Be Brave Friday and the Death of Aunt Maxine, A Woman of Light and Intellect and Bossiness.

I found out yesterday that my aunt Maxine died at the end of August. This is typical for my family where I tend to be the one who never knows anything important until weeks or months after everyone else. That’s okay. It is what it is.

Aunt Maxine had her own family before she joined ours and they were all of my siblings’ generation, not mine because I came so much later. I was the age of their children, basically. I can’t imagine the grief that they feel because Maxine was a force. She was a light. She inspired and made change in ways that seemed almost effortless.

This is the kind of woman she was.

Mom was a proud graduate of Cornell, Class of ’45, where she continued to be an active alumna and class president through her 75th reunion held on Zoom this past June. She was a positive force in the New Hampshire community, dedicating much of her life to serving needs of the people around her in the areas of child care, mental health, women’s empowerment, education, the arts, athletics and politics to name a few.

Mom created a warm and welcoming home, buzzing with activity, which was often the gathering place for family and friends of all ages. She was well known for her chocolate chip cookies and brownies that were stashed in the freezer for all to grab.

With boundless energy, a keen interest in people and the world around her and a belief in civic engagement, she lived the Judaic precept that having been given life, it is one’s individual responsibility to better the world around you. Warm, smiling, inclusive and astute, Mom was a consummate networker, who connected countless numbers of people around their common interests. She frequently enlisted help in causes she supported, and trust us, you couldn’t refuse Maxine. Never short of opinions or advice, she was a force to contend with.

Mom’s proudest achievements were the work she did as the founding director of the Greater Manchester Childcare Association, the first federally funded day care center in NH, and her work as chairwoman of the 1975 NH Commission on Laws Affecting Mental Health. Under her leadership the commission was instrumental in enacting legislation that extended mental health insurance coverage in group policies.

Maxine’s obituary

Or as Brad Cook wrote in a New Hampshire Business Review article yesterday

It is not hyperbole to say that New Hampshire lost two giants among our citizens in August.

Maxine K. Morse of Portsmouth, formally of Manchester and Laconia (and a magnificent property on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee), passed away on Aug. 23 at age 96. Raised in New Hampshire, she attended local schools and then Cornell University, a lifelong love of hers. Maxine Morse was a force with whom to be reckoned as she inspired her children and grandchildren, friends and colleagues to do better than they thought they could do.

Brad Cook

I did not impact Maxine’s world at all. I’m not enough of a narcissist to think that I did, but she impacted mine. I’ve written before about how I was the last child, how my parents divorced and my stepdad died, and how my mom and I struggled financially—a lot—as I grew up.

But Maxine and her husband, my uncle Dick, gave me hope that I could be everything and anything that they were, but also that I had a responsibility to the world and to my community to use whatever I had to try and make the world a better place.

They tried to send me to private school and fund it. Mom refused.

They helped me with my college choices and were heartily disappointed when I didn’t chose the most prestigious one. Mom was okay with that.

They tried to convince my mom to let me go study at the Goethe Institute in Germany when I got a scholarship. Mom refused.

They did everything they could to try to make me blossom.


Be Brave Friday

I’ve written this before, but today is BE BRAVE FRIDAY, and sometimes it’s hard to be brave when people like Maxine leave the world, but sometimes it’s easier too because of the light they shone and the path they followed are such beautiful examples to the rest of us.

Photo from Shakers.org

When I was Little I was Shy and I Knew I wasn’t wealthy or Like Dick and Maxine and Their Friends

We visited their house a lot. And once I went to a window seat that looked out on Lake Winnipesaukee at Maxine and Dick’s house. There was a bookshelf at the end of the seat and in that bookshelf was an etiquette book full of how to eat at the table, what manners were, how to write thank-you cards, exchange greetings, and so on.

It was a beautiful summer day. All the other kids were swimming and playing tag. I was reading and memorizing and trying to learn how to be like the others.

Eventually, rushing in from outside to get cookies or something out of the freezer, my Aunt Maxine noticed that I was sitting there, reading.


A Force To Contend With

“Carrie. What are you doing? Go out and play, Carrie,” she said.

She liked to use people’s names a lot. She also was sort of bossy in a nice way.

I was afraid of bossy, but I also loved my aunt so I said as bravely as possible, “I’m reading.”

“Don’t you want to go swim with the other children? They’re all outside getting sun, having fun.”

They were. They were splashing around in the water, doing cannonballs off the dock, or perfect dives. They had perfect bathing suits from L.L. Bean and Lands’ End, and every single one of them seemed to know how to ski, play tennis, and were learning golf.

She took the book from me and read the title. After a second, she sat down on the bench next to me. “What are you reading this for, Carrie?”

And I said, “Because I want to be better.”

“Be better! That’s ridiculous. You’re wonderful as who you are.”

“I want … I want to fit in.” I looked her right in the eyes and she got it. I knew she got it. She understood all the things that I couldn’t figure out how to say.

She handed me back the book. “I will make a deal with you. You read this for another half hour and I’ll set the kitchen timer. When it goes off, you go play with the other children and get some exercise.”

Nodding, I thought this was okay. “But I might not finish the book.”

“You can finish it after dinner and games.” She pet me on the top of the head. “I’ll bring you the timer.”

I was five.


THAT BOOK CHANGED MY LIFE BECAUSE OF MAXINE AND DICK.

They realized that there was a social code and a way of being that wasn’t easily accessible for me no matter how hard my mom tried. I was a poor kid in a wealthy town. I was a latchkey kid who was awkward and driven and terrified of failure. Paying for acting lessons, to play on the soccer team, to play piano were huge stretches for us. Sometimes they happened. Sometimes they didn’t.

My aunt and uncle understood my situation and my want because my uncle was the same way. He was the oldest son of a single mom. He pushed himself hard to succeed, to learn the social code of success and wealth. He went to UNH because it was the only place he could afford and he was valedictorian there, desegregating the fraternity system while he was class president. He eventually went to Harvard Law and married Maxine, a woman who had so much intellectual stock and prowess that it was just ridiculous. Seriously? Cornell, Class of 1945? Brilliant didn’t begin to describe her. Dick ended up being the head of an international law association, head of a law firm, chairman of the board of trustees at UNH and so many other things. And so did Maxine.

CRACKING THE CODE WITH BOOKS

My little five-year-old self was trying to do the same things as he did and to be wonderful the way Maxine saw me. Somehow. I took the first and only step I could think of taking — reading that book, trying to crack the social codes of behavior that made their friends and them so different from my mom and me.

Photo from Ithaca Voice

Losing Lights

I was in college when Uncle Dick was dying.

We had all gathered for one last Thanksgiving. There were tons of people there, the same kind of brilliant, world-changing people that were there when I was five and when I was ten and when I was fifteen. The same wonderful, world-changing people who will be at Maxine’s Zoom memorial on Tuesday.

On this day, my still-alive mother and my still-alive nana were barely able to sit still because they were so overwhelmed with Dick’s impending death. They’d have to leave the room every time someone mentioned his name.

During dinner, Maxine called them into his bedroom with her. They stayed for about two minutes and left sobbing.

“He’s too tired,” Maxine said at the threshold of the hallway that led to those bedrooms. “He needed them to go.”

But then, a minute later, she called for me. “Dick wants to see you, Carrie.”

I remember pointing at my chest. “Me?”

“Yes.”

“He’s not too tired?”

“No,” she said. “Not for you.”


NOT FOR YOU

There was a bit of a murmur at the table because Uncle Dick wasn’t really calling for anyone to come see him. He was barely holding on.

She ushered me into a back bedroom that wasn’t their normal place to sleep. The wooden walls were dark because the shades were drawn. There was only one bedside light on. My uncle was thin and his breathing was so heavy. It seemed like there were a million blankets layered on top of him.

He met my eyes as I came to his bed and sat on the edge of it, ignoring the chair.

“Everyone sits in the chair,” he rasped out.

“I wanted to be close to you.” I grabbed his hand.

“Nobody wants to be close to death.”

“You aren’t death. You’re my uncle.”


WE WERE QUIET.

The weight of his hand in mine seemed like nothing and everything all at once. I think he might have fallen asleep, but I sat there thinking about how beautiful he was, how elegant, how he challenged systems of injustice one at a time as best he could, how he taught himself Japanese, how to play the organ, how to be wealthy, how to fit in with an entire class of successful people that he wasn’t born into, and how he and Maxine both tried to lift other people up into that class with them.

He opened his eyes. “Carrie, I’m throwing down the gauntlet. Will you pick it up?”

There was only one answer.

“Yes,” I told him. “Yes.”

It was the last thing he said to me. He fell asleep again. We left for home. I left for college.


At Dick’s Funeral

Uncle Dick had a huge funeral with people in waiting rooms and lined up. There was not enough room to fit all the people who loved him and Maxine and wanted to say goodbye.

Maxine’s memorial, thanks to COVID, will be on Zoom.


having been given life, it is one’s individual responsibility to better the world around you.

At Dick’s funeral, I had to hold up my mother, my nana. And I had to stand at the podium and read a Psalm. I’m not sure if that was Dick’s choice or Maxine’s, but I was the one they chose to represent the family. The rest of my family couldn’t figure that out. I was the youngest. Not the most confident. I had a speech defect.

I’m pretty sure that I was Maxine’s choice because she knew the power of being seen, the power of words and of choice and as I read the Psalm that Dick chose when he planned his funeral out and those words echoed in the sanctuary, I got it. The power of voice, of words, of being seen. There is strength there. You don’t have to hide on a window seat, but you can go out into the ocean and the sun.

When I read those words, they were bigger than me. They were comfort. They were about the life of Dick, the life of Maxine, the life of all of us.

And since then, I have spent years trying to figure out how to make my words to my uncle not be a lie. How to meet the challenge of his life so well lived.

And it’s not just him. It’s also Maxine. I want to be worthy of her faith in me, in her assertion that I was wonderful the way I was.

And I know I’m not doing enough. It’s hard to motivate other people. Sometimes it’s hard to even motivate myself. But Maxine did it. She did it over and over again.

I have a friend who recently said to me, “You do so much volunteering. I don’t. I can’t. I’m a selfish person. I want to make money.”

And I didn’t know what to say.

I still don’t.


WHAT IS THE GAUNTLET? IT’S INCLUSION.

I have only succeeded as much as I have because people like Maxine were willing to let me read a book, to be examples of goodness, to give me the opportunity to interact with senators, opera singers, doctors who have saved thousands of lives.

Humiliation and exclusion are not what we should aspire to. Inclusion and praise are not things to be afraid of giving to other people. Enjoying other people’s successes and happiness doesn’t make you any less likely to succeed.

The gauntlet is about being unafraid and allowing other people into your life, your heart, your communities.

Aunt Maxine and Uncle Dick told me throughout my childhood that intelligence was a privilege that I was born with. It could be cultivated and expanded on, but what was the most important thing was finding a way (or many ways) of using that privilege (intelligence, class, race, gender, being physically fit, and so on) and using it to better other people’s lives, your own life, the world, not in a way that makes you a hero but in a way that makes you a friend.

having been given life, it is one’s individual responsibility to better the world around you.

Be Brave. Vote. Act. Speak out. Include. Applaud. Connect. Give a child a moment with a book. Give yourself one too. And sing some Sarah Vaughn in honor of my Aunt Maxine, okay?



Memorial contributions may be made in Maxine’s name to: Friends Forever International, Morgan Way, Durham, N.H. 03824, ff.international, Richard and Maxine Endowment Fund, shakers.org/join-support/make-a-gift; or Richard A. Morse Scholarship Fund, foundation.unh.edu.

Continue reading “Be Brave Friday and the Death of Aunt Maxine, A Woman of Light and Intellect and Bossiness.”

TAHINI NOODLE BOWLS OF ELLIPSES FUN

Ellipses are these addictive little … that you see throughout people’s stories and social medias. But there are rules for how to use these little bad boys and sometimes when they are used all the time or used in the wrong way? Well, it can make even the calmest writer get a little ranty.

The noodles are delicious….

Print Recipe
TAHINI NOODLE BOWLS OF ELLIPSES FUN
Sometimes you just need a little ... in your life.
Instructions
  1. Okay. Are you ready? Maybe too ready...?
  2. You want to make the tahini sauce....
  3. You do not want to obsess about the social media post you just saw by your archnemesis, SHE WHO CANNOT USE THE ELLIPSES CORRECTLY BUT STILL HAS A MILLION DOLLAR BOOK DEAL.
  4. No. Do not obsess. Instead, combining tahini, soy sauce, sriracha, ginger paste, garlic, rice wine vinegar, agave, oil and water in a blender.
  5. Blend. It should all combine . . . .
  6. Put it aside. You'll use it later, just like you'll use the ellipses in your own social media post CORRECTLY later.
  7. Think about vengeance.
  8. Think about subtweeting.
  9. Wonder if you can just tweet LOOK, AUTHORS. THERE ARE EITHER THREE DOTS IN AN ELLIPSES OR FOUR NOT THIRTY-SEVEN, SWEET MOTHER OF SELTZER WATER, GET A CLUE.
  10. Worry that you have anger issues.
  11. Those rice noodles came in a package, right? Make them according to the package directions. Yes. Follow the directions just like you follow the simple rules of grammar.
  12. Spoiler: The simple rules of grammar say that an ellipses usually indicates a trailing off of thought. Use three if it's an incomplete sentence. Use four if it's a real sentence.
  13. Wonder if MILLION DOLLAR BOOK DEAL AUTHOR knows what a complete sentence is.
  14. Worry that you're being petty.
  15. Realize you are.
  16. But seriously...
  17. When the noodles are done cooking and you've stopped stewing and done some meditative and restorative chanting, rinse those noodles in running cold water.
  18. Set the burner to medium heat. Put oil in pan on top of the burner on medium heat. Warm oil up.
  19. Add noodles (cooked and floppy) to the pan and also add about 1-2 tablespoons of the tahini sauce you made.
  20. Sauté it up for 2 minutes.
  21. Delete your social media post about ellipses and feel badly that you were so full of anger. Writers are about empathy. Blah. Blah. Blah. It's no wonder you don't have a million-dollar book deal.
  22. Cool off noodles or don't. It's up to you.
  23. Combine noodles with your veggies. Toss them all together. They are one big writer family. . . . One big writer family that correctly knows how to use punctuation.
  24. Split it into four bowls (because we aren't really one big happy writer family).
  25. Put green onion, cilantro, sesame seeds, and tahini sauce on top.
Recipe Notes

NOTES * This dish is adapted from the Savory Vegan, which is a super good source of recipes. The name of this recipe over there is a bit weird because it seems to clump all Asian cuisine together, but the recipe is still yummy, I promise and there is a ton of good stuff on the site. 

Morning People, You Are On Notice

Morning People, you are on notice.

Seriously, the entire United States is geared towards you and now that the school year (remote learning version thanks to COVID-19) has started, I’ve decided that I just have had enough!

In case you doubt, let me list what heinous crimes you have committed:



1. Made it so school starts at 7:55 a.m.
         

Yes, that is AM as in AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHFREAKINGAIT’SM-MORNING.


2. Made it so in order to get to school on time, or to get your little people to school on time you must wake up at 6 a.m. (at least)
3. Made it so banks open at 7 and close at 4!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4. Give all the dinner specials to EARLY BIRDS!

That is so wrong. It is us late night people who eat up all the leftover food. The early birds already get the fresh stuff.

 Those early birds also get the cool graphics that are kind of schmarmy.


They also get the worm. Let me say, I think all worms out there should joinme in my revolt against these Morning People/Early Birds.

Listen up worms! The early birds aren’t just getting you! THEY ARE EATING YOU! It is time to revolt! Leave those tequila bottles and gather up arms!

Oh, wait. You are worms. You don’t have arms. Do you have any fighting abilities whatsoever? What? Oh, you can burrow away. No. That’s not much help, really.

Proof that I am not a morning person:

1. When I woke up this morning my right eye went on strike and refused to open for a half hour, which meant I had to walk around the house using only one eye.
       

My left eye behaves. She has no gumption and has never gone on strike. I don’t think she’s actually related to me.

2. I fell up the stairs.
3. When I walked the dog, I thought a tree was a person and said hello.

This can kind of be blamed on my right eye.

4. When I went to put my cell phone into my shorts pocket, I actually put in the deodorant!

This means I walked around with deodorant in my shorts.

5. It just took me twenty minutes to remember how to spell deodorant.

And when I just wrote it right there? I spelled it wrong again! Darn it. DEODORANT! You are on NOTICE! 

Secret: Oh, no! I am so scared.


Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

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Why You Gotta Hate Like That Bad Guys In Writing and Life

Why You Gotta Hate Like That Bad Guys In Writing and Life

 
 
00:00 / 00:18:10
 
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This week we’re revisiting the idea of bad guys in our lives and in our writing because lots of us actually have bad people in our writing and our lives. These antagonists run the gamut from people who make us scream at their Facebook posts of Fakeness to actually physically hurting us and our community. Politics is full of making the other party the bad guy. People at work tend to make other employees or bosses the bad guys. We make bad guys everywhere.

Sometimes we make entire groups of people the bad guy like this week on Facebook a guy who manages an inn had a post that said,

The Facebook Post That Started It All

I have a couple staying with us, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. The woman came to tell me how she loves the Inn, but has been treated horribly by so many locals. Being told “go home” and have had obscenities shouted at her and her husband. I’ve seen posts in this group and others from people discouraging tourism. My question is.. .Do we want our town to be known as openly hostile towards visitors? Is this how the level of discourse is supposed to be?

Facebook person

And the responses were all over the locals. People saying locals were the bad guys. People accepting and expecting that those tourists’ side of the story was right and the locals were the bad guys. This might be true. It might not.

It’s like everyone just took one story, without verifying it, accepted it as truth and then jumped on the bad guy wagon.

The question is why? Why do we do this?

I’m sure the original poster believes that woman and that woman may absolutely telling the truth or at least her version of it, but why do we all jump in and take it as reality when it’s hearsay and just that woman’s side of the story. I mean, she obviously doesn’t want to think, “Hey, all these people are swearing at me. Maybe I’m actually doing something wrong.” Instead, she cast herself as the victim and the others as being the bad guys. Which could be entirely accurate.

We don’t know.

And that’s just it. In real life, a lot of the time, we don’t know. Things aren’t always as simple as good and evil; absolute right and absolute wrong.

Although, sometimes it really is. There are certain things that are just evil.


One of the biggest questions a lot of new writers have is this:

Do I need a bad guy?

Yes.

But your bad guy can be yourself or your main character.

Like in our random thoughts, Carrie is often showing that she is her own worst enemy. Watching tv gives her anxiety, but she almost always watches tv at night for a couple of hours.

When it comes to life or writing stories, this can help you figure out what the antagonist is.

Here are the steps:

  1. Figure out what your goal or your main character’s goal is.
  2. The bad person is whatever stands in the way of your character (or you) achieving your goal.

So, in life Carrie is her own antagonist because her goal is to not feel anxious at night, yet she still watches television for an hour or two. That’s an example of an inner-antagonist or bad guy.

Also in life, when Carrie doesn’t let Shaun watch American Pickers and makes him watch Pen15 or Teenage Bounty Hunters? She’s Shaun’s external bad guy, keeping him from his goal to chill with those picker guys.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Every story needs conflict. Sometimes that conflict and opposing force (what’s keeping your character from their goal) comes from the character themself.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

There are enough bad guys in the world. You don’t have to make them up.

Sparty Dog
Sparty Dog, our rescue who saw way too many bad people out there.



SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

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Why I Stopped Getting Google Alerts Way Back in 2007

I stopped getting Google Alerts.
Google Alerts are these wild things that tell you (sort of) when your book’s name or your name comes up on the web.

That can be a good thing.
That can be a very bad thing.

But in 2007 for me, it became a really, really bad thing.

 Tell us why Carrie.

Okay, Grover. Just because you are so darn cute and blue and furry, I will.

In 2007 Google Alerts coming to my email about my book TIPS ON HAVING A GAY (ex) BOYFRIEND had been coming through saying a line of a review and a website. I clicked. The website took me to… I don’t know, Grover. Should I really tell?

Yes, Carrie, do tell.

Okay. It was taking me to porn sites.

Do not worry, Carrie! I, Super Grover, and I, Scary Flasher Grover, will save you from this horrible thing.

I know, Grover, I wish you would! And it was not taking me to just any porn sites, and it was not even taking me to gay porn sites which would seem more appropriate, but it sent me to really hardcore horrible places. Do not worry, I clicked off my computer right away.

But, I guess, my points are:

1. I felt kind of violated. There was nothing to indicate that these sites were naughty. And they were really, really naughty.


2. That made me worried about other people somehow getting there from reviews of my book?


3. My poor editor guy, Andrew, gets Google Alerts for his authors’ books and it happened to him, too.


4. I still feel like that Dateline NBC man is going to come to my computer and say, “You were on an Internet porn site for 1.2 seconds before you screamed, shut it off and sprayed yourself with an entire bottle of Lysol Disinfectant spray. Why did you go there? Why? And don’t give me that Google Alerts line. We’ve heard it before.


5. I can’t help but wonder what sweet Grover would think if he knew what I accidentally saw. Please forgive me, Grover. I knew not what I did.

Oh, Carrie. Do you really think I, Grover, have a problem with this? Really… C’mon. Do you?


BRAVE THING I’M DOING

Pretty soon, I’m going to have a Teachable class all about the scene. It’s going to be pretty cheap and hopefully you’ll sign up and like it. You can also get access if you sign up for the $5 level for my Patreon. That link is behind the jump.

Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com


Continue reading “Why I Stopped Getting Google Alerts Way Back in 2007”

Be Brave Friday

It’s Be Brave Friday and I’m trying to be brave and post a little painting.

Be Brave Friday usually features art because I have a lot of negative scripts in my mind from my childhood and my mom insisting that nobody in our family had ‘an artistic bone in their body.’ She was a lovely mom! She just… I was a kid who listened to those sorts of things and even though art was my favorite thing to do? Well, I figured she was right.

One of the first steps in being brave is acknowledging your fear so I should probably admit what I’m afraid of (in a personal sense not a world sense)

1. Not doing enough to help the world

2. Actually hurting instead of helping

3. Sucking at things but thinking I’m good at them.

4. Showing art (You all know that).

5. Not being there when the people I love need me.

6. Not being a writer anymore.

How about you? How are you feeling? Being brave? Admitting what you’re afraid of? I’m rooting for you. You’ve got this.

BRAVE THING I’M DOING

Pretty soon, I’m going to have a Teachable class all about the scene. It’s going to be pretty cheap and hopefully you’ll sign up and like it. You can also get access if you sign up for the $5 level for my Patreon. That link is behind the jump.


Continue reading “Be Brave Friday”

Poppy Seed Lemon Summer Squash Bread of WRITER WEIRDNESS

Sometimes you have too much squash.

It’s like when you’re writing a book and you have too much of one element? Like there are forty-two pages of dialogue, just straight dialogue. Or maybe fifty-eight pages of description, and that description is all about a paper towel on your desk that’s been there since July to catch the condensation from your glasses.

So what do you do when that happens?

You mix it up and things and make something new. Balance is key. Or something… right? That’s what all the influencer gurus say at least.

Print Recipe
Poppy Seed Lemon Summer Squash Bread of WRITER WEIRDNESS
Course bread
Cuisine american
Keyword bread
Servings
Course bread
Cuisine american
Keyword bread
Servings
Instructions
  1. Find oven. It should be in the kitchen. Put it on 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Find something to grease things with.
  3. Make it butter or oil, actually.
  4. Grease two loaf pans. Now ignore those loaf pans like a bad subplot.
  5. Find a nice bowl. Imagine putting it on your head. Don't. Or do it. Take a photo. Put it on the gram. Imagine you'll rebrand yourself THE GOOFY AUTHOR OF GOOFINESS. Wonder if this would get you more than four readers.
  6. Put your melted butter, sugar, lemon juice and zest, almond flavor and vanilla extract in that mixing bowl once your head is out of the bowl and your photo is nicely filtered and on the gram.
  7. Wonder if calling Instagram, 'the gram,' without capitalizing is wrong.
  8. Decide that if it's wrong, you don't care. It's just part of your goofy new brand.
  9. Cream together all that stuff in the bowl and make it all fluffy and light in color, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  10. Add the eggs. Do this one at a time like they are characters. Let each egg get a nice introduction and fully incorporated into the mixture (aka scene) before adding another egg.
  11. Sprinkle the salt, baking soda, and baking powder over the top of the stuff in the bowl like it's setting and exposition on top of the character development and plot.
  12. Admire your work. Mix it all up until it's a beautiful seamless story, I mean, batter.
  13. Okay. Breathe. There is still a bit more to do. Add flour a 1/2 cup at a time.
  14. Like the eggs, mix it all in before you add more.
  15. Fold in the squash and poppy seeds. Think that this is weird.
  16. Decide that it's okay to be weird. EMBRACE YOUR WEIRD, AUTHOR!
  17. Remember your subplot loaf pans.
  18. Put the same amount of batter in each.
  19. Bake for 1 hour.
  20. LOOK AT YOU! SUCCESS!
Recipe Notes

While this recipe ABSOLUTELY WORKS, thank you very much. It is adapted from the brilliant and awesome Wanderlust Kitchen. Go give them some love! There are a lot of cool recipes there! 

How Do You Defy Expectations

When my super cool daughter Em, was in sixth or seventh grade she was in the newspaper for doing this logrolling day with Timber Tina at the Great Maine Lumberjack Show.

This place is where she studied logrolling all summer and is where she battled seven boys, trying to knock them off logs by fancy footwork and all that. Timber Tina (she was on Survivor for one show and then went back for a reunion show, too and is amaze-balls)is a professional world-class lumber jill. The log rolling day was in honor of her son Charlie, this absolutely amazing guy who died that same summer. He was really young, still in his teens.

The picture was hilarious because of the boys in the background staring after she’s knocked off one of their own.

That night the issue came out, Em plopped on her bed, nuzzled under the covers and said, “I can’t believe I’m in the paper.”

I smiled. “It’s great. You should be proud.”

She hugged her stuffed kitty (appropriately named Kitty Kitty) to her chest. “I bet I’m the only cheerleading logroller.”

“At least in Ellsworth, Maine,” I added. “And don’t forget you’re also a stunt girl.”

She as named Stunt Girl at a Stunt Camp in California. It’s this big stunt camp honor. The stunt camp was all about jumping off buildings and stuff. All of this mattered because when people looked at Em, they didn’t think Brave Girl or Logrolling Girl or Stunt Girl. They tended to think Smart Girl, Brilliant Girl, Very Polite Girl, Artistic Girl, Pretty Girl.

“Aren’t you going to tell me I defy stereotypes?” she asked that night, holding out her arms for a hug.

I hugged her back. “You already know.”

Why This Matters And Isn’t Just A Braggy Mom Post

And as I remember all this, thanks to some pretty good written records, I’m sort of struck by how brave Em has always been to defy the expectations of what people think small, brainy, artistic girls are going to be doing. She was a cheerleader and a log roller. She jumped off buildings. She got into Harvard and Dartmouth all on her own. No mommys and daddys buying buildings here folks. She was a field artillery officer in the Army. She studied Krav Maga in Israel, volunteered in Costa Rica, studied film for a tiny bit in high school in New York all by herself. All these random things. How cool is that?

It’s pretty damn cool.

Somehow Em usually never lets other people’s expectations define her.

I wish that we could all be that brave, that we could have the opportunity and empowerment to be that brave, that we could all become who we want to become, define ourselves instead of others or society defining us. How shiny the world would be then, wouldn’t it?

A LOT OF IT COMES FROM YOUR FAMILY

In my family, my sister was the good one. Another sibling was the handsome, successful one. I was the quirky smart one. Another sibling was the angry one.

Those labels are who we were expected to be.

But the thing is that my sister? She’s smart. She’s successful.

That angry sibling? He did some amazing things before he died. Things that make him stunningly successful in my eyes.

And I’m quirky, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the smartest of us.

But those are the expectations, the roles, the labels and those scripts our family’s right for us (both good and bad) can really stick.

How Do You Defy Expectations

Think of who you want to be.

Think of what you want to try.

Think of why you haven’t yet.

If it isn’t about money and resources and you can, give whatever it is a try. Do the thing that people don’t expect you to do (Try not to go to jail though. Legal things are usually a better choice.) and see how it feels. See how you feel.

Do people expect you to be quiet? To be loud? Do they expect you to be an activist? A peace-maker? Think of how you can be the opposite of expectations if you feel like those expectations are holding you back. The first step is to imagine being what it is that YOU want to be, not what your teachers, family, friends, coworkers, employees, bosses want you to be. YOU.

Is there something you always wanted to do, to be, and people scoffed. Show them how wrong they are. Blow their minds. Blow your own mind, too.

Continue reading “How Do You Defy Expectations”

Flour Tattoos and Hyperbole is the Biggest Danger in the World (That’s Hyperbole right there)

Flour Tattoos and Hyperbole is the Biggest Danger in the World (That’s Hyperbole right there)

 
 
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So, this woman, Aileen Weintraub on the Huffington Post, has an article that’s headline is, “I’m a Grown Woman and I Still Sleep with a Stuffed Animal.”

“George is my deep, dark secret, and I’m sharing our story now in the time of COVID-19 because many of us are quietly struggling.”

Aileen Weintraub

And the article is sweet and lovely, and poor Aileen had COVID-19 and was terribly sick and was even more stressed because George, her stuffed dog has been with her for thirty years and she didn’t know if her stuffed animal would be able to go with her if she had to come to the hospital.

And she was ashamed because stuffed animals are allegedly “transitional objects.”

She wrote,

“I love my family, but this little hound doesn’t take up much room and he doesn’t shift the sheets. I don’t have to explain myself to him. He doesn’t ask questions and he’s always there, a personal touchstone I can depend on. George doesn’t judge. He never complains and I never have to cook for him. He never rummages through the fridge and tells me there is no food in the house. He doesn’t leave towels on the floor. He doesn’t bark while I’m on a conference call. George gets me.

“When I was quarantined for 16 days as the coronavirus ravaged my body, no one in my family could touch me. I communicated with them via text or through a closed door. But George was there. He is so quiet that it would be easy to forget him. I never do.

“George is my deep dark secret, and I’m sharing our story now in the time of COVID-19 because no matter how strong, confident or successful a person may appear, the truth is that many of us are quietly struggling. When everything seems hopeless, when it looks like we will never get out of the hellfire that is 2020, perhaps it’s OK to admit to finding softness and comfort from something as simple and familiar as an old threadbare stuffy.”

Aileen Weintraub

God bless this lady because if George, the stuffed animal in her bed, is her deep dark secret? What a nice life she’s had.

What Is Hyperbole?

Hyperbole is basically defined as an exaggeration that people use to emphasize an effect. It’s extravagant. It’s bullshit. It comes from the Greek word for “excess.”

I’m not sure if this ‘deep dark secret’ is hyperbole, but it sure feels like one.

And the problem with hyperbole? Is that it’s not truth. It’s inauthentic. It’s the tool of politicians and apparently op-ed writers and we’re all freaking too used to it. We don’t examine the extravagant claims of influencers, writers. Headlines and tweets and speeches and email subject lines are full of them.

 In writing fiction especially, hyperbole can be a brilliant tool. Listen to this Monty Python bit about being completely not rich.

You were lucky. We lived for three months in a brown paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six o’clock in the morning, clean the bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down mill for 14 hours a day and when we got home, our Dad would thrash us to sleep with his belt!​

Monty Python people

The Problem

Writers, you can use hyperbole but don’t use it in your nonfiction. Even Aristotle was anti-hyperbole saying it was amateur and childlike and that it was the tool of bad, angry politicians.

Why is it bad?

It’s bad because it’s used to manipulate us and our emotions. It makes normal things suddenly feel over the top, excessive, the deepest and darkest of secrets or the most terrifying moments of existence. It’s when someone yells at you for your opinion or your actions and you call it an ‘attack’ in which you are in fear of your life. It’s when you’re pushing for your agenda and twisting truth so that you can be the savior or the victim and it is dangerous AF.

And it’s normal now. We’re used to seeing the exaggeration of truths becoming lies. No, that article is not going to make you instantly a best selling book writer or super fit in three fast weeks. No, that politician isn’t going to save your country. No, that person with an opinion different than yours does not deserve to die.

Hyperbole pulls us away from the truth. In the excess and exaggeration often comes an otherness, an us versus them mentality that prevents us from finding truths, middle roads, and we become so engrossed in it that we see a story about a woman’s deepest, darkest secret being about sleeping with her stuffed animal and we believe it.

We’ve got to return to truth, to discourse, to authenticity.

And we have to do it before it’s too late before that extremism is the norm, exaggeration is the defacto position for all of us, before we forget what truth even is.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Write truth. Write things that resonate. Hyperbole is a great tool, but it shouldn’t be your go-t0 response.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Don’t hyperbolize the simple stuff.

SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

Continue reading “Flour Tattoos and Hyperbole is the Biggest Danger in the World (That’s Hyperbole right there)”

Am I Klutzy? No? Yes? What Are The Truths About Ourselves, Really?

A long time ago, my now-dead mom called and the first thing she said on the phone was not:

1. Hello.

2. Hi. This is Mom.

3. Yo.

4. Pant. Pant. Pant.

No, the first thing she said was:

“Well, now I guess I know where my klutzy daughter got it from.”

my mom

I had no idea who she was talking about. My brain just blanked. It was kind of like when you’re going through an internet wormhole and a page has a hard time loading and you get that page where it says there’s a server problem and the site can’t be viewed. Or you get that little sand glass thing to indicate the program is thinking, thinking, thinking but there’s a good possibility it just won’t connect and it’ll probably freeze.

Finally, I thought,

“Klutzy? Me? I’m the klutzy daughter? Not Debbie?”

Carrie the confused.

I asked everyone else I knew, who know the Carrie Jones I am now, and they all said, “What?”

With genuine shock.

Which was cool because I like to think of myself as a graceful queen of the house,home and kayak.

But what’s really got me going is how different people can have totally different perceptions of who we are? And who is right? Are we who we perceive ourselves to be? Or are we who the consensus thinks we are? Both? None?

Apparently, C.S. Lewis tackles this in his book, Till We Have Faces, which I have not read because I’m not really a big Lewis fan. Gasp! I know!

But it all intrigues me so much.

When I was a little kid, there was a girl who thought she was a fantastic singer and had perfect pitch. She was not. People cringed when she sang and she sang a lot. But it didn’t matter to her. She believed that she was amazing.

I was always so afraid that I was like her. That I would believe something about myself that was the opposite of the truth.

There are people out there who believe they are the epitome of good and there are people who think those same people who are the epitome of evil.

One of my daughters has a dad who thinks she is clumsy while I think she is the least clumsy person I’ve ever met.

And I guess it’s perspective. And I guess figuring it all calls for a definition of truth. But those things — perspective, truth — those are big things that are somehow no longer all that easy to define.

Continue reading “Am I Klutzy? No? Yes? What Are The Truths About Ourselves, Really?”