The man in my driveway and yes, I’ve lost two best friends

Recently one of my friends asked about the past best friends in my life and I told her how two of my last closest friends had died. She had a hard time with that.

One of those friends grew old enough for his big, ancient wool sweaters to hang off his scarecrow shoulders when I took him to doctor’s appointments. One died cooking breakfast for visitors at an inn, his gorgeous heart taking him away.

And this past Friday, another friend fell to the floor and never regained consciousness. She had done so much for me when we were Rotary International zone coordinators together and it still seems impossible that she’s gone.

I miss my friends all the time, but I always feel so lucky that I had them in my life. My friend cried about this. I didn’t. When I told my daughter about it she just said, “You’re resilient, Mommy. That’s okay.”

“I am?”

I’m not sure if she’s right, but I know those men, Grady and Don, are stories that I’ve pulled into my own heart, stories that I can pull out when I need them, remember, and bask in the warmth. Karen will be like that, too. But not all stories are quite like that. Not all of them have known endings.

About ten years ago for about a month, every night when I walked my dogs, there was this guy standing in front of my driveway. 

This would be okay, but he never spoke.

Seriously.

Like Scotty the dog would run right towards him and the guy just stood there….

And I would say, “Oh! Sorry! My dog likes people. Too much.”

The man? He just still stood there….

Then I’d say, “Yeah … Sorry! Have a good night.”

The man? He just kept standing there.

I tried to figure out if he was doing normal standing there outside man things such as:

1. Talking on his cell phone.
2. Smoking a cigarette.
3. Mumbling to himself about the zombie apocalypse.
4. Debating whether or not Dancing With The Stars or The Voice is fixed. 

But he wasn’t.

At all.

He was just standing there. He always turned and faced me too when I came out, but because it was so dark where I lived, I could never actually make out much of his face.

And then I blogged about him (on LiveJournal, it was awhile ago) and he never came back.

He became an unsolved mystery, a constant presence that just–poof!–disappeared.

There is more than logic at work at times like this. Our brains know the possibilities, the complexity of reasons why a man might be randomly standing at the end of a stranger’s driveway, might shirk away when she tries to communicate–how big, how far apart–realities can be. But there is also a beautiful kind of magic in the possibilities–the whispers of potential communication, the stages of a life, the stories of it.

I’ll never know. For some reason, a man stood at the end of my driveway every night, always when I walked my dogs, even when I varied the times. For some reason, my two best friends are not here, breathing, on this earth anymore. For some reason, I am resilient.

Night in rural Maine is dark and it’s hard to see people’s faces, but when tourists visit and they remember to look up, they see skies full of beauty, stars shining out, tiny bits of past lights, so many potential stories. You remember how little you can be and also how big, how the world can make you feel so isolated and also so connected. All at once.

Maybe everyone has a random man at the end of the driveway. If we notice him, maybe he notices us, too. If we see the outline of him and he doesn’t wave back, it doesn’t matter because he was there before he was gone. Just like we are. A story we might not never know the end of, but still a story that we can try to make big and beautiful.


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

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

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

great new mystery
romantic suspense set in Bar Harbor Maine

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

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

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

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

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

Do you ever think about death?

On Thursday, my co-podcaster, Shaun, and husband guy, takes over the blog.

He’s adorable. I hope you’ll read what he says even if he does occasionally sound like a surfer dude from the 1990s or Captain Pontification. And no, we don’t always agree. 🙂

best podcast ever

Do you ever think about death?

By that I mean your own impending death, because everyone’s death is impending after all.

I have always thought about my own death, off and on, randomly, for no apparent reason. Lately, however, I have been mulling it over in my mind more frequently. I am not afraid of dying although I do not want to die too soon because, frankly, I love life.

What bothers me the most when I think about my death is those that I will leave behind. Those people I love and I hope love me back. Those people I hold dearest to my heart. But, it is not all of those that I love that affect me, it is a select few and after much consideration of my thoughts on my demise I have decided that I know why I always think of these same people.

I feel guilty! Without a doubt, it never fails to make me sad, almost to tears, when I think of my passing and of these people that are special to me. My sadness comes from a fear of unfinished work, unmet responsibilities and the sudden inability to protect or simply just be there for them.

Did I teach them all that I know? Did I work as hard as I possibly could to provide for them financially? Did I help them find their way to being a good human being? How will they even survive without me around?

Wait! Will they even miss me?

I think they will miss me, some of them may even miss me greatly. For this, I feel guilty also, for leaving and being the cause of their missing. I don’t say this egotistically, because I don’t think I am all that wonderful, but because I don’t want to be responsible for any sadness.

I am trying to look at all that I have written above from all angles. I see that I come across as being an insecure cry baby who doesn’t have any faith in some of those closest to him and neither of those things is really true. Well, maybe a little.

What I always end up thinking is that these people who are in my little orbit of death thoughts are the ones that I want to tell how much I love them and how much they mean to me, every single day! These are the people that I cannot live without, not so much the other way around. But I try and make sure, in my own convoluted ways, that they know how special they are to me without telling them that I am scared to death of losing (and not being there for) THEM!

So, remember to take the time to tell those special people in your life how much they mean to you. And do it often, before you have to unravel your own tangled thoughts or write your own dysfunctional blogpost to get the message across.

Remember to Love Your Way Through It!

Shaun

NEW BOOK ALERT!

I just want to let everyone know that INCHWORMS (The Dude Series Book 2) is out and having a good time as Dude competes for a full scholarship at a prestigious Southern college and getting into a bit of trouble.

Here’s what it’s about:

A fascinating must-read suspense from New York Times bestseller Carrie Jones.

A new chance visiting a small Southern college.
A potential love interest for a broken girl obsessed with psychology.
A damaged group of co-eds.
A drowning that’s no accident.
A threat that seems to have no end.

And just like that Jessica Goodfeather aka Dude’s trip away from her claustrophobic life in Maine to try to get an amazing scholarship to her dream school has suddenly turned deadly. Again.


What would you do to make a difference?

After his best friend Norah was almost abducted, Cole Nicholaus has spent most of his childhood homeschooled, lonely and pining for Norah to move from best friend to girl friend status. When birds follow him around or he levitates the dishes, he thinks nothing of it—until a reporter appears and pushes him into making a choice: stay safe at home or help save a kidnapped kid.

Cole and Norah quickly end up trying to not just save a kid, but an entire town from a curse that has devastating roots and implications for how exactly Cole came to be the saint that he is.

Can Cole stop evil from hurting him and Norah again? And maybe even get together? Only the saints know.

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the NEED seriesSaint is a book about dealing with the consequences that make us who we are and being brave enough to admit who we love and what we need.

BUY NOW! 🙂 I made a smiley face there so you don’t feel like I’m too desperate.

The cover. Creepy, right?

You can read an excerpt right here.

Why Do You Write?

A few years ago in our Vermont College MFA blog, someone wrote about why they write when they know they’ll never get enough money to pay bills, etc….

Her reasons were interesting and somewhat inspiring, but had nothing to do with why I write.

Making Sense

I write to make sense of things, because I want to believe that lives are part of a bigger picture, a bigger connection, and because it’s the only way I can dig deep into the meaning of the stuff that goes on.

I guess I think of all writing like a poem, a way to get to the universal through the specific.

That same time as the Vermont College blog, two people I knew and liked died. One was a little, old lady named Mrs. Blanche Clark who used to live next door to me.

On 9/11 she and her husband and all the neighborhood families gathered outside with candles. She had a lung disease and couldn’t be near the candles and she kept moving so she could be down wind. She wanted so badly to be there and she was. She was beautiful.

The other person, was a boy really, Benny . He was in his early 20s. He used to be a high school star athlete, got addicted to heroin, then recovered, straightened out and got engaged, got religion, got a lot of things really.

He was a spark plug boy, always lighting up rooms. His dad works at an assisted living center on the third shift. Benny was keeping him company until 2 a.m. and then headed home.

He hadn’t put his seatbelt on yet, just turned out of the center onto the main road when a lady with a super high blood alcohol content smashed into him. His body was in the backseat when the firefighters came and cut him out. I hate that. I hate the thought that his body went backwards when Benny had finally gotten his life to go forwards.

Sometimes Things Don’t Make Sense

I can’t make super sense of it all. But that’s why I write. Because I’m trying to, I guess. Although, then I write such stupid things occasionally like Children’s Author Picture Book Porn Collaborative Workshop, that maybe that isn’t the reason I write at all.

Why do you guys write?


Fun? Spite? Boredom? Love? Because you are chained to your laptop? Because someone once told you that you were a good writer (and I am sure you are)?

Why?


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?

Email us at carriejonesbooks@gmail.com


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.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 263,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

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

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has new books out! Yay!

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

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

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

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

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

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

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.”

My Mom’s Eulogy

I have a weird fear of June. It’s because one of my dad’s died in June, my first cat died in June, one of my grandmothers died in June and my mom died in June. To me June equals death even as summer blossoms and becomes abundant.

I go through the month holding my breath, waiting for something terrible to happen instead of rejoicing in the fact that I am still here, that so many of us are still here. Birds grace the boughs of trees. Seedlings break through the dirt stretching for light. Dogs rejoice in walks. June is beautiful.

But I’m super imperfect and I tend to go back around to death again. And to remember my mom, I’m going to put the eulogy I wrote for her here. I miss her terribly much.

Eulogy Of BEtty Morse, MY Mom.

Our mom, Betty, was propped up in a hospital bed in Manchester, NH just about a week ago today, and if she saw herself then she would have had a fit. Believe me. She didn’t like to be out of the house if her hair wasn’t combed or her lipstick wasn’t perfectly applied. I can not begin to tell you how many times I sat in her car, waiting to go to the grocery store, the library, a birthday party or even the dump and counted the seconds while she reapplied her lipstick in that painstaking way that mothers have.  Let’s just say that she took her time, and I was a very impatient kid. But there was a reason she wanted to put that lipstick on: She wanted to make sure she looked beautiful.

And in the hospital last week, ravaged from illness, with her heart trying so hard to beat, with her lungs trying so hard to breathe, my mother wouldn’t have thought she was beautiful. But she was.

She sat up in that hospital bed and Bruce and Debbie used a plastic spoon to feed her some chocolate and vanilla ice cream from a tiny Styrofoam cup. The moment that first spoonful of ice cream hit her lips, our mother, with her eyes closed and her heart failing, broke into a smile that lit up her entire face with a joy so sheer and absolute that it brought tears to everyone’s eyes.       She was beautiful.     She was always beautiful, but that beauty didn’t come from her lipstick, or even from her smile. That beauty came from her soul. That beauty came from her love.

Our mother was an expert in love. “I love you with every ounce of my being,” she would write on birthday cards, Easter cards, those little tags that go on Christmas presents and emails.

And proud? She was brilliant at proud. Every grandchild was a trophy to her – shiny and gleaming full of light and importance. She polished them with her love and words and pride in their deeds. Keith, her firefighting hero boy, her handy man, the first of her grandbabies. Kevin, the one she thought looked the most like her – so smart and now a hero boy police officer who helped bring her the great grandbabies that she thought were so beautiful. Kayla. She would tell me sooo many soccer stories about Kayla but her favorite story was how when Kayla was in first grade or something like that she learned sign language because a little girl in her grade didn’t have anyone to talk to. She was so proud of Kayla’s kindness and intelligence. Brooks, the grandson who made her laugh with his quick wit and indomitable spirit and zest for life that matched her own. She was always hugging on him when he was a baby, and when he was a toddler, and talking about how neat he was. And Emily, the youngest of them, who she saw the moment she was born and declared, “She’s so smart. Look at her eyes. She’s taking everything in. Oh… she’s so beautiful. She looks like a Morse.”  Nana was so proud of you, Em, proud of the love you gave her, your goofiness, and your accomplishments.

My mom’s pride didn’t just extend to her grandchildren. She was so proud of her children and friends as well. I remember one day after one of the 80,000 holiday or birthday parties that Debbie hosted so effortlessly, I got in the car with my mom and she started to tear up. She was always tearing up. Deb and Bruce take after her. We are weepy sort of people given to strong love, strong sorrow, and strong joy.

Anyways, I asked her why she was crying. I was probably impatient about it again, but she said, “I am just so proud of my Debbie. She works so hard. She is so good. She is such a good mother.” It was her highest praise. And then she wiped away her tears and reapplied her lipstick.

She recognized the beauty in Debbie and rejoiced in it so much it made her cry like she’d just read a Hallmark card with the word love in it.

One time we were at a wedding and Bruce was in the wedding party and these women in the pew behind us were gossiping about the gorgeous usher with the dimples and my mom turned around and proudly announced to those women, “That’s my son! He has my dimples.”

“He’s so handsome,” the girls said.

“He has a kind heart,” my mom said. “He has a beautiful heart. And beautiful dimples.”

My mom loved deeply and without reservation. She loved her friends, so many of them are here today. Thank you for being here Mel and Steve and Marie and Clem. Two of you both claim to be my mom’s first boyfriend. I’ll let you fight that out amongst yourselves.


My mom also loved her husbands. Her first love and her second husband was my stepdad John, and their love was a beautiful forever thing. Her funeral is exactly 29 years after his on the same date. There’s a symmetry in that, and a beauty to their love. But what really shows how remarkable she is was her relationship with my dad, Lew. They chatted and gossiped pretty much daily, even though they were divorced for decades and decades, they were supporting each other constantly even until the very last days of her life. Once, they came to visit me in Maine and people compared them to the Costanzas on Seinfeld. They talked simultaneously, teasing each other constantly, voices getting louder and louder. When I said they were divorced, people wouldn’t believe me because the link between them was so strong. Their friendship was a forever thing.

My mom was born 77 years ago to a brilliant woman and a talented man, grew up with two brothers that she loved and was proud to call siblings. She was a wife, a homemaker, an office manager, a Welcome Wagon Lady, a town employee, a real estate broker, and then worked for the Bedford school system. But those are just titles, just occupations. Those aren’t about her soul. She could slam doors with great passion for her small frame. She could laugh hysterically over things as silly as saying ‘in bed’ after you read a fortune cookie. When she got mad she would yell, ‘sugar diabetes,’ the disease that would eventually take her body. She would gossip with her friends about the results on Dancing with the Stars and argue her political opinions without reservation. She was a firecracker and a charmer, spunky and sweet, funny and intelligent, and always, always interested in people’s stories.

It is hard to watch someone dying and in the time that Emily and I spent with my mom I noticed something interesting in her murmurings. She called a lot for her brother Richard who she adored. She often said with her eyes closed, “I see you Richard. Richard. Richard, is it okay?”

I imagine he told her that it was okay. I imagine that he took her hand and then gave her a hug, the way she would have hugged anyone at anytime. My mother was the kind of person who hugged her children and grandchildren for ages. We would call it entering the hug-off with Nana and joke that she never let go first.  My mother didn’t let go of people, not of her dear friends, not of her family members. No matter what we did, she held on to us, was proud of us, listened to our stories of joy and pain and goofiness. She hugged you as long as she could physically, and when she couldn’t hug you with her arms any more, she hugged you with her head, loving you no matter how many miles were between you and her.

Her hugs lasted forever. Her love was that way, too.

But one of the other things my mother yelled when she was dying was a little bit different. She yelled for toast. Honestly, she hollered for toast like it was a long lost love. “TOAST! TOAST! TOAST!” And when she got it and took a bite she whispered to me, “So good. Do you want some?”

And it is such a goofy thing, and so sweet, and in a way encapsulates a major aspect of her personality. She liked to feed people toast and roast chicken and chocolate chip cookies and Boston Cream Pie. She liked to give sustenance. She liked to give.  Whether it was food or love or hugs or an ear, my mother was a giver.

We can all learn from a life like that, a life where one woman created a web of love that connects very different people and friends across space and time. It was a life where love trumped all, a life where helping friends and family ruled, where it was important to  listen to the stories of children as they went into a dance studio or teachers calling on the phone asking for subs,  where it was natural for her to smile at nurses and doctors no matter how much pain she was in, a life where she wanted so badly to know everything that went on in the lives of her loved ones because she cared so very much.

And we care about you Mom. And we were proud of you. And you were and are very loved.

So off you go Mom, off you go, holding the hands of the people you have loved you, with those of us who still love you, waving goodbye, singing you songs, telling you stories, making more stories for you to enjoy from your perch in Heaven and eating lots of toast and Boston Cream Pie and chocolate chip cookies in your honor. May the wings of the angels wrap you up as one of their own and may we all live our lives as you did – with love and pride and beauty.

* I totally stole the ‘off you go’ line from Kevin Costner.


WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

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Last week’s episode  (x2) about archetypes and falling out of cars.

Last week’s episode about archetypes and if your sex life was a hashtag. Cough.

Last week’s bonus episode with a former Mainer and current super mom.

COME WRITE WITH ME! 

I coach, have a class, and edit things. Find out more here. 


NEW BOOK OF AWESOME

I have a new book out!!!!!! It’s an adult mystery set in the town where we live, which is Bar Harbor, Maine. You can order it here. And you totally should. 

And if you click through to this link, you can read the first chapter! 

And click here to learn about the book’s inspiration and what I learned about myself when I was writing it.

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”

Grandmother’s Poems

They are words fading, written in bright blue pen. Ball point.


They are words scrawling across the page, the closer in time they are to me, the messier they become.


They are words about being new, about birds flying across the Ontario sky, the pain and guilt of losing a cat to winter and the streets of Staten Island.


They are words singing upside down and across the paper. 


My father keeps them in his roll top desk and hands them to me in the kitchen where her china sat in shelves on the wall. His hands shake as he passes another journal of words over. I take their case, brown, cracked leather. I open the binding and peer inside at their mystery.


“Your grandmother was a poet,” he says. 


I hold her words in my hands. “I never knew.”


WRITING NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary. It’s a bit paranormal. It’s a bit romantic. And it’s 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! 

You can preorder 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

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site.

Carrie Jones Art for Sale

PATREON OF AWESOME

Paragraph

You can get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps).

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. 




Pride and Family and Death

My family is complicated and large and mostly dead. 

Some of those deaths hit harder than others, which is probably wrong to say, but I’ve never been super worried about saying things right. 

One of those deaths was my uncle Freddie. I was seven when I first met Freddie and Lesley. 

Before they arrived, Mom pulled me aside and made me sit on our yellow couch and announced in her fake-calm-mom voice as she lit a cigarette, “Carrie, you need to understand that Uncle Freddie and Aunt Leslie are unconventional. And we are not going to make them uncomfortable by talking about things that might not make sense to you.”

Unconventional

I had no clue what “unconventional” or any of that meant. I asked. 

“Well, they ride motorcycles,“ Mom started. “And they don’t care about money. Also Leslie’s Jewish like Aunt Maxine.”

Unconventional sounded pretty cool. 

She took in a huge breath, dragging on her Marlboro Light before setting it on our shiny, gold crab ashtray. “They also love people who are boys and girls.”

“Aren’t they married to each other?” I asked. 

“Yes.”

“And isn’t Leslie a girl?”

“Yes.”

“And isn’t Freddie a boy?” 

Mom paused. “Sometimes he is and sometimes he isn’t.”

And that was it; I was only seven, but I got it. I had a cousin who was male and only liked guys. I had another cousin who was a woman and only liked women. This was just people having the potential to like anyone, which didn’t seem like it deserved such a big word as ‘unconventional.’

“Cool,” I said, which was my default answer for everything ever, basically, but especially things that I didn’t want to talk anymore about because I had other important things to do like look for Big Foot in the backyard and stuff. 

Mom wasn’t quite ready to let me go. She took her cigarette again and tapped imaginary ashes into the crab. 

“Plus, they are from Florida. Florida is not New Hampshire,” she said as she kissed my head and finally let me off the couch and back into the woods. 

FLORIDA IS NOT New Hampshire

I didn’t know much about Florida except that it was where all my rich friends went on February vacation and that it was sunny and flat there. I didn’t know anything about LGBT laws and legislation. I know now that in the beginning of the 1970s in Florida people could be prosecuted for having anal or oral sex. I know that by the late 1970s Miami passed legislation saying it was illegal to discriminate against people who loved other people of their own sex.  But back in the 1960s, Florida had a witch hunt. A senator created The Purple Pamphlet, hoping to “shock Floridians into accepting its program.”

People like Freddie and Leslie were riddled with disease, according the pamphlet and the people who made it. Freddie and Leslie had to worry about meeting new people because they didn’t know if the people they were meeting were going to be full of judgement and hate. 

I didn’t know that. 

I was seven.

When I met Freddie and Lesley, I just knew they were from Florida; they could love men and/or women, and that my mom and dad loved them both with all their hearts. They burst into our living room to a plethora of squeals and hugs, and cheek kissing. They were wearing leather, younger than the rest of my aunts and uncles, jazzy and full of energy. Freddie lifted me into the air. Leslie kissed my cheeks and we played piano together.

The next day, she gave me all of her sheet music because she said, “That’s what artists do. We share. We encourage. We celebrate each other.”

“I’m not a musician or an artist,” I said because Mom always said I was smart and a good writer, but not an artist. People blood related to us were not meant to be artists. 

Leslie shook her head at me. Her eyes softened. “You already are inside.’ 

We Celebrate Each Other

I’m not sure if I’ve ever loved any relatives as much as I loved them. They brought joy and music and laughter and thought into our house. My dad was constantly cracking up, hugging Freddie, toasting them both, sharing stories. Mom buzzed around making food, smiling. She even had a Black Russian, her favorite drink that she rarely drank, usually just on New Year’s. 

It was so happy.  I am, however, pretty sure that this happiness wasn’t always real for them.  They were staying at Aunt Rosie’s house to get away from Florida life for a bit. Freddie took some illegal drugs. I’m pretty sure that Freddie’s heart hurt and that hurt would expand and expand until it filled up all of him. He was the youngest son of a poor Portuguese family, the baby by , coddled but also forced to be independent way too early.  I’m pretty sure that Leslie wanted to take all that pain away but couldn’t. 

In 1977 a woman in Florida (whose name I will not mention) made legislation that kept gay people from adopting kids. She called it Save Our Children. 

In 2019 most of the best parents I know are gay. No offense to my straight friends. Some of them are great, too.

I remember one night asking Leslie if they were going to have babies. 

“No,” she said. “There’s already too much hate in the world.”

Everyone else in the world except me seemed to want babies, so this was super shocking. Too much hate seemed like a great reason though. 

“If Mommy and Daddy die will you take me though?”

“Oh, sweetie.” Leslie started to cry.

Mom looked panicked. Freddie threw open his arms. He was wearing mascara. He was the first person I’d ever seen with stubble and mascara.

He hauled me into his arms and said, “I would be so honored.”

We’d be honored,” Leslie said, joining the hug and I was smooshed between these two bodies that were so beautiful to me. I didn’t know think of them as boy and girl or maybe-boy and maybe-girl. I thought of them as Freddie and Lesley. I thought of them as love.

I thought of them as love

In the late 1970s, Florida made a task force to stop anti-gay discrimination. One of the things they were trying to stop was the Bush-Trask amendment, which was part of a Florida appropriations bill. The amendment stripped all the state funding to any Florida university or college that allowed/supported LGBT student organizations. It passed, but was eventually deemed unconstitutional. 

There are many LGBTQA people in my family. Back then, not everyone was out. I  can’t even begin to understand how hard it was for Freddie and Leslie to deal with that hate, with gender questioning. Current me still can’t understand their ability to love anyone and everyone and how that ability was met with discrimination and hate so often, far too often. 

One December after they’d gone back to Florida, Dad got a phone call. I’m not sure who it was from, but I remember the house went so silent, too silent. Mom stood there next to him, hand on his shoulder, other hand covering her mouth and while I watched, he crumpled, just bent over at his waist. The phone was still in his hand and he was nodding his head, but not really saying words until finally, “Okay. Okay. Thank you.” 

Mom hung up the phone for him and pulled him into her arms, motioning for me to join their hug. Daddy’s body shook. Mom’s body shook. 

And when I asked, finally, what it was that was making them cry? When I asked them that, my body shook, too. 

Freddie died. 

He had a motorcycle accident that made no sense. Leslie said he’d been very depressed and she tried to get him not to go out. He didn’t listen. He went out. He ran into a tree at a high rate of speed. A single-vehicle accident. Nobody else was hurt. 

He was gone. 

All his fun and passion, his hugs, his dark skin, his leather clothes-cool, his mascara and stubble and thick black hair wasn’t there anymore. For years, until he died, too, my dad’s voice broke when he said Freddie’s name. 

Leslie was gone too.

I never saw her again, never played piano with her again, never hugged her and Freddie’s strong bodies, bodies that they made into what they wanted them to be. 

Uncle Freddie missed the Versace era of Miami Beach, where the city was a mecca that celebrated gender and sexuality diversity. The pain of being different got to Freddie way too early. He made it 38 years into this world, and that was all.  He never had the chance to go to the amazing drag bar, The Palace. He never got to know the era of South Beach Fabulous in the 1990s. And he never had to see an Orlando gay club attacked in the 2010s.  

But, God, I hope he knew that he was loved. I hope he knows now that people are still celebrating and fighting for the ability to be who the hell they are. I hope he knows how hot he looked with that mascara on, so hot that even a seven-year-old noticed, and how much I miss his hugs. 

My family is large and complicated and mostly dead, but it is still full of rainbows and kindness, of magnificent hugs and deep worries. And the ones who are still alive are mostly people who care more about loving than judging. I like that about them. I like that a lot.


WRITING NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July 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! 

You can preorder 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

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site.

Carrie Jones Art for Sale

PATREON OF AWESOME

You can get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps).

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. 

The Good That Happens Even In the Middle of Evil: The Boston Marathon

It’s been six years since the Boston Marathon. This is what I posted that day. It’s about what I saw and heard and felt.

So, I was at the Boston Marathon today to take pictures of my friend, Lori, running and then crossing the finish line. Before the marathon I had lunch with my daughter Em. She was nervous.

“I have a bad feeling,” she said. “You need to be careful.”

“You have no faith in me. I am a perfectly capable person.”

“I just am worried.”

“I will be fine,” I told her. I insisted it, actually.

But I did several things that I don’t normally do. I didn’t take the T. I chose to walk from Cambridge to mile 25.5 or so of the race route. I figured out the T route and everything, but I just didn’t want to go on it. Walking was healthier, I figured. I was going to watch a marathon.

So, I walked and set up for taking pictures. I didn’t expect to see Lori for an hour, so I hung out with some people from New Jersey, talked to some cops. I took some pictures and kept wondering if I should walk the rest of the route to get ready for when Lori crossed the finish line. Logically, I knew I should, but my gut kept me back. I moved up a bit, but not as much as I should have. One of my friends called, and as we talked the first explosion went off.

About 15 seconds after the explosion, .25 mile away or so.

“What was that?” he said.

“That was bad,” I answered. “It was an explosion. It was absolutely an explosion.”

The Second Detonation

Then the second explosion happened. And I hung up. And I looked at the cops. And the cops both lifted up their portable radios to their ears. That was not a good sign. Then they began to run towards the finish line along a parallel road. That was a worse sign, especially since one of the cops looked like he never ran. Ever.  

I followed them. It smelled of smoke. It smelled of fear and confusion. Cops and medics and volunteers swarmed the area. Blood pooled on clothing and the ground. Debris was everywhere. People were crying and hysterical.

The police turned me around. So, I turned around. I regret that now. I don’t know how I could have helped. I am not a trained emergency medical technician. I regret that, too. There were cops and medics everywhere. Their shiny, reflective yellow vests were like pieces of good and brave in a smoky land of pain. I wanted to tell each of them how heroic they were. There was no time for that. They were busy saving people.

The timing of these runners put them right about the finish line when the explosions happened.

Runners

So, I went back to where I had been taking pictures. Runners were wandering around still, confused, cold. They had a combination of runner’s fatigue and shock. Shivering and stunned, they were desperately trying to contact family members. Some walked in circles because they didn’t know how not to keep moving, but they also didn’t know where to go. They had spent 25 miles moving forward, towards this one destination called the finish line and now they were stuck, aimless. Their ultimate goal was suddenly gone, devastated by two bombs. Those of us who were there to watch, gave them our cell phones so they could call family members who were waiting for them. They were waiting for them right by the bombs. We gave the runners money so they could get on the T when it worked again. We gave them our coats.

“How will I give it back to you?” one runner asked as she shrugged on a dark green fleece.

“You don’t need to. You never need to,” a man next to me told her.

“I have to,” she murmured. “I have to.”

I gave away my coat. I passed around my phone. The service was in and out.

One woman said, “Please tell me it wasn’t the subway. My kids are on the subway.”

“It wasn’t the subway,” I tell her. “It was the finish line.”

She cocked her head. “What? No? How?”

How?

That was the question: How? We knew by then that it was probably a bomb, and the hows of making a bomb are easy, but the ‘how could you” is a harder question. How could someone kill runners and spectators? How could humans ever think it’s okay to hurt each other? How could anyone commit violence in big acts with bombs or small acts with fists.

How could we? How could humanity?

“How?” she kept saying. “How?”

And then the police moved the runners out, detouring them down another street. And then they told us, the watchers, to go. So, we left, a massive exodus towards the bridge and Massachusetts Avenue. People were still sobbing. A man on a corner was reading from Boston.com on his iPhone trying to find out exactly what happened. People stood around him, strangers listening to him say the words, “explosions… injuries…”

Three girls were crying, young and scared and broken inside.

“They are so hurt. They hurt them. They are so hurt,” one girl kept repeating. We kept walking.

Connections

As I walked across the bridge, a woman on the phone sobbed to her friend, “It was so big. The explosion was so big. I dropped everything in my hands. I dropped my lens cap. I dropped my purse. I dropped it all. I called my sister. I called my friend. I called everyone. I just need to talk to someone. I feel so alone. It was awful. People were missing their legs. It was awful.”

And then she saw me, this talking woman, and I nodded at her and I grabbed her hand and squeezed it. She squeezed back. We kept walking.

A leather-jacket guy next to me was telling another guy in plaid that he had no way home. I gave him my cell. We kept walking.

I made sure that Lori’s husband and daughter were okay even though they’d been waiting right across the street from where the bomb exploded. They were. I knew Lori was okay already because I’d been tracking her route. I’d never been so happy that she was running hurt and that was making her slower than normal.

The Sobbing Man

As I was feeling thankful, a man in front of me went down on his knees on the sidewalk. It looked like he was praying, but he was really sobbing. We all stopped walking. People pat his back. People murmured things. He stood up and we kept walking again. We walked and walked and gradually the crowd thinned, and gradually the sobs lessoned. But the sirens? The sirens grew louder and more continuous. They were forever sirens. They did not stop.

And so many people will not be able to walk ever again. And at least three people are dead. And so many people have had their hearts and bodies broken at this marathon that should be a celebration of human endurance and spirit and will.

And so many people helped others, making tourniquets out of yarn, carrying the injured, soothing the shocked, giving away their clothes to keep runners warm. And so many people have hearts of goodness. We can’t forget that. Not ever. Not today. Not in Boston. Not ever. Because that is exactly what the Boston Marathon is about: It’s about not giving up, not giving in to pain. It’s about that celebration of surviving and enduring against all odds, against everything. It’s about humanity. No bomber can take that away. Not ever.

After the Marathon

That same night, I was sitting in a restaurant in Cambridge with my daughter and we learned that my dad (a volunteer firefighter) had tumors surrounding his lungs. He died 13 days later.

That week, I was besieged by internet trolls who insisted that my daughter’s gut feeling meant that she was part of a giant conspiracy or that I was part of the same giant conspiracy about an event that ‘totally didn’t happen.’

It happened.

I’ll post this thread, this memory, to make sure that I never forget that it happened.

Sometimes, we spend too much time forgetting, not letting the good and the horrific inspire and motivate us to make change in ourselves, our community, our world.

Violence kills people every day. In big ways that make the news. In quieter ways that we rarely hear about.

And good happens, too. In big ways that make the news. In quieter ways that we rarely hear about.

Three Years Later

I became a volunteer firefighter for our town. I was terrible at it and it’s not my way to help save the world. But I helped our town a little bit for a little while. I did it because I was tired of not being able to help, to respond. I did it because I wanted to pay tribute somehow to the people who were hurt at the marathon and my dad, my little hobbit dad, who spent his whole life trying in big and little ways to try to make this world a better place.

Writing News

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July 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! 

You can preorder 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?

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READ MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

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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. 

Art

You can buy some of my art. I paint to help inform my stories and some of the prints are available now. There will be more soon. You can check it out here.

What I Did Before My Dad Died, Dealing With Grief Through Love

Lately, it feels like a lot of my friends are losing loved ones and family. Grief comes in big ways and small as we all adjust to such huge loss of friends, partners and loves. Sometimes accepting that loss becomes almost unbearable and even as we plan a funeral, a memorial service, we are still in denial. Because it seems so wrong that someone we love so much could suddenly not be there.

I’m a person who doesn’t have any parents or grandparents left and hardly any aunts or uncles. I went from a huge, outgoing family to a family with just a few stragglers. Sometimes it makes me feel terribly alone, so alone that it’s hard to breathe.

My dad died of a quick-moving cancer and lasted about two weeks from his diagnosis to his death, but before all of that, at one of his birthday parties, I wrote him this.

What I Wrote

When I was a little girl, I would sit on the golden sofa in our house and my dad would sit on the floor. I’d take a black plastic comb, the kind you can still buy for 10 cents. With that comb I would pick through his hair.

“Whatcha looking for Carriekins?” he’d ask.

“Bugs,” I’d say in my little three-year-old voice.

“Lice?” he’d ask.

“Nuh-uh.”

Lice were far too icky and required shaving off your head. Even imaginary lice were too scary to be in my daddy’s hair. 

“Nits?” he’d guess.

“Uh-huh.”

“Find any?”

And I would take a pretend bug and show him.

“Oh…” he’d grab the imaginary, nasty bug, carefully look at it and then say, “Yummy.” 

He’d pretend to gobble it up. I’d giggle and giggle and keep finding more. He’d keep eating them. Night after night, he’d do this. Other dads would have rolled their eyes. Other dads may have sighed and gotten up to watch TV. Other dads would have grabbed that comb and said, “Enough.”

Not my dad.

My dad knows how to love.

He still does.

That was so many years ago.

 You’re 75 years old now, Dad. And I haven’t inspected your hair for bugs, but I think there may be a couple or two invisible nits in there right now.

You are 75 years old now and let me tell you and everyone here a few things I’ve learned about you.

I’ve made a list. Of things you aren’t good at. 

You are not a good liar. You always start to fidget and look away when you are supposed to fib. Uncle Kilton is like that too.

You are not a good cheater or pranksteM. Your eyes twinkle too much when you try to pull a fast one and we all know what’s coming.

You are no good at sitting still. You always seem to ache for the movement of your hands and feet, swaying into a purpose. There’s a lawn to fertilize, a chair to build, a person to see, a cat to feed.

You are no good at being selfish. Even though you guys are divorce when Mom needs a ride to the airport. You take her. When a friend is ill. You visit. When there is a presidential election. You volunteer.

You are no good at shirking. You stand up to your responsibilities. You stand up as the man you are, never pretending to be someone different, even if your pants keep falling down.

You are no good at lying, cheating, shirking, sitting still and being selfish. But you are good, you are so good at being Lew Barnard. You are so good at being a father, at being a friend, at being a man.

That’s why we are all here. You are easy to love and for 75 years you have blessed your friends and family with your goofy wit, genuine smile, toothpick eating, ever questioning mind, your forgivenessand your honesty. We love you for it. 

Why I’m Sharing This

There’s only one reason I’m sharing this with you. I wasn’t always a perfect daughter. At one point in my early twenties and I was taking seizure medicine, I barely knew what reality was because my body couldn’t metabolize the medication. I was a grouchy teen. I was bad at staying on the phone with him for hours. But in that one moment, I was so lucky, because I was able to tell my dad how much he meant to me.

And that matters.

And I want to somehow convince all of you to have that moment with the people and animals you love, to show them how much you love them even though you’re imperfect and their imperfect. Don’t be afraid to show them love.

Love isn’t always an easy choice, but it’s a choice to take, always the best choice. Always.

Choose love every day.


WRITING AND OTHER NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July 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!

You can preorder 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?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

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. 

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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 as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!


BE A PART OF THE PODCAST!

Hey! If you download the Anchor application, you can call into the podcast, record a question, or just say ‘hi,’ and we’ll answer. You can be heard on our podcast! Sa-sweet!

No question is too wild. But just like Shaun does, try not to swear, okay?

Here is the link to the mobile app. Our latest episode is above. It’s also on YouTube here.