Every week day on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, I post something from my dogs (Gabby and Sparty) or my cats (Marsie, Cloud, and Koko).
I often wonder if there’s a point or if I’m just annoying everyone I know (and don’t) who follow me on social media.
I often think about how I give my thoughts and words to my dogs and cats because it’s the only way I can feel brave enough to say how I feel.
Every once in a while someone will get cranky with me about them, send me a private message and deride me because I still believe in love and goodness and hope.
“Who are you,” they’ll ask, “to believe such things. To share them with the world like you’re so smart or some sort of goody-goody.”
But every once in a while, someone will give me the most beautiful gift, an act of grace, a surprise, and I will cry because I am so stunned and lucky and grateful and relieved that there are so many good people out there.
Those reminders are so important especially when everything seems to be falling apart or actually is falling apart.
In just this past month, Cheryl Rainfield and Richard Small gave me those moments. And I felt so lucky.
This time it was Nora MacFarland who sent me this.
I cried when I saw it. I cried when I opened her cards. I cried when I sent her a thank you message.
I have cried a lot lately and if you’re the type of person who cries, I bet you have, too.
Last year we became full-time parents to a little person with oppositional defiance disorder and she always says after one of her big moments, “Why are people so nice to you?”
And I say, “I’m not sure, but I think it’s because I love people so much so I try to be kind to them.”
“Even people you don’t know?” she says, pretty skeptically honestly because this is hard for her to wrap her head around.
“Even people I don’t know and especially people I do know. Sometimes those people can actually be the hardest.”
I have been so lucky in this life because I do get to know people who go out of their way to give; people like Cheryl and Richard and Nora and so many more. People who offer pea soup because they know I love it. People who tell me I can rant when I need to. People who just read my books and support me on Patreon. People who I get to be a part of their literary and book journeys.
I know how lucky I am. I want you all to be lucky too.
Nora was so brave to send her amazing art to me, to make this, to share her genius. I hope you can be brave too. I know you can.
Loving your way through tough times, through big cultural hard times and personal horrors can feel almost impossible. But you can. And love and anger aren’t dichotomies that exist in separate spaces. It’s possible to rage and love and cry and hope all at once. But I hope that as you go through these days, you turn as often as you can to love.
HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED
Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.
On the first day of an awful year, it can be hard to feel hope, to be brave, and that’s okay.
Whatever you’re feeling and doing. You’re okay.
My friend, Lisa Wolfson aka L.K. Madigan was a beautiful human and author and she died of cancer before 2020.
She was a tremendous, kind, funny, supportive light in this world.
Her book? It’s a beautiful book. Her soul? It is a beautiful soul.
Her incredibly kind and thoughtful husband sent me a box of one of her book for our Little Free LibraryLittle Free Libraries that our local Rotary International club (Bar Harbor/MDI Rotary Club) installed on MDI.
I’ve been quietly putting those books in there, one after the other after another, thinking of the MDI kids who find them and read them, spreading Lisa’s light and heart and love throughout this island.
But I couldn’t post about it because it just…it made me cry. It made me remember that Lisa isn’t here anymore, that so many of my friends and relatives are gone and they deserve to be here and it made me think of everyone else I know (and don’t know) who has gone through so much loss and worry and pain.
Lisa’s books though? They give me hope. Her husband gave me hope because it is proof that people’s light and influence? It lives on.
It is hard to be brave when there is so much loss, but it’s important to be brave so that we can keep spreading other people’s lights and our own.
I hope your year is full of light and heart and love.
Thank you for being here, for reading this, for being my friend and for spreading goodness. We’ve got this, okay? Let’s be brave together in 2021.
*Apologies for the image tilt. It was cold!
The drop off!
I’ll be back to talking about characters on Monday!
May you have a lovely, safe, and healthy 2021.
LET’S HANG OUT!
HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?
MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?
I’ve been staring at this post for a good long time because I’m not feeling super brave right now, which is fine.
Bravery comes. It goes. It’s not a constant state. Nothing is a constant state, right?
I was going to talk about how this is the first year where being an author wasn’t my main source of income.
I know, right? Weird.
I actually have made more this year teaching other adults writing, editing novels, and being a writing coach and podcaster.
That’s a weird shift.
I love all those things, too.
I love seeing people find their voice, their stories’ truths, making themselves and craft stronger.
So that’s all good, but it means I’m not just or mainly a writer anymore.It’s so weird and kind of dumb (sorry) to think how in our country who we are is so linked to our main source of income. But I’m no less a writer this year than any other.
We are what we do, how we act, what we stand for, what we stand against. We are how we listen, how we evolve, how we challenge ourselves, how we connect and commit to others. We aren’t just our profession, the number of hours we work or our income.
And here’s my very much a work-in-progress painting, which represents the very much work-in-progress that is me and my country. It’s rough and dorky like me.
LET’S HANG OUT!
HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?
MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
“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?
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.
So, usually on Be Brave Friday, I share art that I’m working on because I am catastrophically shy about sharing art due to…um…family issues and negative scripts in my head that tell me I couldn’t ever possibly be (gasp) artistic.
But this Be Brave Friday isn’t about that actually.
What’s It About, Carrie?
This Be Brave Friday is about me and balance. Not the physical balance that keeps you from falling off a bicycle, but emotional balance that keeps you from stressing out every night.
As you may know if you know me at all, I grew up pretty poor even in comparison to my older siblings. My mom got me a credit card so she could use it and then not pay it was our kind of poor. My nana would stand in line and get us big blocks of government cheese kind of poor. Don’t answer the phone kind of poor. But we had a house and a car so we were super lucky that way. There was just a lot of stress.
And I went to college (thanks to financial aid and scholarships) and even graduate school, and I have my own house and no creditors calling and I can buy fancy cheese.
But I’m Still A Mess
Still, I freak out sometimes about making money because writers don’t get paid on a regular basis. And traditionally published writers get money once or twice a year if their advances sell out.
And that? That’s not so good for my psyche.
Things Get Worse
Then Covid came and one of my family’s main sources of income is renting our two houses. The house we live in and the house we used to live in.
We couldn’t do that much this summer because of Covid. And I went into disaster panic mode, trying desperately to think of ways to use my skills and add income streams.
And I’ve done that.
But what’s happened is that I get sick every night. Physically sick. I vomit. And vomiting is pretty gross and no fun. I tried to fix it and figured it might be some sort of food I’m ingesting.
Red meat? I want to be a vegan anyways. It’s gone. Pickles? I have a weird intolerance according to my DNA. Gone. Fatty foods? Gone. Wine? Gone. Soda? Gone. Tomatoes? Those are acidic. Maybe that’s it? Gone.
And then my daughter Em came home for a month and I only worked in the mornings, cutting back, hyper focusing so that I could spend time with her. I started biking again, running a tiny bit, getting outside.
I didn’t vomit for a month, which is fantastic because Em is a bit vomit-phobic since an incident at Friendly’s in fourth grade.
And then she left for school and I started getting sick again. Every night. I became afraid to have dinner and believe me, I love dinner. Maybe I have an ulcer, I thought.
I took medicine for that.
It helped for two days.
And then I had the epiphany that I didn’t get sick when Em was here, but it wasn’t because Em was here. It was because I wasn’t working from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. with only a break for dinner and fifteen minutes for lunch.
I was doing the method where you work 25 minutes and take 5 minutes off. I was doing it all day long until I made dinner.
I know! I know! I’m American. I am supposed to be all about being too busy and work ethic and blah, blah, blah. I’m also from poor and I’m terrified that I’ll be poor again so there’s that?
“Could this be actually making me sick?” I thought.
And I did what everyone too cheap to go to the actual doctor does. I googled it.
What I Learned
It turns out that for some of us humans, if we work all day and never take a break, our stress levels rise and rise and rise. And at night when we finally stop working, that stress can manifest as muscle pain, vertigo, headaches and… vomiting.
Gross! Gross! I know.
So there you go, my Be Brave Friday admission is that I’m so stressed out about making money that I get sick every single night. I’m so stressed out that I get anxious about taking more than a five-minute break.
So What To Do?
But people need money, right? Which is why I’m trying to start a class on Teachable where it’s not quite so much one-on-one couching. And I’m going to try to take bigger breaks in the afternoon.
I talk about balance to other writers all the time and it’s about time that I get back to it myself. To stop living in fear of losing everything. To start remembering what it is to breathe and step outside and feel actual wind.
Last week, someone told me that I produced more content than anyone else they knew. I don’t make money at most of that content, not really, and that content they were talking about doesn’t even include editorial and coaching letters. And I have to find a way to find that balance and this step? The admitting-I’m-so-not-perfect-that-I-actually-throw-up-daily step? I hope it sets me in the right direction.
Please feel free to tell me how you handle money stress, balance, and whatever you feel like asking about.
Hey! It’s Be Brave Friday, the day when I try to be brave myself and when I hope that you are trying too. Remember, being brave makes us stronger even as it makes us more vulnerable.
For me, being brave is often showing my art, but this week, podcaster, Sara Crawford introduced me as “writer, podcaster, and painter.” And that? It basically made my heart lift up into the air, winged and joyous.
So, be brave. You’ve got this. Bring that joy to your heart.
Every week on Facebook and now here on my blog, I do a quick BE BRAVE FRIDAY.
This is because:
I am trying to be more brave and evolve.
It 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.
It’s important that we remember who we wanted to be sometimes. And not just be the person we are.
So, today, I made a painting sketch? Is that a thing? On paper so I know it will degrade and not last and that’s okay. Because change, I tell myself, happens. It has to happen. And being brave is accepting that it will happen. Things will go away and evolve and change.
So much love to those of you who are sick, who are worried, who are fighting things to make the world better for all of us, for those of you who are speaking your truths and for those of you who are still afraid to.
The best kind of change happens when we’re brave enough to be vulnerable and go after the life and the world we want.
I wish you so much bravery today and all days.
Amnesty International Urgent Action Appeal
Click here to find out how you can help with Amnesty’s recent urgent action appeal.
Machi (spiritual Mapuche leader) Celestino Córdova Tránsito completed over 100 days on hunger strike demanding to join his community for the period of a mandatory spiritual retreat. He was convicted and in prison in the city of Temuco for homicide induced by arson in 2014. Authorities failed to dialogue with him, and a local Court authorized the possibility of force feeding him. On 10 August, he expressed his intention to enter a dry strike. We demand authorities urgently initiate a dialogue with Celestino Córdova and abstain from feeding him against his will.
You can help potentially save someone’s life. That’s pretty cool.
WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.
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.
And I’m being super brave this week in quiet ways. Bravery doesn’t always have to be loud or on social media or flashy, right? Sometimes the best kind of brave is the quiet kind. Fingers crossed.
I hope you’re being brave and going after your dreams. And here’s a bit of an abstract landscape I made this week. It’s still terribly hard for me to post these especially when I have so many artist friends, but here you go.
So much love to everyone. Stay safe and well, okay?