Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Covid-19

Monday Meanderings, AKA The Interminable Pandemic Blues

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This past year-plus, since Covid-19 hit, has been frustrating and confusing. While I’ve continued to edit, and have done a little writing (you can see it if you have Kindle Unlimited and borrow Fantastic Schools 3, then look for my story; you also could just straight-up buy Fantastic Schools 3 if you’d like), mostly I just feel stalled out.

Of course, there are reasons for that.

Life got turned upside down by Covid-19. So many different things happened, most of them bad, because of the pandemic. It’s been harder to concentrate on my writing — which embodies hope, to me at least — and it’s been harder to concentrate on my music or musical composition as well. (Possibly for the exact, same reasons.)

Even knowing that the United States is doing much better when it comes to the pandemic (we have vaccines, we no longer have to always wear masks, and sporting events now have crowds again) has not kick-started my creativity.

Mostly, I just feel tired. Wrung out. As if I’ve been Sisyphus, pushing the same boulder up the same, damned hill day after day after day, with no conceivable progress and no change on the horizon to make all my struggles make sense.

I wonder how many others feel this way. (Surely it’s not just me, right?)

That I’m suffering with yet another sinus/ear issue is not helping. Nor is the pain-spike I’ve been dealing with due to two rapid weather changes in the past week.

Anyway, the important thing is that I’m still alive to do my best in all available areas. (Yes, even though I admittedly feel like Sisyphus. A tired, achy Sisyphus, who can barely stand up, much less push that damnable boulder up the damnable hill.)

I’ll keep doing it for as long as I possibly can.

What are you doing during this interminable pandemic? What makes you feel better on gloomy days? Does anyone else who reads this blog feel like Sisyphus from time to time? Tell me in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 31, 2021 at 6:39 am

2021 Baseball Oddities, or, The Baseball Curmudgeon’s Rant

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Folks, it’s no secret that I am a huge baseball fan.

I have followed the Brewers almost since their inception in 1970. (I was quite young, but I remember Hank Aaron’s final games as a Brewer in 1976.) They have never won the World Series, but they have played in one (in 1982); they have come close, since switching to the National League, to getting to the World Series again, but have not actually gotten there. I say all this to explain why I am so irritated with 2021’s version of Major League Baseball (MLB).

First, there are the rules changes that happened last year during the height of the Covid-19 crisis. These are meant to shorten games, which made sense then — but doesn’t, now, considering there is a vaccine — and they are profoundly vexing.

What are they, and why do they frustrate me so much? Simple.

It used to be, in extra innings, that no one started on base to start the inning. This made sense. An extra inning was just like every other inning, and of course no one should be on base when they haven’t gotten a hit or taken a walk or gotten hit by a pitch, or any number of other legal baseball plays that would put them on base in a normal fashion.

But now, there’s a rule that starting in the tenth inning in normal games that the last person who made an out in the ninth inning gets to stand on second base. If that person scores. it’s an unearned run against the pitcher.

That rule reminds me of Little League.

Remember, these are MLB players. They are used to the grind of a 162-game season. They do not need to start on second base to shave off time from a game now that there is a vaccine.

But that’s not the worst rule.

The worst rule is that if a doubleheader is now played, the game will only be seven innings long.

Yep. You saw that right. Only seven innings.

That means that the eighth inning is when that stupid rule about putting someone on second base who doesn’t belong there and shouldn’t be there happens in a doubleheader. It also means that someone can pitch a complete game (which up until now was defined as a full, nine-inning game unless shortened by weather or other problems) and only go seven innings.

This reminds me of preschool ball, before the kids even get to Little League.

Again, these are pro players we’re talking about, used to the grind of a full season of baseball. They don’t need games to be shortened to only seven innings, and they definitely don’t need to start putting people on second base if they’re going to insist on that stupid rule until the tenth inning.

As a fan, these things irritate me quite a bit, as I’m sure you’ve figured out. But I have one, final piece of news to impart that’s even more infuriating than that.

I walk with a cane. I say this because I am considered to be a disabled person.

How does this relate, you ask? Well, in 2020, major league baseball decided to change the name of the list of players who can’t play from the disabled list (DL) to the injured list (IL).

Did they really think I can’t tell the difference between me, a truly disabled person, and someone who went on the DL?

To my mind, changing it was the height of political correctness. And it did not need to be done, at all.

So, to reiterate: we now have three different changes in MLB since last year. None of them make any sense in 2021. I definitely do not like any of them. And I wish they’d change them back.

P.S. The other night, I was frustrated when the Brewers lost, 6-1, in 11 innings to the St. Louis Cardinals. My mother and I had watched the game in its entirety together. The announcers, who were fill-ins from the usual pair of Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder, didn’t seem to understand that we and other fans had actually watched the whole game, and reiterated that the Cards had scored five runs in the top of the 11th several times before we even got to the bottom of the 11th.

I actually wrote in to the Brewers Facebook page to say how upsetting this was to both me and my mother.

I mean, I can count to five. Can’t everyone?

“Stay Calm” — A Message From the Past

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Folks, last year about this time I wrote the following message on Facebook, and I continue to stand by it:

Try to stay calm. This has thrown people for a loop, having their lives upended this way. Remember to do whatever you can to stay on an even keel (or as even as possible). Reach out to your friends and loved ones. Care, and keep on caring…never stop trying. That’s my advice.

(Of course, I was referring to Covid-19 when I said “this.”)

Most of us, for the past year, have struggled mightily due to the various restrictions and changes that Covid brought into our lives. Depression has been on the rise. People have been cut off from one another, been unable to touch each other or even stand within six feet of each other unless you’re all in the same household.

Human beings aren’t meant to live this way, which is partly why we’ve in general felt disconnected, anxious, and fearful. (I call ’em as I see ’em.)

But we can still help each other. We can let others know we care. We can reach out, as often as it takes, to let our loved ones hear the love in our voices. (Or, I suppose, our online presences.)

For my friends battling depression, my hope is that you will read this little bloglet today (or whenever) and realize that sometimes, the best we can do is the best we can do. Refusing to give up, refusing to believe that everything is always going to be bleak (or worse, black), and refusing to succumb to despair are all within our grasp. We just have to tell ourselves things will improve. Or at least that they can improve, and we have to stay around to find out just how they’re going to do that.

I also have one suggestion that may do you some good, especially if you’re battling depression.

Remember the Zen Buddhist trick I believe I’ve mentioned before (that my late husband Michael taught me)? Take fifteen minutes, and feel everything: all the pain, all the anger, yes, even all the despair. Whatever you’re feeling, go ahead and wallow in it for fifteen minutes. Then, after that, tell yourself, “Self, I have heard you. I appreciate what you’re saying. But it’s time to get on with everything else.”

Sometimes, that little trick has saved my sanity. Maybe it’ll save yours, too. (Here’s hoping.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 15, 2021 at 8:13 pm

Growing Pains

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I bet you, like me, thought that once you became an adult, you’d be done with growing pains.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Because things continue to happen, regardless of your age and experience, that broaden you — or don’t — and you can’t help but feel pain during these experiences.

You may be wondering why I’m writing this. I will admit that I am frustrated, upset, worried, have been sick for most of the past week, and am tired of 2020. But that’s not all of it…that’s just a part.

Mostly, I am wondering if there will be a day where I can hug my family members again. Or a day where I can greet a good friend with a hug or even a kiss (on the cheek).

Because one of my best friends came up with Covid-19, I now can’t visit her even though she’s successfully — as far as I can tell — gone through the 14-day quarantine. The fact is, I am around both of my parents daily. They feel the risk is now too great to see her, and if I picked her, I would not only have to move out of my home (as I share it with family), I’d not be able to see my family at all.

Such are the problems of 2020.

In addition, the guy I like lives in a different country. I don’t have any idea if I am going to be able to visit him anytime soon. This has put a strain on our developing relationship, and makes me wonder if we have it in us for the long haul.

And while yes, there are still good things going on in the world despite the pandemic, it’s all these frustrating things that are on my mind.

As my counselor put it a while ago, “It’s social distancing. It’s not supposed to be social isolation.”

Sometimes I wonder how well I’m doing with that, that’s all.

Anyway, I hope you all are staying safe, healthy, and sane…and are reading some great books. (I hope to talk about one such book soon, Leo Champion’s HUNTRESS OF THE STREETS. But that’s for another day.) Let me know how you’re doing in the comments…please?

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 16, 2020 at 7:56 am

Sunday Musings: One Step at a Time…

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Well, it’s Sunday again, so I figured I’d better write something. Here we go…

Lately, I’ve been struggling with a number of issues. The world at large seems stifling…the fact that Covid-19 rages on, and that “real life” remains so constrained, definitely does not help.

A week or so ago, my father told me, “So, what’s the big deal? Your life hasn’t changed that much since the pandemic.” His view was that I mostly do everything I’ve always done, except for wearing a mask while I do it.

Maybe that’s true. But it doesn’t feel that way.

As a writer, I observe things more keenly than most. And what I’ve observed is that societally speaking, we seem to be in a free fall. We’re tired, we’re frustrated, we’re angry, we’re definitely not happy…and the few who usually try to find bright spots mostly seem to be muzzling themselves. (Except maybe for posting various cat and dog pictures; they’re nice, but don’t make up for everything else.)

I know I usually try to concentrate on something positive, or uplifting, or at least interesting. And the past few months, I’ve been in a rut of my own that has made it hard for me to do any of that.

Why? Well, I think part of it is because 2020 has been so difficult. Everything I’d wanted to accomplish has been slowed significantly. And that’s extremely vexing.

One of my writer-friends sent me an essay that I wish I could find right now. The essay pointed out that sometimes, rage is your friend. It may stop you from writing in the short-term, but providing you do not give up, the rage can give you enough energy to keep going until you can write again.

But in case rage doesn’t do it for you, consider it from a different angle.

A book I read years ago called THE QUOTIDIAN MYSTERIES discusses just how these fallow periods in our lives can lead to greater creativity in the end. We seem to need these empty spaces with regards to our creativity for some reason, just as fields need to be left fallow every so often.

In other words, we have to trust the process.

And speaking solely for myself, I have to believe that this fallow season will come to an end, and my creativity will reassert itself as soon as it possibly can. And providing I stick it out, the words — and the stories — will come back full-force just as soon as they possibly can.

What are you doing during the pandemic to best utilize your creativity? Or at least keep yourself from running around, screaming? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 25, 2020 at 3:02 am

Hold on to Hope, Despite it All…

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It’s been hard for me lately to hold on to hope. I admit that freely.

Why? Well, the world situation — the coronavirus in particular — is depressing. And the situation in the United States is even worse; Covid-19 is running rampant in many states, including my own Wisconsin. Hospitals here are getting overrun in some areas, and because of that some very little-used rural hospitals are getting a plethora of patients sent out to them. Then there’s the presidential election, which bids fair to become “who can throw the most mud and make it stick,” the wretched economy, which hasn’t bounced back to pre-Covid levels, the huge amount of unemployed people, the foreclosures and evictions because people don’t have any money…the list goes on and on.

All of these things contribute to my feeling of overall wretchedness. Because I can’t do much about them.

The thing is, giving in to despair and hopelessness — even if they’re caused by damned good reasons — doesn’t get you anywhere.

So, how can you hold on to hope, when everything you see seems gray, depressing, frustrating, and anxiety-inducing? I don’t have all the answers to this, but I can tell you a few things that have worked for me.

  1. Reading a book for no other reason than it makes you smile
  2. Watching a movie, because it takes your mind off your troubles
  3. Do something for someone else whenever possible, even if no one seems to appreciate it
  4. Take a long drive in the countryside, and sing along to your favorite songs at the top of your lungs
  5. Writing for the pleasure of it
  6. Playing or composing music
  7. Talking to a good friend (or two, or six)
  8. Petting your dog, cat, or anyone else’s friendly dog or cat whenever possible

All of these things remind me that life still has good things, and good people, in it; they remind me that I have more to do, and that I can maybe have a little fun while I do what is needful. And they remind me that hope, indeed, is still possible…and still worthy of pursuit, even during a time where all seems dark, grim, depressing, and awful.

What do you do to remind yourself that hope is still possible? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 1, 2020 at 6:14 am

Why We Need Empathy Now, or, Why You Should Never, Never Punch Down

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Folks, I have been bemused — at best — by a complete and utter lack of empathy among many folks I know. I understand that tempers are frayed; we’ve already endured one lockdown and may have to endure another; the economy sucks; Covid-19 remains rampant in the U.S.; and no matter what we do, we can’t get away from these realities.

That puts a lot of stress on us, no lie.

But getting mad at grocery store clerks for having to enforce a mask mandate is stupid. Getting mad at someone who’s drawing unemployment because the U.S. government gave people under severe distress an extra $600 a week for several months is even more stupid. (Especially if you factor in the huge waits most of these folks had to get benefits they’d paid into. Unemployment insurance is not welfare. You pay into it when you’re working so you can get some help if you lose your job through no fault of your own. Losing your job due to the pandemic certainly qualifies.)

Getting mad at others because you, yourself, are up against it and hurting is very human. Yes, it is. But we are more than our basest impulses (or at least, we should be). And there are better people to be angry at than store clerks or medical personnel (many folks who can’t or won’t wear masks are angry at them, for some weird reason, as if they wanted Covid-19 about any more than the rest of us), and there are far better people to be angry at than the unemployed.

Simply put, if you are angry, you should turn that energy into something positive.

Here’s a few things to do:

Write to your Congressional delegation. Tell them what’s on your mind. Explain what you want them to do. And if you see them doing nothing, make sure you remember that when it comes time to vote.

Write to your doctors’ offices, if you can’t wear a mask due to PTSD or anxiety; explain that you do not want to hurt them or yourself, but you can’t wear a mask. Don’t stand on this pseudo-Libertarian argument that says, “Dammit, I have rights! I don’t want to wear a mask, and you have to see me anyway!” It’s a public health emergency, so no; they don’t. But you can get some help if you admit you have PTSD, severe anxiety or are so damned depressed you can’t handle the mask if you ask for that help, nine times out of ten. (The tenth time, you should write to whoever heads up the medical practice and complain to high Heaven.) Can’t they give you anti-anxiety meds before you are seen, so you can maybe get through the appointment without screaming?

And if you need surgery, and are again someone who can’t wear a mask — not just don’t want to, but can’t (as I don’t think any of us wants to wear masks, quite frankly; I’m asthmatic and I hate the damned things, but if they even give a scrap of protection to someone else I’m going to continue to wear the damned things because I don’t believe in hurting others to save myself) — please see the above.

And for the true Libertarians out there, I want you to consider this. I agree with you that you don’t have to wear masks. But if you don’t wear them, and a store requires it — which is something stores can do — don’t get mad at the clerks. (Yes, I’ve already said this, but it bears repeating.) Those folks don’t want to have enforce the stupid mask mandate any more than you want to be complaining about it.

The real problem, again, is Covid-19.

“But Barb,” you ask. “What’s this about punching down and needing empathy?”

Empathy is required to get through these exceptionally difficult times. We need to be kinder, not worse; we need to turn the other cheek more, not less. We need to remember that we’re all human. We’re all trying our best. We all are coping the best we can without running around and screaming, and need others to be as kind and gentle to us as we are to them.

The whole thing with punching down is, if you are angry with the people on unemployment for receiving extra money that they didn’t ask for but the government gave — why in the Hell are you mad at the people getting the unemployment rather than the government who offered them extra money during this time of unprecedented, multiple crises? (Mostly, again, due to Covid-19.)

These folks are hurting through no fault of their own. (See: Covid-19. Repeat as necessary.) You should not be angry at them. (And needless to say, you are not showing any empathy, are you, if you’re getting mad at people who’ve lost their jobs due to a pandemic drawing unemployment to feed their families and pay their bills?)

Be angry at Covid-19, if you must. (Not that it’ll care; it’s a virus. But still.) Be angry at the government for not preparing better for all of this.

Hell, be angry at the young adults acting like they’re immortal and partying on the seashore without masks and certainly without any social distancing. They’re a big part of why Covid-19 just won’t die in the United States, OK?

But don’t get angry at folks who need help. Don’t get angry with the doctors, even though a lot of what they do and say is frustrating. Don’t get upset at the people just trying to do their jobs without getting sick and perhaps dying, because for some folks, Covid-19 is more deadly than others (and they still don’t know why).

Channel your anger into something productive instead. Or better yet, try to understand why others are hurting, and do something, anything, to alleviate that hurt.

We must rise to the occasion and become better people. That’s the only way we can triumph over adversity that has any meaning and worth at all.

And remember: we need empathy. We need it now. We need it worse than we’ve ever needed it before. So be empathetic, and do your damndest to help others.

In short: Stop punching down. Lift others up, instead.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 2, 2020 at 10:57 pm

The Truth and Covid-19

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Folks, lately there has been an assault on the truth the likes I’ve never seen.

First, there are the Covid-19 deniers. The folks who say there is no such thing.

Those are the worst of all. Because they are denying something because it hasn’t happened to them. (That is what narcissism is all about, to my mind, even though that is not its classical definition.) And because it hasn’t happened to them, goodness knows, it couldn’t have happened to anyone else.

Second, there are the Covid-19 minimizers. These folks say it’s not that bad. That most people will live if they get it. (True enough, though incomplete.) That the worst cases are only happening to people with pre-existing medical conditions or those of us who are overweight/obese (or, forgive me for using this offensive term, morbidly obese). And they say this with a casual disdain, as if these folks deserved to die or be severely impaired for the rest of their lives.

They aren’t much better than the first group. Not really. Because most of them haven’t had any relatives, doctors, or even casual acquaintances come down with it. And because it hasn’t happened to anyone they know, they figure it’s not really happening to anyone.

And third and somehow even more deadly group of people are those of the above two groups I’ve already mentioned who happen to be in the United States government right now. These people are making public policy, and yet they don’t have all the facts. Worse, they don’t seem to want all the facts…because that would interfere with their worldview, and goodness gracious, they can’t have that. (/sarcasm)

I am frustrated with these people. They don’t learn unless it happens to them. And sometimes, even if it does, they learn the wrong lessons.

Granted, we are all free to learn anything we want from our mistakes. But Covid-19 is so deadly to a certain percentage of the population that making too many mistakes will kill millions.

That’s a fact, too, whether anyone in those three groups I mentioned will ever admit it.

The truth about Covid-19 is that it’s awful. It has struck down people from all walks of life. It has struck down people of all ages, including the youngest (not many of them so far, but some). And some who’ve lived through it will be profoundly impaired the rest of their lives.

Now, me saying all that doesn’t mean you should panic. Because panic doesn’t get you anywhere.

What I am saying is that you should not deny reality.

Covid-19 exists. Take reasonable precautions. Do what you can to stay safe.

And if you are someone who cannot wear a mask due to any reason, be extra-cautious. Do what you can to stay in your car if you must leave your house. Let others do your grocery shopping, as much as that galls, as well as any other errands you have.

The final, vital thing I need to mention today is that you must prioritize your own life and health right now. No matter what anyone else says, you must do this.

That way, if you disagree with 100% of this blog, you can argue with me later as to how bad Covid-19 really was…rather than insist now it’s not a terrible thing, and end up finding out the hard way later that you were utterly, utterly wrong.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 29, 2020 at 3:40 pm

Continuing On, Independence Day Weekend Edition…

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Folks, we’re about to hit July 4th — Independence Day — in the United States. That’s a major holiday, where we normally have fireworks, music, and parades.

Not this year, though.

This year, due to Covid-19, Independence Day is going to look a whole lot different. There will be no local concerts (and very few, if any, live concerts in the United States). There will be no parades. And in most of Wisconsin, there will be no fireworks.

In fact, we’re going to have a repeat of last year’s fireworks on local TV. And, perhaps, some repeats of concerts as well. (No word on if anyone’s going to show a repeat of the various parades, though it wouldn’t surprise me.)

It doesn’t feel much like a holiday, to my mind, because we are lacking all of those things. Plus, there have been so many deaths due to Covid-19 in the United States that it’s hard to be festive anyway.

But we must continue on, and do whatever we can. Live our lives, help others, read books, listen to music, continue to do whatever we can to further our pursuits (in my case, music and writing), and refuse to surrender to the despair and anxiety that seems to pervade the United States right now.

We’re also dealing with a heat wave in Wisconsin that isn’t helping. (It’s humid, hot, and nasty, with poor air quality. Definitely not my cup of tea, and I don’t think it’s something most people would want to deal with if there were any other options.)

Because of all of that, I wanted to make sure I reminded everyone to do the following five things:

  1. Be kind
  2. Stay hydrated
  3. Eat when it’s a bit cooler, so it has more likelihood of staying down
  4. Work smarter, not harder
  5. Give yourself a break now and again, the way you (hopefully) do for others in similar situations.

If you can do those five things, you’re going to be better off in the long run as well as the short run. And it may remind you that this, too, can be overcome. (But it will take time, and most of us — myself included — are not patient.)

What’s your plan for Independence Day? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 2, 2020 at 2:35 pm

Compartmentalization Vs. Alienation

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I’m worried about the state of the world. I truly am.

As I write tonight, there are many cities in the United States that have protests — some peaceful, but most not — over the senseless killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. That now-former officer knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck for six minutes, and the other three police officers around him did nothing. Mr. Floyd was black; the now-ex officer was white. It was a non-violent crime that Mr. Floyd was alleged to have committed — he may have passed a counterfeit $20 bill — and he was not resisting arrest in any way.

We have every right to be angry over this. It was reprehensible behavior by the now-ex officer. (I will not name him, as per my long-held beliefs that bad actors should not be named.) Mr. Floyd should not be dead.

But watching the protests is deeply disconcerting. People are rioting, and often burning their own neighborhood businesses; that only hurts themselves down the line, along with the innocent business owners. People are letting their anger, their justifiable rage, spill over to the point it almost seems as if the world is on fire.

And that doesn’t even go into half of what’s going on in the world, as Covid-19 is still rampant. In the U.S., we have had over 100,000 deaths, as I’ve said before. In three months! And many people who’ve been changed for the worse for life, who will live with lifelong health ailments…the hospitals in this area continue to be overloaded, the medical professionals are stressed to the max, and everyone’s on edge.

I think these two things are part of why cities are burning tonight. People are alienated, and people are scared. They don’t know what to do. They don’t think anyone cares. They don’t think anyone is listening. And they wonder what in the Hell the point is.

I get it. And I am worried.

“But Barb,” you ask. “You said something about compartmentalization in your blog title. What the Hell is that about?”

Well, I don’t know about you, but I still have to get my day-to-day stuff done despite the background of chaos that seems to be everywhere. That I can’t shut out. That I wish I could help, but for the most part can’t do anything about other than be as upset as everyone else (but hopefully in a more constructive way than burning everything to the ground).

The only way I can get stuff done — whether it’s writing, editing, or anything else — is to compartmentalize my brain. To say, “OK, I’m going to do whatever I can do right now on this one, small thing. I am going to keep trying, and keep my head up, and do positive things, even if they don’t matter to anyone but me.”

I think this is all I, or anyone else, can do right now.

But yes. I remain deeply concerned. And I wish I knew what else to do, as the world — or at least the United States — continues to burn.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 30, 2020 at 8:32 pm