BE BRAVE FRIDAY

This week I reached out to another woman even though I was afraid to. If you don’t know, I’m actually technically an introvert. Reaching out is hard for me.

But it wasn’t about me being an introvert.

I was afraid to reach out to her because I’ve started a local news newsletter/blog and this person is someone who shows up in the news. At a meeting, I watched someone else try to vilify her and another person call her an adjective that is often used as a derogatory qualifier for women who have hope in positive outcomes.

People have called me that adjective a lot especially when it comes to political issues or politics in general or even when it comes to my faith that humanity can be better, that as individuals we can make the right choices.

If I reached out, I wondered, would she scoff? Would she think I was ridiculous? I decided that I didn’t care because it mattered more that she knew that someone saw and recognized what she dealt with—even if that someone was just me.

At the meeting, I didn’t speak up because I don’t think that a reporter’s role is to shape the tenor of a meeting, but it was incredibly hard for me not to speak up because what happened pulled at two of my core beliefs: trying to be an impartial reporter of the news to the best of my abilities AND standing up for people who are being maligned. I beat myself up about my choice for a while.

But the next morning, I ended up emailing her, telling her that I saw what happened and that though I wasn’t her mom or her friend I was really proud of her for being brave.

Why was she brave? Honestly, I think that anyone in local politics who puts themselves out there in the hopes of trying to make a better community, to create compromise, and to try to do that in a vulnerable and kind way? That’s pretty damn boss. I definitely don’t agree with every local politician’s political decisions, but for the ones who go into that political arena with good intentions? It’s so hard.

So, I guess my point on this be brave Friday is that if you see someone else being brave? Give them some props. Let them know that you see them. Actually, maybe it doesn’t even have to happen when people are being brave. Maybe we can just all actively work on letting people know, no matter what they are doing, “I see you.”

I see you.

I hope you all have the best weekend. Shaun is doing something super ridiculous on our live podcast tonight, LOVING THE STRANGE. And there is an art sale this weekend of my things. Also, our latest episode of our true crime podcast, DUDE, NO is here and it’s all about a Maine man who was shot by deputies, mummified accidentally and toured the country after he died.

Mid-Life Crisis or Breaking Out of Our Comfort Zones? You Decide.

As I started down the cobblestone path towards the cruise ship tender line, pushing a bright blue book cart, one of my friends sat in an Acadia Gem, these cool rentable cars. We aren’t close friends, but I’ll call her that anyway because I wish we were closer because she’s funny and smart and real.

“You guys with the band?” she teased, nodding at Shaun who was carrying boxes and me, pushing a bright blue cart with boxes on it.

“Um . . . no? I wish? Party all the time, all night every night?” I offered like the dork I am. I think I possibly did a band hand sign for love or something because that’s my level of social awkward.

Shaun, being Shaun said with his I-used-to-be-a-cop voice, “We’re starting a store.”

And he kept on walking.

I, however, stayed to explain a little bit about our really really small retail space, and she looked at me and wisely said, “Are you having a mid-life crisis? You’ve started a news blog. You’re selling your art. A new podcast and now a store?”

I did not tell her that we have two other ventures we’ll be starting this year, too. Instead, I stared at her and offered, “Maybe?”

The view from the back of our little shack

Maybe?

Maybe my need to make sure I don’t go bankrupt and always have an income is just a mid-life crisis that I’ve been having since I was fifteen?

I explained that in four years, Xane (our kiddo) will probably be out of high school (if they get to go to high school), and Shaun and I will be free to wander, and we really want to wander, to explore the world, the way she and her husband did for a couple years. I told her how seeing their travels and posts made us realize how much we wanted to do that too. That she and her husband were an inspiration.

That might be a mid-life crisis or it might be the American way, trying to find something—anything—a little more stable that allows you to be a little more free, to find that work-life balance before life is gone.

Last Friday I had a vague mopey post and so many of you were super kind about it even though I didn’t explain. It was because one of my relatives died (not a super close one, there’s more about it on LIVING HAPPY, my blog), but it shook me. This life is so short. So short even when it’s long.

So, yes, it’s time to take risks even though they stress me out and scare me. We’ve got to live with kindness and purpose. We have to believe in other people and ourselves even when it’s terrifying. And hope.

We always have to hope.

And we also always have to remember that even in something like a Facebook post, we might be inspiring someone else to make chances, to do things, to live. ❤

The actual back of our little shack

We’re also just launched a new podcast called DUDE NO. It’s true crime. It comes out on Tuesdays. This last episode is about a case Shaun helped solve a few years ago, about a man whose life and identity was stolen from him because of greed.

And we have LIVING HAPPY, a a newsletter/blog for people who want to know how we manage to live happy despite all the crap that is happening in our lives. A good place to start there is this one: “No More Hiding Who We Are.”

So, I’m teaching another cool six-month class at the Writing Barn in Austin. It’s a pretty fantastic place. And the class is super fun. I’ve had a ton of students get unblocked and get published and get awards and things. It’s a lovely community. You should check it out or just come hang out with me as your writing coach. I offer a ton of different options.

Be Brave Friday – Becoming

It’s BE BRAVE FRIDAY, and so many of you are being brave in really big ways every single day. Dealing with cancer. Dealing with kids. Dealing with justice issues and war or work things. Dealing and dealing and dealing.

My offering today isn’t all that much. Not in the big scheme of people’s lives.
I think part of this painting was originally inspired by something, but it’s been so long now that I can’t remember.


For years it was just this girl on a blank canvas. She was made of blobs. The blobs connected to make a person. Each blob a moment, a memory, a joy, a pain. She had one hand lifted like she was ready to create something.


But there was nothing there.


Blank canvas mostly.


I took the painting into the basement and because it was so old and so raw and I couldn’t remember what inspired it, I just started filling in the blankness.


And she started to become something else. A dreamer? Definitely. But maybe also a creator? Maybe someone who didn’t care that she was made of blobs because she could recreate who she wanted to be, who she dreamed of being, and it could explode out of her fingertips.


I hope you can recreate yourself if that’s what you want, that you can put all those blobs together and become. Not necessarily become something more, but just become.


And no, I don’t think this is done yet. I think it’s still becoming. Just like me. Maybe just like you?


XO

Carrie


Be Brave Friday- The Overwhelm

I am not feeling terribly brave today.

I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed. My work load these past two weeks (and until Tuesday) has been huge. A lovely writer that I work with in Write Submit Support at the Writing Barn (and who only knows what I do there) said, “I don’t know how you get done all you do.”

Sometimes I’m not sure either. And weeks like these, where I will have read about 700,000 or more words and written well over 1,000 pages of feedback, working from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Plus, my own story, sandwiched in between deadlines, makes me not terribly balanced in this thing called life.

I’m lucky because I have work and work equals money to support my family, and that’s important.

I’m lucky because I really love story and helping people make their best ones.

I’m lucky because I have work. And yes, I’m already stressed about making enough money in May because that’s the way my anxiety rolls.

And Tuesday will come. And I’ll get to rest soon. And I am so lucky to be a part in other writers’ journeys as they forge ahead creating this brilliant stories out of their amazing brains.

Gosh though, right now, I’m so tired.

But Tuesday will come.

And I will jump into its arms, grateful and tired, but mostly grateful.

This is an old painting because I’m not quite brave enough to share thanks to:

1. Money anxiety

2. My tiredness

3. Not having a new painting, mostly because I haven’t had time to work on any.

Surviving Is Not Thriving: Be Brave Friday

This week has been a bit exhausting for me thanks to:

  1. New puppy
  2. Board issues
  3. Editing and coaching
  4. I didn’t make enough money this week.

Mostly it’s the new puppy. And it’s a good kind of exhausted, but gosh. I mean, I am tired.

But it made me think of about how surviving isn’t the same as thriving. And as exhausting as our adorable, poky, little puppy is? She makes life worth living even when I don’t hit my weekly financial goals.

Why is that?

In my culture, people are all about advancement, making more money, getting more famous, having more “reach,” having more followers. As a writer, that was never my goal.

My goal was always to create.

My goal is still to create, but in trying to survive and feed and house my family, I’ve lost a little bit of that sometimes. And I have to remind myself about it again and again.

I grew up pretty poor in a really rich community (though my much older siblings didn’t) and I think that there’s this sort of drive when you grow up that way that once you start making money? It makes you become worried about it, fixated on it, and you almost believe that making an income? It makes you good enough. Finally worthy of love, maybe. Finally just worthy.

And that’s silly. I don’t judge other people’s worth on how much money they make. Why should I do that to myself?

Life isn’t about recognition.

Success shouldn’t be about trying to emulate someone else. It shouldn’t be about the cars or clothes or followers we acquire.

Success?

It’s about creating. And creating art or books or textiles or music or community? That’s a spiritual act.

We are what we create.

And that includes ourselves.

And that includes how and who and what we love.

And that includes how and who and what we do.

But it’s not about how much money we make a week.

As you pursue your path to publication or your MBA or your 100,000 Instagram followers, don’t forget that other part. The part that’s you.

Community is not about obligation or institutions. It’s about support. It’s about lifting each other up as we evolve and create and become. Sure, I didn’t hit my financial goal this week, but you know what?

I’m still here. Creating. Loving. Snuggling with a puppy. Helping other authors.

I’m not going to sacrifice my empathy, my creativity, my charity because I’m too afraid of being bankrupt or ridiculed, because some random troll on Twitter might say something rude.

And I hope you won’t either.

Remember, the moments you spend snuggling, the moments you spend helping, the moments you spend singing and laughing and just being, holding the heart or hand of someone else? Those moments are more powerful than your paycheck because those are the moments of your heart.

Here’s the painting I went back to working on this week. I will make no money from it, get no recognition from it, nothing like that.

And you know what? That’s okay.

Let me know how you’ve been brave, too, okay?

This post and some extra more personal content (and helpful hints) are over at my Substack. I hope you’ll go over there and subscribe. This week I’ll be talking about humor and how to be funnier.

Allowing People To Be Kind Is Being Brave

Today, I made my first GOFUNDME that was for a person and not a nonprofit and that was a little scary.

I don’t know how to express how important and lovely it is to help others, especially when there are people like my friend who spend so much time helping to create things like playgrounds and events and keeping theaters alive.

And this guy? He’s worked so hard to build up his career and he’s a yoyng dad and now he’s already piled up $16,000 in medical debt and that just hurts my heart so much.

And yes, he’s one of my best friends.

Here we are.
And here he is with his cutie.

It feels like so much of our lives is about reaching out and doing things that make us anxious or vulnerable, which is why I made the new newsletter LIVING HAPPY about our trials and life at home and how we keep on keeping on and hope that you will, too. I hope you’ll check it out.

This one is about the kiddo lying that they slept on a couch (a hard, hard couch) at Disney

Some people make kindness feel and seem so effortless. When our dog, Gabby died, the amazing and talented Rebecca Van Slyke sent us this beautiful art that she created of Gabby. It’s gorgeous. She’s gorgeous and talented. It’s below. Look at it! Isn’t it amazing? ❤

People being kind? It’s really people being brave. So, don’t be afraid to reach out and be kind today, okay?

And also don’t forget to let people reach out and be kind to you, too.

No More Hiding Who We Are

Having a kid who isn’t doing well

Shaun and the kiddo a couple of years ago

This week the psychologist for the school system looked at my spouse (Shaun) and me across the island in our kitchen and said, “You two are really very grounded.”

            He is lovely and kind.

            But as we’ve dealt with crisis after crisis with our kiddo, I’ve noticed how other people are surprised when they come into our house to talk to our thirteen-year-old. They say things like, “Oh, it’s so peaceful here.”

            “Your house is so clean.”

            “You have such a lovely, quirky decorating style.”

            “You both are so . . . responsive.”

            “ . . . intelligent.”

            “ . . . kind.”

            “ . . . receptive.”

            “ . . . caring.”

            “ . . . well-balanced.”

            “ . . . supportive . . . together.”

            The kindness is wonderful, obviously. But it’s really got me thinking about the surprise in people’s voices when they give these compliments. All these people have been lovely, but what they’ve taught me these past few weeks is that when you have a child who is having a significantly hard time either mentally or developmentally, people seem to expect you to be that way as well.

            One of the reasons I’m writing about this is that I don’t talk a lot about our kiddo. There are a lot of reasons for that.

Reason 1

            When their adopted mother (I am just the bonus mom married to the adopted dad, complicated, I know) was still parenting all the time, she really didn’t like it when I even posted a photo of our kiddo with a friend’s child. It made her sad. But we’ve had this kiddo for two years now and I’m done with worrying about what someone who rarely sees their child thinks.

            So that isn’t what is holding me back any longer.

Reason 2

            I was thinking that I wanted to protect the kiddo’s privacy, but I never did that with my older biological daughter as she was growing up.

So why would I be protecting this kiddo’s privacy.

I think it’s not because of internet bad guys.

I think that it would be because of stigma. And you know what? I’m done with stigma.


Stigma

It’s okay to have a kid who breaks your heart and that you worry for, and who you want to magically be able to control their temper and make the right decisions and be able to socialize in a way that they themselves want to.

            We have a kid like this.

            We don’t hide it in real life. We don’t need to hide it online either. Our kid knows that they are getting special programs (or were) and a different educational experience.


The Other Side Of Not Hiding

But it’s preconceived notions of us as parents, even by professionals, that is the real reason we’re going to be super open about this part of our journey and other parts, too.

            Having a child in crisis doesn’t make us any less who we were as people before. It doesn’t make us unclean, ungrounded, unintelligent, uncaring, or unbalanced. It gives us stress as we navigate the systems trying to find the best help and options for that child, but it doesn’t change who we inherently are or how we inherently love.

As Yin Paradies, João Luiz Bastos and Naomi Priest write in “Prejudice, Stigma, Bias, Discrimination, and Health from Part III – Prejudice Reduction and Analysis in Applied Contexts,”

Prejudice, stigma, bias, and discrimination are all expressions of oppression, “a concept that describes a relationship between groups or categories of people in which a dominant group benefits from the systematic abuse, exploitation, and injustice directed toward a subordinate group” (Johnson, 2000, p. 293). 

            It’s stigma that makes all the people who have come into our home this last month be surprised. It’s stigma that makes us think we have to protect or hide things about our selves or our lives when they don’t mesh with society’s typical standards.

            Stigma leads to bias. It leads to preconceived notions. It leads to not understanding each other.

            People have always asked me why I am so open about things, why I always want town and nonprofit boards, town councils, other people to feel open too when they’re ready. It’s because this. I don’t think there is anything to hide.

            Hiding makes you feel shame. 

            Hiding also makes you lie. Sometimes. Sometimes a lot. I’ve watched that destroy people.

            Lying often makes you anxious. Anxiety holds you back.

            All of that sucks.


            I’ve never hidden tons of things about myself, which doesn’t mean that I talk about them constantly or even often, and that’s because I don’t want to have those things become all that I am. Because I’m a lot more than being a person who has survived a lot of things, a person with sloshy s’s, with epilepsy, with history, with a bonus kid who needs so much help. And so are you. So are all of us.

            When our kid was upset the other day because of a terrible thing they’d said to their principal about their teachers—a thing that will have huge repercussions—they slumped on their bed and tears formed. For our kid? Tears are a big deal and rare.

            We’d already talked about choice and responsibility. We’d already talked about how once you say or do things, you can’t always take them back, especially if that talk or act is violent. We talked about what happens when you say or do violent things. We talk about this all the time. All. The. Time.

            But this day, it was almost like they’d got it and they said, “I hate who I am. There is nothing good in me.”

            And I listed all the things that were good. How they loved and were so protective of their internet friends. How they could create entire AUs and make people laugh with their droll humor. How they took good care of their cats. How they were amazing at digital art and making animations, and getting better at it all the time.

            It might not be enough that practical list, and it might not be enough for you or me or any of us sometimes, but it’s what you have to hang on to when you’re facing stigma and crisis and self-doubt. You have to remember to try to live the truth of who you are.

            Hiding?

            It only brings us down.


            Shaun and I are starting this Substack called LIVING HAPPY and we’re going to be open and say to hell with stigma. This is who we are. This is what we’re dealing with. This is how we’re still happy.

We’ll have another one for writing tips pretty soon.

And there will be free and $5 a month options. It is basically a newsletter that is helpful and honest and true. It’ll be pretty damn personal and pretty damn real.

There will be posts once or twice a week. Some free. Some only for subscribers.

I hope you’ll come hang out with us there. I hope you’ll be on our living happy journey with us, too, despite everything.

No.

Because of everything.

Navigating Mental Health and Pain –Be Brave Friday

Brené Brown writes a lot of books about being brave and also has blog posts where she focuses on that, too. And I have to confess, I haven’t read all of them. But in Rising Strong, she wrote about an epiphany she had while doing a project for her master’s program and talking to her family:

“I realized that much of what had been dressed up as hard living was really addiction and mental health issues. Yes, there were wonderful folkloric stories of struggle, triumph, and rebellion, but there was also story after story of trauma and loss. I remember at one point in our conversation saying, “Jesus, Mom. This is scary. What the hell?” Her reply was, “I know. I lived a lot of it.”

Brown

 That realization led her to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and to stop drinking. My own close family wasn’t like that when I was growing up, not really, unless you count my mom’s addiction to cigarettes and after I was three, my mom really was just my only close family. My parents divorced, sister married, brother went off to college. My stepfather came and he liked cigarettes, too, but that was kind of it.

Or so I thought.

But then I saw some patterns of behavior and how pain led to lies, how shame led to different forms of escapism, how that all manifested because of how much people hurt.

Anyway, it was pretty brave of Brown to recognize and realize things and then work on her addictions especially during those couple of times that she craved drinking because she was super anxious. She is also adamantly against the drinking culture because she sees “drinking culture as a great cover for pain.”

There are so many ways we cover our pain.

This week one of my friends called me, sobbing, right before I had to run a board meeting for a nonprofit. I had five minutes to make sure she was okay enough for me to only text her for the next hour. She was. But she hurt. She hurt so much. And I was so angry that I couldn’t just be with her because I had another responsibility.

And that made me think about choices and needs. And how do we survive with that pain.

Brown writes in her blog a long excerpt about going to her therapist when her anxiety was roaring up. She had. Just quit sugar and bread.

She writes:

“I thought I was going to come out of my skin. I sat across from my therapist, Diana, and said, “You need to give me something for my anxiety. I can’t take it. There’s nothing to take the edge off anymore. I’m freaking out.”

Diana calmly replied, “What do you want me to give you?”

Infuriated by her calmness, I said, “I don’t know! Medicine. Something for the anxiety! I’m like a turtle without a shell. I have NO SHELL! No booze, no muffins, nothing! I’m a turtle without a shell in a briar patch. Everything in the briar patch is poking me and jabbing me. It hurts.”

She said, “Maybe we should talk about getting out of the briar patch?”

I was pissed. “Get out of the fucking briar patch? That’s your advice? Instead of giving me a new shell, you want me to live somewhere less prickly? Seriously?”

Diana said, “You don’t need to find a different place to live. Maybe we could just think about a different way to live. One that doesn’t require that heavy shell.”

DAMMIT.”

Brown

That excerpt felt so real to me when it comes to conceptualizing pain and the work that it takes to get out of briar patches and prickly places.

My friend felt miserable because of certain situations and locations that she’s been in for years. She was in a prickly place and didn’t like herself because of it even though she is one of the most extraordinary people I know.

We all are so hard on ourselves and sometimes the act of being hard on ourselves, the negative talk, the self-judgement? That becomes a negative spiral and addiction, too.

The question really becomes: How do we navigate out of those awful places and spaces in our situations and in ourselves? How do we acknowledge that sometimes we have to move on, move forward from our past patterns, our jobs, sometimes even our relationships? How do we become someone who doesn’t need a shell?

In our own lives in this house, much like Brown, I think I’ve become a bit addicted to work as we navigate suddenly being the full-time parents of a child with mental health and developmental issues. And by bit addicted? I mean terribly addicted. It’s something I lean on and even complain about because it makes me know that at least I’m keeping the family financially afloat during all the chaos of trying to keep our child okay. We’re honestly not aiming for anything other than okay right now because that’s how raw and traumatic and difficult things are here with them.

And that’s okay, too.

We all have to navigate ourselves, our worlds, our situations, and try to find ways to do it without spiraling into negativity and addictions and shells. Sometimes that is so hard. I know it’s hard for me. I hope that we can be brave and open and honest together though as we aim for okay and for even better than okay, too.

https://brenebrown.com/articles/2019/05/31/what-being-sober-has-meant-to-me/

Be Brave Friday

These last couple weeks have been a bit hard.

So, I went on a quote hunt and I found these bad boys.

Neuroeconomist Paul Zak has found that hearing a story—a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end—causes our brains to release cortisol and oxytocin. These chemicals trigger the uniquely human abilities to connect, empathize, and make meaning. Story is literally in our DNA.”   — Brené Brown

We have to be continually jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way.” — Kurt Vonnegut

And I just gave up trying to be a real painter and threw paint and things around and made a giant scribble this week and those it is not terribly technically adept (especially when I think of my artist friends’ works), I kind of am okay with it because there is joy under all that chaos.

My painting this week.

Right? There can still be joy underneath all the pain and worry, the anxiety and grief. Hope. Sometimes it’s hard to hold onto, but it’s still there, damn it. It’s still there.

In an article for Psychology Today, Karyn Hall writes that when trying to find a path for hope:

 “Find a clear path. Being able to see how the steps you are taking will lead to desired change is critical to having hope. If you don’t logically see how what you are doing can have a positive result, then carrying out the plan will likely be difficult. Write down each step that you need to take to get where you want to be. If someone else is working with you, then push him or her to explain how the steps lead to the results you want.

2. Look for role models who have found solutions. There are many, many people who have overcome tremendous adversity. Reading their stories and surrounding yourself with supportive messages and people can help you build hope.

“3. Do what you know you can do. When you are in despair, taking one step that is out of your routine can help break the sense of powerlessness you have. Make your bed. Cook dinner. Talk to a friend. Take a step you know you can do and that action can make a difference over time. Keep doing it, and then try to add more actions. Overcoming the inertia of helplessness can help you build hope.

4. Perform an act of kindness. Doing acts of kindness can have a dramatic effect on your mood and outlook. Kindness triggers the release of serotonin, so it has an anti-depressant effect. It also calms stress and helps reduce pain.”

For me those things sometimes help. But what also helps me sometimes is:

Getting outside. Just going outside and seeing the world makes me have hope because trees? Trees are lovely.

Getting exercise. I like endorphins. They are my friends.

Remembering the good. Thinking about victory and kindness. It’s not so much about finding role models for me, but seeing how wars have ended before, how pandemics have been dealt with before, how individuals have been brave and good and triumphant.

Creating something. It might be muffins. It might be a poem or a story. It might even just be creating a cleaner space, but tangible things? They help ground me. Even singing in the shower–if I can force myself to do it–can make a different for me, lean me towards hope.

How about you? How do you find hope?

The Places We Hide by Carrie Jones
The Places We Hide by Carrie Jones (That’s me. If you click the image, it will bring you to the Amazon page!)

The third book in Rosie and Seamus’s story of adventure, mystery, and death is here!

I hope you’ll support me, have a good read, and check it out!

great new mystery
romantic suspense set in Bar Harbor Maine

Sometimes the treasure is not worth the hunt . . . .

When a little boy goes missing on a large Maine island, the community is horrified especially almost-lovers Rosie Jones and Sergeant Seamus Kelley. The duo’s dealt with two gruesome serial killers during their short time together and are finally ready to focus on their romance despite their past history of murders and torment.

Things seem like they’ve gone terribly wrong. Again. Rosie wakes up in the middle of the woods. Is she sleepwalking or is something more sinister going on?

What at first seems like a fun treasure hunt soon turns into something much more terrifying . . . and they learn that things are not yet safe on their island or in their world. If they want to keep more people from going missing, Rosie and Seamus have to crack the puzzle before it’s too late.

To buy it, click here, and let me know! I might send you something!

Be Brave Friday: Losing Gabby Dog

I posted this on social media and Medium last week. Shaun posted about it yesterday. And it still hurts to post it here, but here goes. . .

Most people post about their dogs doing one of a few things: 1) Being sick. 2) Being stupid. 3) Persevering and/or needing love or giving love.

Love, endurance, dorkiness are traits of most dogs. It’s part of why we love them so much. They are faithful companions and almost always give us love no matter how schmucky we are.

Gabby was a love guru despite being tied to a tree and starving for most of her first year. I picked her up from a rescue that dropped off, my Southern, rural girl on the cobbled streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts (right by Harvard). She was trembling, terrified by the cars and the noise and in pain from ear infections and her horrible lack of any muscle (part of the consequences of her abuse).

Em (my daughter) and I loved her instantly.

“Oh, my poor baby,” I said and Gabby’s tail wagged.

Gabby the dog

She leaned up right next to me, something she would do for the next ten years. She leaned. She hugged, pushing her chest into mine, her head on my shoulder. She was always there through heartbreak, through the loss of my parents, through everything.

According to sources every year over 3.3 million dogs are brought into animal shelters. Gabby was one of those dogs. Only 23 percent of those dogs are rescued. Mangy, broken, terrified, unable to grow correctly because she’d been chained and starved. She barked a lot. Had issues about protecting her food. And she and Scotty (our other rescue mixed Pyr) challenged each other a bit for alpha for awhile.

It didn’t matter.

Gabby had only two modes. Love and protection.

A few years ago, when Gabby had her knee operation, a vet’s assistant called me two hours before I was supposed to come pick her up.

“Please come get your dog,” she said.

“Is she alright?”

“She won’t stop howling.”

When I got to the vet’s office three minutes later, I heard Gabby’s bellows, sad and mournful — a calling and a hope. The vet personnel looked haunted and aggrieved and as they saw me they said, “She woke up before any dog has ever. And she’s been like this. We think she is lonely for you.”

“Oh, my poor puppy,” I said.

And the moment I spoke, the howling stopped.

“Apparently, she knows you’re here,” the assistant said and then yelled over her shoulder. “Someone get Gabby!” She turned back to me, gave me all the rules of Gabby’s healing and said, “Good luck with this.”

Gabby staggered out, loopy, but she came right to me, wagged her tail and leaned in. I lifted her seventy pounds into the car, looked at her big bandage, and said, “We can be broken together, baby.”

Gabby with her favorite mouse toy

There are a lot of sources that say that dogs decrease loneliness and anxiety by 60 percent. Gabby decreased it by 99 percent.

I was single when I first got Gabby, and her aftercare wasn’t easy, but we did it. Gabby is a Great Pyrenees and she only trusted our dogs; all others were potential threats. If someone visited who had a past history of cocaine use, she’d bark at them the entire time they were in the house. If they were male and had a certain aggressive energy, she’d bark at them the entire time they were in the house. If they wore a white baseball hat, she’d bark at them the entire time they were in the house.

If I was alone and taking a shower, she’d come upstairs with me and take watch out the bedroom window. Other than when we went to bed, it was the only time she went upstairs.

If Gabby was on walks and children stopped to see her, she would stand there as they pet her, gently wagging her tail, letting them love her. And they would. Gabby understood what love was and sadly she also understood what love wasn’t.

Gabby chilling on the back deck

Gabby was pretty sure her job was to keep her family, the other dogs and cats and people safe. She never stopped loving us. She never stopped being broken. And she never stopped being lonely for me. And she allowed me to be a better person. I wanted to help other people who were feeling down, the way I sometimes felt down, but I couldn’t just post self-affirming wisdom or thoughts in my own voice because I had a wicked amount of imposter syndrome.

Plus, I knew people respond well to images on social media as opposed to words. As an author, I needed to tweet or post, but I couldn’t bring myself to post photos of my food or my own thoughts or the minutiae of the day.

So, I posted daily photos of Gabby and Sparty (my other dog) and Scotty (my other dog who died) and the cats. I would give them thoughts and words that felt like them, but also felt like me. Gabby usually got the posts about love because Gabby was love.

Gabby by the ocean

A lot of times I’ve wanted to stop posting those week-daily animal motivation/inspiration, but then I’d get private message from people. One mom’s son looked forward to seeing Gabby and Sparty every day and shared her photos and messages in a children’s cancer ward. A man told me that sometimes seeing my animals was one of the few things he could hold onto when he thought he couldn’t make it through another day.

Gabby was a light. And she gave people hope. She gave me hope that no matter how badly you’ve suffered, no matter how much pain you have, you can still find great joys and great love in each damn moment that you have.

Gabby loved food. She loved cuddling. She loved the cats. She loved being brushed and then shedding everywhere. She loved barking, her low, rumbling bark. She loved running around despite her broken body, hopping like a bunny, wagging her tail so hard that she broke its tip against the wall of our house. And she loved us.

Gabby chilling with Cloud, her best cat friend.

A couple months ago, Gabby’s back legs stopped being strong. We took her to the vet and he said it was doggy arthritis and put her on some medicine. And two weeks ago, we went on vacation. The day before we did, Gabby romped around the house, back legs shaking a bit, cuddled with Cloud the cat and me, took a neighborhood walk, looked down the street. I posted her photo.

Big, fluffy dog in a sweater turning around rather than walking down a nasty, slushy road that has a car parked in the center of it.
Gabby looking down the wintery street

About nine days into our vacation, the vet called. All he did was say his name.

I said, “Oh no. This is terrible.”

“It is. It is terrible,” he said.

It turns out that Gabby had a doggy neurological disease and that she quickly took a turn for the worse while we were away. The vet said she was still smiling and lovely and not suffering, but there was no hope. We started to drive home — a trip of about twenty-six hours — and cancelled the rest of our vacation.

And Gabby died. Her body, her broken and beautiful body, gave up.

Love doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. You can be broken; you can be afraid of being lonely; but you can still love.

LET’S HANG OUT!

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One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

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And Carrie has new books out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

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