Charlene Churchill

Photo Courtesy of the Rotary Club of Ellsworth

A week ago from Sunday, my friend Charlene died of pancreatic cancer. 

That’s a hard sentence to write. 

It’s even harder when I think of hanging out with Charlene this summer. A retired librarian, she worked at the campground we were staying at while we rented our house. Charlene made my introverted self feel safe and happy even when surrounded by camping extroverts. Whenever I saw her, I would smile. Charlene was like that. She calmed me. 

One day we whispered over the counter in the campground office about my new neighbor’s shenanigans of the porn-rated kind, which weren’t a big deal except the noise. I wasn’t super excited about having to explain to the ten-year-old what the noises coming from the next tent over were about. 

“They’re gone tomorrow,” Charlene assured me. “I promise. You can make it one more day, right?”

One more day. 

Photo via Jack Frost via Ellsworth Rotary Club

“Whenever I’m having a hard time,” she added, “I tell myself, ‘Look at this beautiful sunrise. Look at this person I get to talk to. I’m lucky. I can do anything for one more day.” 

When Charlene told me about her diagnosis the summer was over and we were all out of the campground and I wasn’t getting my almost daily dose of Charlene. All my internal organs seemed to drop six inches as I read her message. There was this hole inside of me that was sudden and huge and real.

It was October and she wrote, 

Thanks for your faith in me but I’m afraid I’ve been handed one that may be too tough for me. I have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the tumor seems to be growing quickly. I think I’m not beating this one. That’s ok too. Trying to stay ahead of the pain is hard.

I told her that she was amazing and strong and brilliant and how much I love her and she wrote: 

I sure don’t feel strong right now. 

And I thought, “Crap. Neither do I.”

But I wrote, “You are soul strong.”

That was true.

No matter what happened, Charlene was always soul strong. 

Photo courtesy of Charlene’s Facebook via Timberland Acres

This past summer at the campground, Charlene wanted me to share a story I wrote about death and a camper’s wife, and how the campground is this beautiful place that inspires community no matter what, how it endures even as ownership, staff and campers change, about how the connections we create matter. I didn’t want to share the story too widely because I didn’t want to exploit the woman’s pain. Charlene respected that. Charlene respected a lot of things.

Charlene was special because she understood that the needs of individual people are greater than the needs of a company or of marketing. She was special because she believed in empathy, in story, and in the power of goodness. 

She knew all about the power of goodness because my detail-oriented friend spent her life devoted to doing good. 

Charlene was part of Rotary International and was constantly giving back to her community (local and international) by volunteering. Charlene was a champion of books and writers. She made me feel special even as I started to write. I believed in myself partly because Charlene believed in me. I started being a writer when Charlene was the director of the Ellsworth Public Library. She took this scared, socially anxious writer under her wing and held me close, celebrating every thing I did like she was the mom I never had. 

My dog Sparty is a great judge of character and he would get so excited if Charlene drove by in the campground golf cart. He’d hop into the cart and try to ride around with her. He looked proud to know her. 

I know how that felt. 

This summer we talked about how neither of us have any depth perception because we don’t see out of our left eyes. We had no idea that we shared this issue and laughed about parking cars, driving, bumping into door frames, being miserable at any sport where things fly at you (tennis, softball, volleyball).

“This must be one of the zillion reasons I love you,” I said as we stood under a blue-blue sky beneath the boughs of pines as squirrels chittered away above us, talking too. 

“That’s a reason why you love me?” She laughed. “I hope the other reasons are better.”

They were. 

Charlene told me about a long-lost love that she reconnected with. She went completely out of her comfort zone to do that, to even tell me about it, but she looked so proud of being vulnerable and being brave. 

“Life is too short to be afraid. I’m done being afraid,” she said. 

“I am so in awe of you,” I told her. 

“Ha!” She laughed. “I’m in awe of you.”

Campground lady friends picked her up. They all wore white slacks and nice shirts and were heading out on one of their weekly adventures, which was usually to shop or to go to a restaurant for lunch.

They looked so happy, so in-the-moment, so alive. 

And I vowed that next summer at the campground that I would make a massive effort to visit with Charlene every single day she worked and I’d bring my dogs that she loved so much and learn as much as I could about this woman, this magnificent Rotarian, librarian, human and white-slacks-wearing friend. 

She died five months later. It was right before Christmas. This summer never happened. But other summers have and I am so lucky. We are all so lucky. 

She had travelled to Houston for special treatment, but her body was already breaking and instead she had emergency surgeries, increasing bills, and a lot of pain. Her local Rotary club had a fundraiser and I made a basket for an auction (for my Rotary club), but couldn’t go because I was teaching a three-hour class that day at the same time.

Even though Charlene was still in Texas, I felt like the worst friend because I couldn’t be at that fundraiser because I had responsibilities. Charlene, a Rotary secretary, a library director, understood about responsibilities though. She understood about so many things.

I am in awe of Charlene, but I am also in awe of you – all my friends who read this, who I get to connect to, and I am in awe of all you do and how hard you try and how much you hope and work for good. Let’s lift each other up and do this together, okay? In honor of Charlene and all we’ve lost. 

Continue reading “Charlene Churchill”
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Gabby Dog’s Monday Motivation

Sometimes it’s hard to open your heart to life that feels different, but
that’s the best time to open your heart.

You get a cool soft place to rest your head & to just be.

Loving is just being.

Opening your heart? It’s not about taking or giving. It’s about being.

I want that for you.

Love,

Gabby Dog

Sparty’s Friday Urge

Sparty's Dog Thoughts
Sparty’s Friday Motivation

The world we see is the one we create.

When we figure out why we do what we do, that’s when we can figure out how to do things the way we actually want.

Put cats on your head.

See the world differently than everyone you know.

Be different.Deviate.Question why.
xo

Sparty Dog

This week’s podcast.

Sparty Dog on a Thursday

The thing is to be in your moment

Right now.

Where are you?

Are you stuck in a car and can’t open the door? You can still smile out the window. The car will move again. You will move again. You’ve got this.

You’re so full of light.

xo

Sparty Dog (apologies for the hearts)

Link to my humans’ podcast.

Subordinate My Clause, Santa

Subordinate My Clause, Santa

 
 
00:00 / 00:27:17
 
1X
 

Subordinate Me, Santa Claus

Subordinate clauses are baby clauses that can’t stand all by themselves as complete thoughts and they demand a certain kind of punctuation – or lack of punctuation.

Here are examples:

If I can find Santa, then we can go party. 

We can go party if Santa ever freaking shows up. 

So, in both of those sentences there is a clause can’t stand alone as a complete thought: 

If I can find Santa

If Santa ever freaking shows up.

A subordinate clause or supporting clause is basically a clause that’s supporting the show-stopping regular clause, right? These clauses do not get a comma before them if they are at the end of the sentence. 

HOW TO DEAL

There are words that always lead off these clauses. What I do is go back and do a find/replace in my work (or client’s work) when I’m copyediting. 

Helpful hint for writers: If you include the comma in the find/replace search, it makes it so much easier. 

Those words are…

These conjunctions: 

After, although, as, because, before, even if, even though, if, in order that, once, provided that, rather than, since, so that, than, that, though, unless, until, when, whenever, where, whereas, whether, while, why, for, therefore, hence, consequently, and due to.

And these relative pronouns that make the world of the clause even trickier. They are part of relative clauses but then these overachievers? Well, they are part of a subculture called restrictive or nonrestrictive clauses.

These are the relative pronouns

that, which, who, whom, whichever, whoever, whomever, and whose

Are you Restrictive or Nonrestrictive Mr. Clause? 

These pronouns start either restrictive clauses or nonrestrictive clauses. Restrictive clauses also like to be called essential clauses because they are alpha like that, but also because they are – you guessed it – essential to the sentence meaning and shouldn’t be separated by a comma 

Do you enjoy watching Santa Claus employ lots of elves that wear sexy sweaters?

No comma before that because the sentence needs to know the qualifier for its meaning.

But in a nonrestrictive clause? Well, you don’t have that happen. Here’s an example: 

Watching Santa, who employs a lot of elves wearing sexy sweaters, is pretty freaking awesome.  


WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Subordinate the proper things.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

It’s not about domination. It’s about understanding restrictions.

And there you go. Grammar Moment with Dogs are Smarter Than People. Happy Holidays!


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 “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


WHERE TO FIND US

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Continue reading “Subordinate My Clause, Santa”

Gabby Dog on Christmas Eve Day

Your truths aren’t everyone’s truths and everyone’s truths aren’t yours.


Be proud of who you are – flaws, beauties, moments, actions, loves, silences, words.


You are so beautiful just as you are. You.


Look at yourself.

You’re stunning and so full of light.

xo

Gabby Dog

Gabby and Sparty Monday Inspiration

When you find success, you might get glory or money, but when you find a way to love even when love feels impossible, even when the world feels impossible?

That’s when you’re really successful.

We hope you’re successful today and all days.

You’ve got this, humans.

xo

Gabby & Sparty Dog

Cat Thoughts for Friday

Sometimes the ones you least expect to love you end up licking your face. 

Lean into love.

You deserve it. 

Love brings kindness. Kindness brings goodness. Goodness brings hope. Lean.

Xo

Cloud and Marsie

Gabby the Dog’s Thursday Thoughts

A blank page, a new day? That’s bliss. 

You get to write or draw or dance all over that page, this day. Make it beautiful. Like you. 

Love,

Gabby

Grocery Carts are Evil; Happy Holidays

Upcoming Blog Break

Hi, everyone! I’m going to be taking a holiday blog break except for the weekday dog-inspiration posts next week starting today.

That’s because it’s the holidays here and they are holidays that I celebrate.

So in the spirit of the holidays let me tell you that:

I HATE grocery carts.

No offense to you if you are reading this and you are, in fact, a grocery cart. 

Why? Why do I hate them?

Well, because you have to drive them. 

This is bad because:

  • 1. I’m not a good driver.
  • 2. There’s no horn on the grocery cart and sometimes you really REALLY need a horn like when the woman with the kid singing the Baby Shark song blocks THE ENTIRE PRODUCE AISLE because she’s parked her ginormous grocery cart sideways. SIDEWAYS!!! What is she thinking?
  • 3. I can’t steer.
  • 4. I really can’t steer grocery carts when one of the four dinky wheels goes all Tar-rat-rat-rah-rat because it’s off balance.
  • 5. I tend to knock things over.
  • 6. I’m a floater not a driver.
  • 7. Did I mention I’m not a good driver? 

So, today I buy MASSIVE amounts of food for the holidays and go absolutely in debt for the rest of my life. 

Side note #1: Why do crackers cost $4.99? 

Side note #2: And I haven’t bought sliced meat for a long, long time because I am anti-sliced meat. NO OFFENSE TO YOU IF YOU ARE READING THIS AND YOU ARE A PIECE OF SALAMI.  I bought it to wrap asparagus in and it costs like a MILLION TRILLION dollars.

But I did it. Right? I did it. I even pushed the grocery cart through the icy parking lot, put it in the holding cell where all naughty shopping carts go. If we let them loose they’ll take over the parking lot. Seriously. I’ve seen it happen.

I make it all the way home even though I swear all the drivers in front of me are all channeling

and then I realize. I’ve forgotten drinks! I’ve forgotten protein! 

AND I HAVE TO GO BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Please come save me. I’ll be the tired looking writer pinned by the monster grocery cart in the juice aisle.


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IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

Order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

Bar harbor arts
Carrie Jones Art

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

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Check it out here. 

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you.