Last night, I attended my aunt’s Zoom remembrance/memorial/whatever you call these things now. And it was lovely because she was lovely. It was full of brilliant, funny stories and anecdotes and kindness.
But one person stood out among all the beautiful articulate people who spoke. It wasn’t the Congressmen who did a lovely job. It wasn’t the head of a nonprofit or the athletic director of UNH.
It was a five-year-old girl named Grace.
She sat on her mom’s lap, stared patiently at the computer, waiting her turn for well over an hour. Or at least it seemed like she did.
And when her turn came? She blew me away. You have to imagine Grace’s quote with this clear, articulate, pausing-between-most-words, five-year-old’s voice, absolutely convinced in the confidence of her statement and that confidence? It’s deserved.
Here’s what Grace said.
I’m here to tell you that Aunt Max is still alive. She’s in our memory. Memory is a special magic that survives in your whole life.
So many of my friends hurt today and so many days because they miss people, because they blame themselves for other’s deaths, because they long and grieve.
But here’s the thing that Grace knows and I want you to know.
Memory is a special magic that survives your whole life.
And that memory keeps people alive and it can keep the ideas of those people alive. What they loved. What they worked for. What they believed. Their intrinsic values.
That works for countries and communities too.
The job of the living is to embrace that special magic but also use it to shape ourselves, your own families, our communities and our futures.
Dog Tip for Wednesday
It’s easy sometimes to give everyone (especially cats) some side-eye, but giving back to your community, your world?
It’s more than writing a check. It’s about taking a chance, making a life connection, touching someone.
You don’t have to be perfect. Just reach out.
Share this if you want and also because it would be super nice of you!
Two years ago, on the last day of 2017 (the no-good, terrible year), I was in the grocery store line and the cashier said something nice about me making a good meal for my man and how cute we are together and then she said, “You’re best buddies. Best buddies forever. Me and my — ” Her voice caught on grief. “We were like that.”
And my heart broke right there.
And I said, “C–, you’re breaking my heart and you’re working and I can’t get over there on the other side of the grocery belt thingy and hug you because you’re working.”
The bagger girl at the end of the lane looked away. I don’t think she’s good with emotion.
But C– just smiled at me and said, “It’s okay. It’s okay. I have a new man in my life and he’s so sweet to me and he showed up just when I needed him and my J–, I think he sent him to me.”
Her J — is her long-time, forever buddy, her husband who died.
So, I basically emoted all over the place while she rung up my crackers and I was like, “C–! You are killing me. I’m crying because I’m sad. I’m crying because I’m happy for you. I’m crying because you’re so beautiful. And this is all… it’s all so… It’s poignant.”
The bagger kept looking away.
And when I walked out of the grocery store, this person I don’t know, he touched my elbow to make me stop my mad-fast hustle to the car. It was -2 out. It was cold.
The guy who was all bundled up and wearing some Carhartt’s said, “You know. When you have a heart as open as yours, it’s going to hurt sometimes.”
And I said, brilliantly, “Oh.”
“It’s worth it,” he said. “Do good out there, Carrie. Do good.”
I was a little freaked out, but I thanked him, got to my car and sat there, and I just stared at this cold, Maine, parking lot and the people rushing through the grayness that seems to sometimes overwhelm everything during winter and my heart got so full that I started emoting everywhere again because that random Carhartt-wearing man took time out of his day to talk to me. He stopped in the cold to talk to me.
This guy knew my name somehow, but bigger than that? This guy knows about hearts.
Gifts Out There
So, here’s the thing – there are gifts out there (big gifts and little ones) and they can come from the weirdest places. They’re connections. They’re motivations. They are these tiny times where you get to see inside other people’s minds and hearts.
Savor them this year. Try to dwell on those good things as much as we all dwell on the bad.
And let both the good and the bad inspire you to make a difference in your own life and maybe even other people’s lives (big ways and little ways).
Thank you all for everything you’ve done for me this year. You’ve listened to me worry about things like suddenly being a full-time mom again. You’ve celebrated with me about book stuff and podcast stuff. You’ve mourned with me when Charlene died.
You haven’t mocked me too hard because Grover (the muppet) is my internal cheerleader and John Wayne (dead cowboy movie star) is my internal editor. You’ve been brave with me on Be Brave Fridays when I shared my art, which is still scary by the way.
Some of you have bought my books and become my patrons. On social media, so many of you have been so kind over and over. And you haven’t unsubscribed to my newsletter. That’s such a big deal to me.
I really appreciate how kind and giving you’ve all been and if I write any more I’ll start crying. And there’s no random stranger guy here to make me feel better.
But there is Gabby….
Gabby’s New Year Wisdom
Love is being right in the moment. It’s about enjoying everything around you. And really feeling it, being open to it.
This includes the couch.
It even includes squirrels.
It’s not giving or taking, but who you are in relationship to all else (especially the couch) at that moment.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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?
When I was little I decided to be a vegetarian. This was caused by:
Reading Charlotte’s Web.
Reading Where the Red Fern Grows.
Thinking cows are cute.
Not really actually liking meat.
My family was not cool with this decision. My mom would try to sneak meat in the spaghetti sauce. She would moan about me only eating the sides. She would bribe me with stuffing. And she would moan, “THERE ARE NO VEGETARIAN DISHES TO FEED YOU.”
Spoiler alert: My mom was not big on vegetables unless they had cheese on them.
By the time I went to high school, I was basically existing on carbs and apple juice. My boyfriend decided this was terribly wrong and bought my mom a Moosewood Cookbook, which was super sweet of him.
She sighed, flipped through it, read his inscription and said, “There is nothing in here I want to cook!”
But we made her try the tempura vegetables and the cheese bean pot. It did not convert her from her canned-vegetables, meat-eating ways. But I did appreciate that she tried. I’ve been missing her a lot lately and she’s been showing up in my dreams, standing just a few paces ahead of me. There’s always this moment where I recognize the back of her head.
A lot of my friends have recently lost their moms, too. So, I think I’m mostly sharing this recipe out of mom love and mom missing.
This recipe is mostly influenced from the Moosewood book, but is also influenced by The Spruce Eats, which is a cooking blog you should definitely check out because it’s a real cooking blog, unlike this. 🙂
Tempura Vegetables of Mom Missing
This is taken from a very old copy of the Moosewood Cookbook, mixed a bit with the fantastic The Spruce Eats. And also I totally round-up on the calories. But also, I’m completely guessing on the calories. Shock!
NOTE: If you use thick veggies like sweet potatoes, you might want to pre-steam them, because they take awhile to cook.
SECOND NOTE: You can add a dash of sesame oil in the oil if you want.
THIRD NOTE: Try not to overmix the batter.
2.5 cups cake flour or sifted all purpose flour
2 cups cold water
3 individual egg yolks
.5 tsp salt
3-4 cups oil
.5 tsp sugar
3 cups vegetables
Look at your beautiful vegetables. Cry at how cute they are.
Realize the truth: You miss your mom.
She might be alive. She might be dead. But you miss her. Unless she was a totally sucky mom and then you miss the mom that you should have had.
Moms are complicated.
Dads are complicated, too. Obviously. But we’re focusing on moms right now. No.
Focus on the vegetables. Think about how you’d like them to look under the tempura batter. Make them into cool pieces. Tiny broccoli floweret trees. Onion slices. Carrot hunks. Cauliflower blossoms. Mushrooms of wholeness if they are little.
They are so pretty. Wish you could show your mom. Take a photo and show Instagram instead.
Make the batter. Think of how flour is messy.
Beat the egg yolks into water. Then when it is smooth add the flour, salt, and sugar. Keep stirring until the batter is all combined but do not stir forever!
Chill that flour for 15 minutes
Heat the oil in a really large pot. Remember how your mom would not let you do this when you were little because she thought you’d burn yourself.
Try not to burn yourself.
If you are me, you burn yourself.
Do not be me.
Dip veggies in the batter (which is no longer in the fridge). Then drop them into the oil, which should be at least 325-degrees Fahrenheit.
Do not burn yourself again. Ban everyone from the kitchen because they will be gasping and telling you not to burn yourself and honest to God that is so distracting that you probably will burn yourself.
Have someone get the first-aid kit.
The veggies are done when they are puffy, brown, and have risen to the surface. Maybe we should call them Resurrection Vegetables? That would be cool, actually. Worry that this is offensive somehow. Decide not to call them that just in case.
Plop the on some paper towels to soak up extra oil.
Eat those babies with rice and a tamara-ginger sauce. Or just clean and sauce free.
Man Verdict: I love these. Thank you for not using tomatoes.
Dog Verdict: YES!
Carrie Verdict: My mom would still hate them.
Next and Last Time Stoppers Book
It’s out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.
People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.
The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?
You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.
OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.
Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness 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.
Carrie offers solo writing coach services. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.
Ebook on Sale for October!
And finally, for the month of July, my book NEED is on sale in ebook version on Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically about human-sized pixies trying to start an apocalypse.
I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!
I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!
Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?
Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.
Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here.