I’ve been quietly writing poems first thing every morning for a couple of weeks now. I guess, it’s my idea of morning pages, which is a writer thing where you write in the morning. Or maybe like journaling, which is a self-help thing where you get your brain ready for the day.

So, I write a poem in the morning lately.

This morning’s poem is up there.

And I’ve been not-so-quietly writing a hyper-local news blog for about a year now. It gets about 70,000 views every month, which is pretty cool and also sort of amazing since I kind of thought it would get–maybe 100?

And on this Friday, I’m trying to be a bit braver about the things I do maybe too quietly and to not be afraid to go a bit bigger in ambition and voice and focus.

It’s weird to go bigger when people expect you to be small.

This, of course, made me think about expectations.

This woman I met last week did the typical, “Oh what do you do?” as if my occupation defined me. I know! I know! People ask that to make small talk, but I’d so much rather we got to know each other by asking questions like, “Do you talk to birds?” or “Have you ever hugged a tree?” or “Do you believe that dancing in the rain is a cliche, silly, ridiculous, or a must-do whenever it is raining?”

Anyway, she asked me what I did.

I said, “I write novels.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Oh, really?”

She asked the next question, which if you are a writer, you know is always, “Have you published any?”

And I got to say, “Yes.”

Shaun yelled in, “She’s an NYT and internationally bestselling author.”

And her other eyebrow went up into that shocked look. I shrugged.

Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter if some of my books randomly made those lists. What matters is that I love stories and creating them and sharing them.

What matters isn’t that I’m now somehow more acceptable because of a bench mark of success.

What matters is that I talk to birds and have definitely hug a tree and think dancing in the rain can be whatever you want it to be.

It’s okay to be big when people expect you to be small. It’s okay to create your art and not have to have it become a “mark of external success.”

And it’s also okay to be small when people expect you to be big.

We get to be who we are. That’s it. Be who you are.

And also I hope you have a great and brave Friday!

Here’s my painting this week. It’s a couple of colors that almost don’t go together. Kind of like expectations and reality, right?

Be Brave Friday–Finding Awe in a Tomato

I tell the story about one of my grandmother’s a lot. She was born in 1896, which means she’d be 127 now if she was still alive, which is kind of staggering. She died in 2001, which if my math is right, means she made it to 104, which is pretty staggering, too. My dad was her youngest child and I was his youngest child by a lot, which is why I’m not 80 right now.

Anyway, my grandmother was about 4-foot-10 and she loved art and books and music and deep thought. She wasn’t a positive person. This was not a woman who would give you a pep talk. Ever. I mean, if you think about it, she’d lived through two world wars and a depression.

She painted. She was embarrassed by her creations and would hide if her sons bragged about them.

She wrote poems. She said they were swill.

But she had this appreciation—this state of awe—for so many things.

She’d see a perfectly formed tomato and tears would come to her eyes. She’d touch her grandchild’s (or great grandchild’s) arm or cheek and marvel at the softness, the texture, the youth of their skin, the clarity of their eyes. She greatly appreciated things—small things and refined things.

A painting by me.

Because she fed a family during the Great Depression in Staten Island, she would wax poetic, in total awe, over butchering a piece of meat and bemoan the state of meat in grocery stores in the 1990s (and probably before that).

According to the Greater Good Magazine, “Awe is the feeling we get in the presence of something vast that challenges our understanding of the world, like looking up at millions of stars in the night sky or marveling at the birth of a child. When people feel awe, they may use other words to describe the experience, such as wonder, amazement, surprise, or transcendence.”

Every time I put something out (art, a news story, a blog post, a book, even something as simple as a Facebook post), I think of my grammy and how cool it would have been if she could have been okay with not being perfect and with sharing things she might want to share. I remember my little kid self looking at her paintings with awe and reading her poems and trying to understand the mystery in the enjambments and in the lines. I had fierce grandmothers, too. But Grammy Barnard? She was the one who fell in love with the world, one skin touch, one tomato, at a time.

May you feel awe today. May you be brave enough and open enough to let a tomato’s perfection bring you to tears. May you marvel in beauty of skin. May you inhale the world around you and embrace those things that make your understanding a tiny bit bigger.

If he postures like a gorilla? It’s probably not a good sign

Understanding Emotion

Sometimes when my ex-husband was angry and drunk his posture would change. It wasn’t upright with his shoulders back. It wasn’t just that his hands would curl into fists. It was the movement of his arms, the hunching of his shoulders, how his legs suddenly pointed out when he walked, how his chest expanded, how his arms swung.

“He looks like a gorilla,” I would think usually backing up, hands out, placating. “Just like a gorilla.”

It seemed ridiculous to me, a bizarre observation in the midst of a difficult time.

It turns out that I wasn’t all that wrong.


For a long time people have thought of emotional intelligence as a bit of a soft skill and the study of emotion as not as academically rigorous as other scientific studies.

In Ursula Hess’ paper, “Darwin and Emotion Expression” she writes,

“Darwin’s basic message was that emotion expressions are evolved and (at least at some point in the past) adaptive. For Darwin, emotion expressions not only originated as part of an emotion process that protected the organism or prepared it for action but also had an important communicative function. Darwin saw in this communicative function a further adaptive value: ‘We have also seen that expression in itself, or the language of the emotions, as it has sometimes been called, is certainly of importance for the welfare of mankind’” (Darwin, 1872/1965, p. 366).

The book she references is from 1872 and its called The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals. It was a radical book at the time because Darwin was a radical kind of guy. And everyone else was into creationism while he was pro-evolution.

He basically said that there are 45 emotions and that you can follow their paths back to mammalian behaviors. Emotions were and are, according to Darwin, how we have evolved from primates and mammals.

Dacher Keltner, Ph.D., founding faculty director, Greater Good Science Center, professor of psychology and director of the Berkeley Social Interaction Laboratory, UC Berkeley E says,

“So dogs show forms of guilt that you might see in humans. Other kinds of species—the primates show threat displays that look like our anger displays, and so on.”

Freud took a couple steps back and said that we just have two main emotions: desire and destruction. Paul Ekman expanded our understanding again and even defined emotional characteristics. Though they feel un-triggered, emotions are often triggered by our brains looking for clues of how to figure out and react to the world.

Keltner says,

“And now, in the field, we think that the emotions do a couple of really important things.

The first is, they systematically orient your mind to attend to certain things and to make certain kinds of decisions. Emotions provide a lot of really important information into what we think matters in the current environment, what we think we should do, what we think is of value or worrisome. They guide thought.

And then the second function that emotions serve—and we often lose sight of this, which is that emotions orient action. They move you towards particular kinds of action. When you’re feeling angry in a negotiation, that’s moving you,

Gerben Van Kleef has shown in Holland, toward being strong in the negotiation and making sure you get your way. So this functional view of emotions, that they guide thought in systematic ways and guide our action, actually yields really important insights that I hope you’re self-aware of.

Is there a scientific consensus about, what are the emotions, what are the different states that we should be aware of when we’re at work?

And it’s really interesting.

Because this is a young science, we don’t have the periodic chart of what the emotions are.

Not yet.

What we think of in the field right now is there are about 20 different emotions. There are negative emotions, like guilt and shame and fear and anger and envy and embarrassment, and there are positive emotions, like joy and contentment and gratitude and love, sympathy, awe, and beauty.”

There’s a really cool and easy to understand (bonus!) website from Frontiers for Young Minds that explains how emotions work. But basically emotions tend to be studied by breaking apart their building blocks which are:

  • What happens in your body
  • What you are thinking, what you’re conscious of
  • And how your actions and behavior are expressed.

Pretty cool, right? There are other ways of thinking about it and studying it as well, such as mood meters, but for me as a regular non scientist and a writer, I think that those linkages of those three elements help me understand the people I recreate on the page and the people that I just talk to in life.

When we understand a little more about emotion, it can help us as humans with our own emotions, but it also can help us as humans to survive and thrive in our interactions with others and not think, “he looks like a gorilla right now, how absurd,” but to actually take appropriate action.

As it’s written in Funderstanding (best website name ever),

“Accurately identifying others’ emotions is essential to our social well-being and happiness. The ability to pick up on others’ emotions helps us manage, communicate, and collaborate with them more effectively. Put simply, it enables us to get along better with people in general. The inability or non-conscious choice not to identify how people are feeling can easily lead to conflict and problems. When I was teaching middle school, I noticed this skill deficit in a number of my students. During my first year or two supervising the middle school cafeteria during lunch (I did this for eleven years), students who were the most challenging to manage were often those who didn’t accurately read other students’ emotions, or mine.”

The next step in a better world is probably caring about other’s emotions and having empathy, but to do that it helps to build the skill of identifying that emotion. Funderstanding has some great ideas at the end of that above linked article to do just that.


The Man Who Called Me Miss America

The Man Who Called Me Miss America

Forgiving Yourself and Others

Forgiving Yourself and Others


There are all sorts of levels of bravery, you know?

Sometimes being brave is just waking up in the morning.

Sometimes being brave is crying because someone sees you or because they don’t.

Sometimes being brave is putting your life on the line or your reputation.

Sometimes being brave is insisting that you have a voice when people insist you don’t.

Sometimes being brave is opening up your heart and sometimes it’s shutting it down.

Sometimes being brave is just breathing in and out.

Sometimes being brave is just leaning away from the thought that you’re an imposter, that you’re not worthy and leaning into owning your light, your power, your joy.

You know what you do. You know how you live. You know when others are being brave. It’s okay to know when you are too, okay? Give yourself some props. You deserve them.

Here’s my painting in progress. I tried to post it last week and wimped out and deleted the post. I know! I know! So brave.

You can buy some of my art here.

Be Brave Friday-Being Knocked off the Sidewalk and Working on My Assumptions

The two women were walking down the sidewalk toward the library, heading toward me. I knew one of them. Everyone in town knows her. I’d met with her a few months ago, confused about why she’d wanted to meet me. Whatever the reason, it was obvious that I’d failed the test the way I do sometimes.

I’d reached out to her again. She never responded. I tried one more time. Nothing.

Maybe her email was chaos. I know mine is. I didn’t worry about it. I tend not to stress about that sort of thing.

And now as she and this other woman walked by, she kept her head down, talking.

Now, maybe she really didn’t see me, but she’s not a woman who misses much. And I saw them and I’m blind in one eye. 🙂

However, invisibility was a possibility because on our sidewalk, her friend didn’t move over so that we could go by single file. She bumped into me the way you bump into people in a high school hallway when you don’t like them too much.

Right then: I made an assumption. I assumed that the ignoring, the bump, they were on purpose.

Then I put my foot back on the sidewalk, kept striding like Beyoncé was playing in the background, and shook it off like Taylor Swift, swallowing something unspeakable, a tiny bit of pain that comes from not being ignored, but also disrespected, that feeling that some people give you when you realize that they wanted something from you and you didn’t provide it and now you aren’t worth sharing the sidewalk with.

But that’s an assumption—a horrible assumption. I have no idea about their intents.

It could have been something totally different, something that had nothing to do with me but with whatever they were talking about, engrossed in. They could be suffering in ways I can’t even imagine. So, they can have the sidewalk if they need it. It’s okay.

Here’s the thing that’s bigger than those two women and me. It’s hard sometimes to only be seen when someone wants something from you. It’s hard sometimes to be ignored. And that may not be what happened with me and that woman, but it happens all the time to people.

That breaks my heart. We’re all better than that. We all can be.

Real connections are important, those kinds of connections that stay hard and fast and true, the kind that don’t create unspeakable feelings that you have to gulp down, but the kind that you get to sing out, strong and true. You can’t get those if you choose not to see other people.

In this world, we have so many choices to see, to really see, other people beyond labels, beyond the bubbles of our own experience and our wants. We can choose to be cheerleaders, leaders, friends, bailsmen, helpers, students, teachers, people who give others a second chance or even a third one. And we can choose not to.

So, the next time I see that lady, I’m going to loudly say hello. That’s what being brave can be about, right? Being seen. And seeing others, too, even when they don’t see you any longer.

Here is my chaotic painting. Color is mixed. Technique is mixed. There are no angels in it yet. But there will be, somewhere, seeing.


This one is about dogs

There’s a story I tell about our dog, Scotty, who was a rescue and a hero kind of dog. Em calls him “the best dog ever.” He had bullets still inside of him when we got him, shrapnel. He was kind and chill and super loving, protective when he had to be, but consistently a great lover of other dogs and strange people even though someone had once shot him.

One time, Scotty, Sparty, and I were walking in Glen Mary Woods (a tiny patch of woods in our town) when a golden retriever barreled over and tried to take out Sparty, teeth snapping, haunches raised.

Sparty dropped, submissive and shaking.

Scotty, instantly whipped into action. He pulled the other dog’s attention to him, got him off Sparty and then stood there sideways, body always between me and Sparty and this dog as the dog lunged and growled and feinted and lunged, hitting Scotty multiple times.

Scotty did the minimum he had to do aggressively to keep this dog away from us. We all survived with minimal physical damage. Psychological damage though? That was a bit different.

After that, Scotty always looked at approaching dogs that he didn’t know sideways, no longer just expecting them to be awesome and kind and ready to romp. He lost that bit of his happy go lucky.

I always tell that story because Scotty is so heroic in it. But lately I’ve realized that though Sparty didn’t have the doggy krav maga skills to fight off that other dog, he did something else heroic. He does it every day.

Sparty chooses not to be afraid. When we go out on walks, I never worry about Sparty being mean to humans or dogs. He’s not reactive. He’s the master of the chill.

So, while Scotty learned to be suspicious and a little wary of strange dogs, Sparty? He has chosen not to be. You can literally see him get excited (think full body wiggle) when he sees dogs, not as strangers, but potentially friends.

This happens even though he was the one who was attacked.

Our puppy Pogie is the opposite and we’re trying to work her through that, but I just keep thinking about Sparty and how he chooses not to judge, not to be afraid, until he has to.

That’s a pretty powerful way to be.

So, here’s to all the Spartys in this world who focus on seeing good.

And here’s to all the Scottys who sacrifice and take the hits so that the Spartys don’t have to.

And here’s to you if you’re a Scotty or a Sparty (photos below) or somewhere in between.

A painting I’m working on.

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It is always a little terrifying for me to put myself out there. I met a local man last night and he shook his head and said, “I like to fly under the radar, you know?” His suit coat was off. His tie was still on. He made a motion for an airplane with his hand. “Whoosh, right under it.”

I do, too.

And earlier this week, I talked to a woman who was telling me things they were going through at her company as they tried to do kind things.

“No good deed goes unpunished, right?” she said this with a half-frown and a half-smile.

Another woman said to me, “I know you are close to this man, but he is a snake. A snake!”

Full disclosure: I’m not close to this man, not in the way she meant. I’ve never even been to his house. He has never been to mine. We’ve never been in a hotel room together. Cough. But he has hugged me. A lot of people have hugged me. I’m good with that. I like hugs.

“Everyone in town,” she said, “knows this man is a snake.”

Another full disclosure: Once after a Rotary meeting, I held the door open for the governor who had just spoken. He engulfed me in a hug. We’re not close either. At all.

There are a lot of songs about small towns in country and rockabilly music, about life within them, about trying to breathe in them, about the goodness in community and everyone knowing your business, and about the bad apples that make you feel during politically divisive times that talking to someone might not hold your political views is a crime. That having a Facebook friend who holds alternative views on something like short-term rentals or cruise ship visitation is a crime. That when someone hugs you or fist-bumps you after a meeting, it means you are besties

It’s not. Not yet anyway.

Another day this week, a woman I know said, “I love this place, but sometimes I wish—I wish that I could just pull up my hood, put on some dark glasses, and be anonymous. But these people, they do. They find you.”

And another day this week, I talked to a woman who said almost the same exact thing, a lovely, amazing cool woman full of humor and goodness.

All these people who want to hide? They are good people. I don’t know everything about them. I don’t know what makes their hearts hurt, what keeps them up at night, what they’re proud of or ashamed of or what they yearn for, but I love them. I hardly know them. I love them anyway. Someone this week teased me and said, “Carrie, you pretty much love everyone.”

That’s true, I told them, until it isn’t.

Yesterday, a woman came up to me and told me that an event I’d just held was horrible. That’s how she started the conversation. “It was horrible.” I said I was sorry to hear that and asked her why and how I could have made it better. She gave me reasons that were the same exact reasons that other people had told me it was a great event.

What a cool lesson, right?

She offered me insight right there and showed me how different her take was. It hurt even though it was the opposite of so many other people’s views, but it was good to know who she was and how she felt. Here’s the thing I always have to make myself remember: People are always going to have their own likes and their own takes. People are always going to have their own logic and their own feelings. Even when you want to hide, go whoosh under the radar, huddle in your sweatshirt and sunglasses, some people are going to find you and tell you what they think and sometimes they will think awful things that are fiction about you or others or even themselves.

That’s especially true when I think of the three shiny people I mentioned before, the people who want to hide. The more you are out there, the more feedback you get: good and bad.

The other thing is that you can reach out when these things happen, talk it through, and remember you aren’t alone. Some really brilliant and kind people helped me with that last night. I was brave enough to reach out to them (something I have a hard time doing because I’m used to being the one who helps) and they were brave enough to reach right back and help me in mama bear and papa bear ways. How cool is that? It’s so cool! And that wouldn’t have happened without that lady. And for that? I am so grateful.

This painting might look vaguely familiar. I posted it last week I think, but I didn’t like it. There was something wrong. So, I started working on it some more–reframing it just like I’m reframing my experience last night. It’s rough and color is trying to break through and there is chaos and there is hope. And that’s what I’m working toward, too.

That’s all I have this Be Brave Friday. Maybe be brave with each other. Maybe be kind to each other. Maybe be kind to yourself, too.

And if you choose to fly under the radar or right through the turbulence? It doesn’t matter. Just freaking fly. Don’t let anyone stop you. Just fly.

You can get prints of my art here if you’re into it. No pressure.

I’ve Been Talking To People I’m Scared of and It’s Turning Out Okay

injustice often came from not taking care of the earth and then not taking care of each other.

This year, I’ve been talking to a lot of people that I used to be a little afraid of.

And it’s been?


It’s actually been lovely.

People that I was intimidated by, I now message on Facebook.

People that I would stress about seeing because they had no problem telling me uncomfortable truths? We talk on the phone.

People that were so beautiful and confident that I would sort of gawp at and run the other way? We smile and talk now. We make eye contact during meetings when other people are being dorks.

And this? It’s kind of a beautiful thing and a lucky thing. It’s all just because I stopped being a wimp and started just going into everything I’m afraid of with the goal of being nice no matter what.

Tomorrow is the tenth year anniversary of Richie Havens’ death. This man was a talent, an enhancing talent, but also someone who spent a lot of his life making the kind of music that preached love and kindness for each other and the environment.

Next week it will be the tenth anniversary of my little hobbit dad’s death. He was no Richie Havens, but he, too, dedicated so much of his time in love and kindness for other people, for the environment, breaking into song or whistling because the music of the world meant a lot to him and was a part of him.

And both of them seemed as if they could be skeptics; they were comfortable and familiar with unease.

And I think both of them believed (at least at some point in their lives) that injustice often came from not taking care of the earth and then not taking care of each other.

Today, I decided (again) that I need to rededicate myself to humanhood – to the hope that I can find a way to see everyone as part of a great, big human system that we are all in together.

There is magic in the earth. But it has to be tended to.

There is magic in humanity. But it has to be tended to, too.

I am tired of enemies. I am tired of thinking in a way that makes other people enemies or the earth, an enemy. I want a world that doesn’t have that, yet I still think that way sometimes. Recently, someone who has some issues and has been kind of mean to me, asked me, “How can you still be nice to me? I don’t understand how you can still be nice.”

It’s the only way I want to be. And, I TOTALLY fail at it sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I am going to stop trying. I want a world of nice, or magic, or tending to, a world where we celebrate each other being brave even when the result is sort of a mess (like my sketch below).

I can’t control anyone else, but I can at least partially control myself, so I’m going to try.

I’ll call it the Nice Experiment. It’s starting now. Fingers crossed that I’ll do okay with it. Fingers double crossed that people like Havens and my dad are still here, paying homage, creating music with words and thoughts and guitar riffs and hobbit voices (my dad, not Havens) that matter.

May be art

You can buy prints of some of my art if you’re into that.

And there’s more of this sort of content on Living Happy. It’s a Substack.

Be Brave Friday (the vaguely tired version)


Since I started the Bar Harbor Story, I’ve been getting up at 5 working on my own novels (5-7) and then doing paying work and the news blog throughout the day and sometimes into the night because town meetings are at night (7 to 5 or 7 or 11 if the town council goes long).

What does this mean?

It means I fall asleep really well at night. But it also means that I’ve been neglecting painting a bit and painting? It’s really fun. And it makes me feel good inside even when it’s terrible.

So this week, I’m making two commitments to myself to try to get a better balance (You can tell my birthday is coming, right?).

I’m trying to:

1. Paint for five minutes a day (even if it’s a little bit).

2. I started the Couch to 5K program again (much to Shaun‘s horror). I really love running. My overly flexible joints, however, hate me doing it.

And also, most importantly, I’m trying to remind myself to be a bit more brave thanks to a post of her great painting that Amy recently tagged me in. Thanks for that push, Amy.

This one I’ve been tweaking and tweaking and rethinking. But here is what it looks like today. Here is what I look like today, too: a person made up of a lot of disjointed strokes trying to create something cohesive.

I hope you all have a great Friday and weekend and stay safe and warm and well and get to choose brave rather than have it forced on you.



My art shop is here and if you want to check out the news blog, it’s here, and if you want to check out my other blog (it’s a bit more personal as I try to figure out life and living with purpose and has week daily animal thoughts, that’s here). No pressure!

You Don’t Have To Be Brave

Living Happy and Stuff

Photo: Me

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “What the what?” Or maybe you’ve put some expletives in there. I’ve been posting about being brave week after week after week as I push against my social anxiety and post paintings.

Here is the thing: I grew up in a family full of fear. My older sister was allegedly afraid of grass when she was little. Grass! My mother was afraid of a litany of things: birds, closed-in spaces, wide-open spaces, high spaces, water over her head, bridges in a storm. My brother inherited the bird fear, or maybe he learned it. So did my sister.

my adorable mom

And I grew up thinking that I didn’t want to be anything like that. No offense to my mom because she was wonderful, but she changed the channel if Donald Duck was on and he’s a cartoon. She wouldn’t go to parks with seagulls. She wouldn’t go near a feather pillow.

I grew up chanting “You have to face your fears” when my television turned on at night all by itself or when I had to take an algebra test or when I convinced twelve girls at a fourth grade birthday party to all hold hands and confront whatever the heck was making that groaning noise in the kitchen. Spoiler: it was the fridge and a snoring dog.

I faced my fears one after another. My voice? Check, make a podcast. Not scary enough. Make a live podcast. Art? Check, do some art. Post it online. People constantly telling me I made a mistake? Check, make a news blog without an editor.

A Friend’s Words

One night last month, a friend took me aside at a gathering and whispered, “You know, you don’t always have to be brave.”

She had a beer in her hand and a determined glow in her eye.

I gawped at her.

She nodded and twirled away back to the gathering. And I was left with her words.

You don’t always have to be brave.

It was shocking. It was the opposite of my mantra. I think our society (or a lot of us in it) believe that you always have to be brave. But life isn’t about always facing your fear, is it? If you’re afraid of sky diving, do you really have to sky dive? If you’re afraid of going bankrupt, do you really have to lose all your money? If you’re afraid of having a concussion, do you have to give yourself a concussion?

Facing all my fears has definitely expanded my world, but it’s okay for me to enjoy the world I’m in just as I’m in it, too. There can be balance.

You Don’t Always Have To Be Brave.

That’s the thing. There is sometimes a power to not pushing yourself into doing things that are really scary for you — like downhill skiing when you have no depth perception. Cough. Yes, cough. That is me.

It’s okay to sometimes hunker down, build up your reserves, and just be. That’s right. Just be. It’s okay to be who you are right in that moment. And that might not be the same who you are that you are in the very next moment. Humans get to change, to discover, to grow, to decide when and if they should be brave or not.

If you want to, you can come hang out with me at Living Happy. I’m much better about posting there. 🙂 No pressure though!

Be Brave Friday – Spanx Are Not Meant to Be Worn Backward


I was going to write about so many people being brave in our high school’s lockdown this week, but I’m not ready for that yet, and this came out instead.

It’s long (I write novels), but I hope you’ll give it a look anyway.

I was talking to a man at the Chamber of Commerce dinner this week and I hadn’t seen him in a while.

Okay, let’s face it. I haven’t seen anyone in a while unless you count Halloween and picking up the farm share and going to the farmer’s market.

And I told him how terrified I was about going up to get an award for being someone that the Chamber president thought did good things for the community or that they admired or something like that.

“We’ll be rooting for you, Carrie,” he said. “You’ll be great.”

“God love you for a liar,” I said.

“No! No, you will.”

Two minutes before I got the award, I went to the bathroom and realized that I put the Spanx underwear I’d bought on backward and the lacy parts were not on my front, but on my butt, making my already non-existent butt even less existent.

“No,” I half yelled.

A woman in the next stall made a shocked noise.

I was not alone. I was with someone who made shocked noises.

Here’s the thing: I could have done one of two things. I could have taken my underwear off, turned it around, and have her see in that space below the stall me trying to yank up my underwear over my big, knee-high boots that are supposed to make me feel like Wonder Woman.

There in the bathroom stall of the Atlantic Oceanside, I did not feel like Wonder Woman. My boots were highly recognizable. She’d totally figure out that it was me who yanked her underwear off and did a switch-around in the stall.


I did not have that kind of courage right then, and I yanked those stupid underwear right back up backward and flushed the toilet and opened the stall. I washed my hands, but I couldn’t even look in the mirror.

“Coward,” I whispered. Not very self-love, I know.

A tiny bit later, Nina Barfuldi St. Germain said a bunch of super lovely things about me and my news blog and I heard none of it. She said my name. I stared. A million years passed. Well, they did in my head.

Alf Anderson, the director gave me a sympathetic look and for a second, I thought he knew about my Spanx, but no. He knew about my stage fright, which happens before I speak, but especially happens in front of people I know locally. The smaller the crowd, the worse I am. Shove me in a school, put me in another state? Put me in front of 1,000 strangers. I rock it. But my own community? With backward Spanx?

I stood up. I walked over. I got on stage somehow, hugged Nina and thought, “Her shoulders are so tiny, how does she do so much, how does she hold so many things together?” And then I thought, “I bet she isn’t wearing her Spanx backward.”
But I looked at Alf and Nina and the lovely man from the beginning of the meeting and Shaun, and they gave me safety.

The award was supposed to be about me, but I knew it wasn’t. The award was about community and people loving you and you loving them even when your Spanx are on wrong and everything might seem backward.

While up there, I told this story about how my daughter and I were once stuck in a flash flood in Charleston and how we hunkered under an awning, watching water spew, filling up the road, thundering down around us, and a kid looked at me and said, “ ‘Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced,’ Soren Kierkegaard.”

And I was sort of flabbergasted because here I was in a flash flood in Charleston and a pre-teen, barely teen, guy was quoting Kierkegaard at me. I wasn’t flabbergasted that he knew the old philosopher because I know teens are smart and amazing. I was flabbergasted that he gave me that quote like an offering. It was a special offering because in one of the book that I had coming out, the teen protagonist is a big Kierkegaard fan.

And my own little quote came to me, “Life has its own hidden forces which you can only discover by living.”

I gave that to him and he smiled. He said, “You either brave it or you don’t. But I will root for you.”

And that’s what it’s all about. It’s about rooting for each other and sometimes our own selves. It’s about giving offerings like Nina of the strong but tiny shoulders did. It was about all those people in that room, working hard, being brave, supporting each other and the kids and the employees, and places like the library, and making community.

Helping others is an act of bravery because it’s an act of hope.

Caring about others is an act of bravery because it’s an act of empathy.

Rooting for others is too because sometimes they might not be wearing their underwear correctly.

I promise that I will root for you through all the forces, hidden and unhidden, and I truly hope that we can all root for each other—in good times and bad—and maybe especially bad. I will root for you. And sometimes that’s a little brave.

*These paintings are some of the first I did and they are on bookshelves because I thought only ‘real’ painters used canvas. And I’m sharing them here because for me they are about hope and becoming. And they remind me of all the people I’m rooting for.

My art shop is here. 🙂 My news blog is here.

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