. And it’s really hard to pick up new ones even after you’ve unlearned the old.

Maybe being upset with ourselves is like that. (Hear me out, OK?) It’s like an old, bad habit. We do something that we get upset with, and we chastise ourselves, all because we’ve criticized ourselves this way since we were small. And we don’t know any better way; maybe we don’t even realize there might be a better way.

But accepting yourself, warts and all, is not easy. It sometimes seems easier to accept your worst enemy than your own self, because you believe you should always be at your best, no excuses, no quarter. Even though anyone else — including your worst enemy — you’d agree with the caveat that everyone has their down times, and that we have to accept them. (That is, if you’re feeling like being kind. And I do hope you are, at least for the purposes of this exercise.)

It’s not easy to say, “All right. I’m still a valuable human being, no matter how many mistakes I’ve made, and no matter how often I’ve made them. I deserve to treat myself with kindness and respect, just like I’d treat anyone else,” because we’re not taught how to do that. We’re taught instead that if we think too much about ourselves, we run the risk of being narcissistic.

Or at least self-absorbed. And no one wants that.

All you can do, every day, is tell yourself that it’s all right to forgive yourself, the same way you’d forgive anyone else for the same thing.

And if it’s too hard to tell yourself, “I care, I’m not going to stop caring, and I am not going to hate you forever for screwing up big-time,” well, at least tell yourself that tomorrow is another day. And you can and will make it better, so stop beating yourself up already.

Self-acceptance is damned hard to achieve, no lie. But it is possible. And you should keep working on it, and figure out a strategy that works for you, so you can put your energy to its best use creating things of wonder and beauty — or at least not waste it beating yourself up.



Written by Barb Caffrey

September 5, 2017 at 12:25 am

Collaboration with a Purpose: Graduate School and One Step Toward the Impossible…

with 25 comments

Today’s theme for the group of bloggers I’m a part of known as Collaboration with a Purpose is “One Step Toward the Impossible.” And as such, I wracked my brains trying to find a topic.



Well, I actually had so many different ideas, I didn’t know which one to pick. (And yes, sometimes too many ideas is as much of a problem as too few.)

The three ideas were:

  1. My lengthy journey to get into graduate school
  2. The journey I’ve been forced to endure as a widow toward building a better and more fulfilling life
  3. The overall journey every person has in attempting to find himself/herself in a culture where many superficial things are celebrated to the detriment of what is true and real

So, what did I finally decide?

I thought discussing my journey to get into graduate school might be interesting. So, without further ado…

Graduate school was definitely a journey that started with a hesitant, single step. I remember going back to finish my Bachelor’s as a slightly older than average student, and telling my advisors that I wanted to go to grad school. That I’d always wanted to go. And what did I need to do so I could?

It turned out that first, I needed to clear up some old debts, so I could get my transcripts released from my undergrad work at another college. I needed to do this first, because until I did, I could not graduate with my Bachelor’s, much less aspire to anything else.

This seemed utterly impossible. First, I was flat broke. Second, I was getting a divorce. Third, I had so many bills that I didn’t have any idea how I was even going to live from day to day, much less anything else.

But I persevered. I took a single step of going back to school, first, even though I couldn’t officially become a degree-seeking student until I had fixed a certain amount of debt. Then, I took another step, and took lessons from probably my favorite overall clarinet and sax teacher, Tim Bell, one of the most encouraging and helpful people I’ve ever run across. Third, I took another single step by working on my music composition with Mark Eichner (who’s now my conductor in the Racine Concert Band)…I didn’t know how anything was going to shake out, but I was at least willing to try to put myself in a position to make it happen.

Then, one night, my mother and I were out at the old Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha, Wisconsin. We liked to go watch the dogs run, and yes, we bet small amounts of money on them, too.

That night, I bet $2 on a superfecta — meaning I had to get four dogs in some sort of order — and my superfecta was what they call a “partial wheel,” meaning I had picked two of the dogs to finish in a particular order, but the other two could come in elsewise. (I know this is not an accurate description, but bogging down this blog with how to work a partial wheel on a superfecta is not my idea of a good time. All apologies if this disappoints you.) And at first, I thought I’d lost.

My Mom checked my ticket, and said, “But Barb, you’ve got the winning combo. At least go up and check the ticket.”

I did, hoping like fire that I did have it. Because the winning ticket paid enough for me to fix the transcript issue, and become a degree-seeking student…

Yes, I had the winner.

I can’t tell you what a relief it was to find out I did have it, mind, ’cause I had been working hard toward this particular end for nearly a year by this time. I was upset  earlier that day, I remember, because of the divorce proceedings, and I’d needed distraction — thus the dog track.

Mom and I had other bills to pay, mind, but I knew that if I didn’t pay this particular bill now, I was likely to not ever get another chance. So, I paid the bill, got my transcripts released, became an official, degree-seeking student, and then asked what else I could do to make things easier on me to getting my degree. (I had to do my last thirty credits in residence at Parkside, mind, and the twelve credits I could take as a non-degree seeking student were already in the can. That means I had eighteen credits yet to go.)

My advisors, Tim Bell and Mark Eichner, told me to try out for a music scholarship.

I did, and I won the best one they had, which knocked half off my tuition. The rest, I’d have to pay in installments, as I was out of financial aid…but I was working full-time as a cashier and stocker, so I vowed to do just that.

While it took me a bit of extra time to make those three payments, I managed it. But then, I had some health issues, and had to take an incomplete in my favorite class of my final semester: United States History, senior-level. (Did I mention yet that I have the equivalents of minors in history and English? No? Oops…) I had to write a couple of papers to finish that up, and I had until the following May to get that in, or my grade — which had been an A before the incomplete had to be taken — would turn into an F.

I wasn’t about to let this stop me, either. So I wrote the papers. Did all the research. Turned them in, and got complimented by my history professor for doing so much work as he’d expected four or five-page papers, not twenty-five to thirty page papers.

(Am I an overachiever? Well, yeah…)

So, my degree requirements had been completed. I had my BA in Music. And I started looking around for grad schools.

I did a couple of auditions in the next few months, helped along by my family — without them, I’d not have been able to get there, as the money was definitely not there for me to travel. (And really, you have to do auditions in person if you want to be a music performance major. A tape only gets you in the door. I am reasonably sure it’s still the same way, because a tape can be altered; performance, in person, can’t be faked.) And I settled on a school, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, because I liked the saxophone teacher, Robert Fought, and believed he’d be able to teach me a great deal. (He did, too, down the line. Good teacher, Dr. Fought.)

At this point, I was offered a full-tuition scholarship and a job as a graduate teaching assistant, meaning I’d be paid a small stipend. The two were a package deal, and I didn’t hesitate to take advantage of it.

But then, life threw me another curveball. As I was readying myself to go to graduate school, I injured my back at work. And this was no minor injury, either; somehow, I pulled nearly every single muscle in my back, and was off work for nearly three months.

By the time I was able to get around again, the first semester (fall) had started at Nebraska. I didn’t know if they’d hold my TAship until the spring or not, but I told Dr. Fought I really did want to go to Nebraska and learn from him.

A number of other difficult things happened, but finally, I managed to get to Nebraska and start my graduate school education.

Note that this journey, which had once seemed impossible, started with a single step. It took nearly four years of hard work, a couple of good breaks I immediately took advantage of, and overcoming at least five bad breaks in the process. But I got it done.

This, to my mind, is what this theme is all about. So I hope my journey will help you all realize that if you set your mind to it, and you do not waver, and you give it your best effort, you, too, can do whatever you put your mind to.

I firmly believe that.

Now, go check out my fellow bloggers and their takes on the subject (the quotes are from some of their best lines, as summarized by the inestimable Nicolle of Stories of a Highly Sensitive Introvert):


  • Addison D’Marko (“If you want to achieve complete happiness one of the things you are going to have to do is care less. By this I mean stop putting so much thought into the things that do not matter.”)
  • Ajibola Sunday @ Inspirational Motivation (“The true definition of success is being happy and living up to your potentials.”)
  • Camilla Motte @ Moms on the Go (“We want to be help to the helpless. We all need love and support and I pray this community will be that for you.”)
  • Divyang Shah @ i think my way (“If someone don’t speak much, don’t interpret as a dumb, their mind must be working on something very big or may be he is a writer and observing surrounding on which he would come with some deep write-ups.”)
  • Jothish Joseph @ TheJothishJosephBlog (“Anybody can write “Extra” before “ordinary” but only people of courage dare to earn it…”)
  • Ipuna Black (“None of us are perfect or come from perfect backgrounds, but this doesn’t mean we can’t aim for a positive and fulfilling life. The life we all deserve.”)
  • Jane Love @ Harmonious Joy (“People who have a genuine say and a true voice of their own… not just an echo of some celebrity they think they love.”)
  • Manal Ahmad a.k.a. iamthatgirl @ Sensible Nonsense (“Who says oblivion happens to all of us? A single act of kindness makes sure you live on in somebody’s heart.”)
  • Mylene C. Orillo (“Where I’m at right now is a testament that ‘Dreams really do come true.’”)
  • Sadaf Siddiqi (“The best thing about memories, is one doesn’t realise they are making memories but once recorded, it just rewinds and takes one back to the beautiful series of life.”)
  • Sonyo Estavillo @ ‘Lil Pick Me Up (“I am here to champion anyone from the successful and confident folks, to those that are clinically depressed.”)
  • Tajwar Fatma @ LifeAsWeHaveNeverKnownIt (“When life hits you hard, hit back harder!”)
  • And of course Nicolle K @ Stories of a Highly Sensitive Introvert! (“Success, for me, is when I spend my days feeling happy, peaceful, fulfilled and without fear of lack. 😊”)

Any questions? Tell me about ’em in the comments!


Written by Barb Caffrey

August 4, 2017 at 6:37 pm

Strength: A Follow-up

with 8 comments

Folks, I am glad to be able to talk to you a little bit more about what strength is, what it isn’t, and how important it is in your daily life.


Last week, I wrote a post about strength, along with eleven other bloggers as part of the blog event Collaboration with a Purpose. We all came up with variations on the same theme: what is strength? Why is it important? Why should we care about it? What are we supposed to do about it? And what’s the meaning of it, anyway?

To me, it’s all about the power the mind, heart, and spirit. You have to believe that you can get past anything, even at your darkest times, or you just can’t function.

It’s really hard sometimes to believe that you can do just that, mind. Life can be overwhelming and stressful and frustrating and all-encompassing and exhausting.

Sometimes it’s tough to believe in yourself. Nothing seems to be going right. Everything seems to be stacked against you. And you wonder what the point is.

I’ve been there. Done that. Bought the t-shirt, burned it, buried the ashes, all that.

The important thing is, don’t give up. Keep trying, and refuse to allow whatever it is to bring you down.

Instead, learn from it. Grow because of it. And maybe, just maybe, at the end of the darkest hour, you’ll find peace — and it won’t just be from exhaustion.

Now, I’d like it if you’d go check out my fellow Collaboration with a Purpose bloggers, and see their takes on the subject of strength. Please check out the following links:

1. Addison D’Marko’s Post.

2. Ajibola Sunday’s Post.

3. Nicolle K’s Post.

4. Tajwar Fatma’s Post.

5. Camilla Motte’s Post.

6. Ipuna Black’s Post.

7. Jothish Joseph’s Post.

8. Jane Love’s Post.

9. Mylene C. Orillo’s Post.

10.  Sonyo Estavillo’s Post.

11. Manal Ahmad’s Post.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 13, 2017 at 10:56 am

Collaboration with a Purpose Is Back on July 5th…

with 2 comments

Folks, this is just a brief “hit-and-run” bloglet to let you know there’s another special event coming to the Elfyverse on July 5th. I’m one of twelve bloggers taking part in “Collaboration with a Purpose 2,” and this time, we’re going to talk about the toughest thing in the world to discuss: Strength.

That is, what is it, why is it important, and how do you find it?

(Take a look at the graphic if you don’t believe me.)


Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy this. I’ll have a list of all the bloggers for you tomorrow, and will include links to all on the 5th, as was true of the last “Collaboration with a Purpose” about loss.

Do take care and enjoy your holiday!

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 3, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Collaboration with a Purpose: Losing My Husband Changed Everything

with 27 comments

Folks, I’m one of ten bloggers talking about various forms of loss today in Collaboration with a Purpose.

Blogger Tajwarr Fatma (of came up with this idea (do visit her blog, OK?), and our joint purpose is to try to help others by letting them know they aren’t alone. We all have to deal with significant losses at some point, and the thought was that ten different bloggers might have ten different takes on the subject.


The theme is loss. How did you overcome it? How did you deal with it?

My topic is how I continue to deal with the catastrophic loss of my late husband Michael. He died in 2004, but without his influence on my life, and without the love he shared with me, I doubt I’d still be trying to make it as an author.


Michael was the most positive person I’ve ever been around, and he made me believe that I could do anything I put my mind to…I just had to keep after it, and keep trying, and not stop until the wall fell down, that’s all.

So, one day, I had the best and most supportive husband on the planet, someone who understood me and appreciated me and was into me, a wonderful and giving and caring man who also wrote and edited and was creative.

And the next, well, he had four massive heart attacks in one day over the course of ten hours. He couldn’t survive that, and he died.

His loss was devastating.

Even now, after so many years, I don’t have the words to express just how incalculable the loss of my husband actually was. Michael was my rock, my soul mate, and often my co-writer, and when he was with me, I felt whole. Loved. Understood. Appreciated for myself. And valued, not because I was a writer or a musician or anything, but because I was and am myself.

Michael even understood my health issues, and helped me work through them, so I could get more done with less wasted energy and effort.

When he died, all of that went away.

Or did it?

See, how I deal with Michael’s loss every day is to think about how much I love him.

Still. Always. Forever.

I love that man, and I feel his love for me, and it helps me go on.

No, he’s not here to make me dinners, or give me a backrub, or complain about politics (we both loved to do this), or come up with new stories, or edit anything I’ve got going, or help share the load with regards to paying work.

But his influence continues. I keep trying. I remember. I know how he felt about me. And it makes a difference.

In this life, I’ve met only a handful of people who truly have understood me, but none have understood me as well as Michael. He was my best friend, my everything…and all I can do to keep going is to tell myself that someday, in the positive afterlife (whatever shape or form that takes), I’ll see him again. And when I do, I want him to recognize me, and to know that I’m still the same person.

See, I can either celebrate his life, and do the best I can, or I can turn my face to the wall. I don’t see any benefit to turning my face to the wall, so I keep trying.

But yeah, some days, I do look at that wall, and say, “Hmm. Maybe today, I will stop trying.” Then I shake myself into sense, think, “Nah,” and go on and do what I was going to do anyway.

That’s what I learned from Michael. Accept that you feel lousy. Know why you feel terrible, even. But do what you were going to do anyway.

If it takes a little longer because of health issues or whatnot, so what? Keep going, keep trying, and do the best you can.

So, if you’re dealing with a significant loss like the loss of your husband, or a treasured friend, or someone you cared about deeply, try to be good to yourself. Realize there will be good days and bad days.

And most importantly, don’t listen to other people if they tell you that you’ve grieved long enough. It’s not up to them; it’s up to you what you do. If you need to grieve until you feel like you can take a step forward, you need to listen to yourself and do what you feel is right.

Just do your best. That’s all you can do.

But know that you aren’t alone. There are others on the same path as you, even if not at the same time, even if not in the exact same way.

As Buddha said (an apocryphal story, granted), there’s no one who’s not known loss. Every single person has known it, in one way or another.

May we use that knowledge to make us wiser, more compassionate, and more caring, eh?

Now, go take a look at the other bloggers’ takes on the same subject, will you?


Written by Barb Caffrey

April 19, 2017 at 10:00 am

Introducing…Collaboration with a Purpose

with 5 comments

Folks, I wanted to let you know that tomorrow will be a special day at the Elfyverse. I’m one of ten bloggers who’ve teamed up to post tomorrow on the overall theme of loss. Tajwarr Fatma (of asked me to be a part of this a while ago, and I’m pleased to take part.

This special event is called Collaboration with a Purpose.

Here, take a look at the nifty graphic:



So, as the graphic says, we’ll have ten different stories from ten different bloggers, all talking about different types of loss, all on the same day. The hope is that by sharing our stories, we’ll help someone realize he or she is not alone.

Because we all lose something, in this life. How we deal with that loss can make or break us as a person. Loss often defines us, at least until we figure out another way to define ourselves in spite of it — or maybe because of it.

In addition to my blog tomorrow, here are the other bloggers taking part (aside from Tajwarr, of course):


So please, do look in tomorrow, and see what I come up with for Collaboration with a Purpose, won’t you? (You might find it inspirational. Or at least interesting.) And I do hope it’ll help someone out there, at least a little bit.

Because that’s what it’s intended to do.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 18, 2017 at 10:47 pm