Being Evil is a Waste of Time

I was talking to my daughter Em recently about how she was at a Wal-Mart in Georgia and a woman dropped some stuff and how Em helped the woman pick up her things.

Em wasn’t looking for praise and good-person-pats-on-the-back, she was confused by how other people chose not to help that lady.

For Em, her instinct was to help and to be kind.

But it wasn’t that way for the other people who were there.

At the grocery store in Maine that same day, Shaun (my husband) was in line and a lady had pushed her cart right within an inch of his legs. He backed up an inch to get a better angle to get something out of our cart, hit her cart and immediately apologized. His instinct was to apologize for something that wasn’t his fault.

I have trained him well.

Just kidding! Just kidding!

But the woman acted like it was his fault that her cart was in his space. And then… his instinctive kindness fluttered right away.

When I looked at the lines in the store, I was amazed by how many people seemed so sad or angry, frustrated or anxious. Few people smiled. Most people actively frowned. A lot complained.  They were miserable and sure, some of them probably had reasons to be, but all of them?

So many of us are so lucky. We get to have electricity and phones and indoor plumbing. We have problems, too, obviously. People get sick. People have depression or anxiety. Our friends die. Our kids get in trouble. But we also have so much.

We focus so much on the evil though, just slip into that mindset of ‘everything sucks’ that we sometimes forget the good.

That world of evil and misery is not the world I want to live in and it’s not the world I want everyone else to live in either.

Finding Meaning

There’s a theory out there that a lot of us are unhappy, anxious, uneasy, depressed because we want to find meaning in life and finding meaning? That can be pretty damn hard.

We find religion and go to therapy and the gym in the hopes of finding salvation – emotional, spiritual, phsycial. We convert to different ways of thinking, believing, acting in the hopes that… that what? That we get meaning. That we feel better. That we live better.

Even the stories we write, we’re told by editors and agents and teachers, “Let’s see how that character changes and grows. Or how that character digresses. Bring that character to a new place of self awareness, to a new self.”

It’s all so tremendously linear. The growth of a person or book character is condensed to simple steps, actions forward.

But are people like that? Do we work like that?

That’s where some of the disconnect comes in. When we do evolve, we don’t always evolve in a straight line. When we look for meaning, it isn’t always found after a simple pattern of forward steps.

The people who intrigue me are the people who just live. They live kindly, help others, and are just… they are beautiful.  Their instinct is to be kind and they don’t even lose it after it’s met with anger or fear. They actually cultivate the kindness.

Kind Kids

There were some teens like this where I was on Saturday.

My local YWCA has a holiday bazaar where kids go around with volunteers to buy presents for their family. Volunteers act as store keepers at “stores” where items go for .25 to $5 (or so). Every kid has an escort that takes them around to these store tables loaded down with donated items. The escort is usually a volunteer from the local high school. More volunteers wrap the presents.

It’s pretty adorable.

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The best part is watching the high school kids interact with the younger kids. All these kids are obviously awesome because they are sacrificing their Saturday morning to volunteer, but there was this one kid who totally stood out to me and this wasn’t just because he was wearing a sleeveless Celtics t-shirt jersey when it was 9-degrees-Farenheit.

Nah, Mike impressed me because he broke my stereotypes about bros in sleeveless jerseys. He was on the younger side of high school volunteers, but he was so amazingly wise or patient.

“Would your gram like this?” he’d ask the boy he was assigned to, picking up a set of bird mugs.

The boy would stare at the mugs for about one minute, absolutely blankly. Then, he’d turn away. Mike didn’t even flinch. His tone and demeanor didn’t change.

They’d move on to another item.

Then another item.

Then another.

Mike never groaned. Mike never rolled his eyes. Mike was just… He was patient and awesome and kind, so kind.

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“I love him,” said one of the adult volunteers who’d walked through the frigid weather to the Y so that she could volunteer this morning.

“I would like to marry him,” another lady said, “you know if I was 70 years younger.”

Mike wasn’t the only one who was awesome. There were students volunteering who were wiping phlegm of their temporary wards off their hands, and doing it so discreetly so they wouldn’t hurt the kids’ feelings. There were students carrying more than their weight in presents as the followed their charges scrambling through a maze of volunteers and tables laden with gifts all donated by local people and merchants.

And right then, I realized that I wanted kindness to be my religion just like the Dalai Lama said. I wanted that to be the default choice in my life: the choice of kindness.

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For that kid, for Em, for Shaun – their initial choice is to be kindness. Humanity might crush that kindness away sometimes, but that’s their instinct, their true natures. Of course, they’re going to mess up. They’re human. I’m going to mess up. I’m human. But I’m going to actively choose kindness even as I fight against the things that I think are evil.

Kindness might not be a direct shot to meaning and decreased anxiety, but I really think that they are linked. The more times you can be kind, that you can give, that you can lift people up instead of smashing them down – helps.

There is meaning in goodness.

There is meaning in us.

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Gabby and her frog. She loves and protects him and sometimes even gives him the bed and sleeps on the floor. Why? Because she’s kind. 

 

Writing and Other News

Art.

I do art stuff. You can find it and buy a print here. 

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Time Stoppers!

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.

Timestoppers3_005

Moe Berg

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?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

FLYING AND ENHANCED

Men in Black meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer? You know it. You can buy them hereor anywhere.

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. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

Writing Barn

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

Apply Now!

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When Women Come Together Things Get A Little Bad Ass

BAR HARBOR, Maine — “I love that you are doing this,” Erica Brooks, associate broker at the Swan Agency, announces as she approaches a table where Nicole Ouellette, owner of Breaking Even and Anchorspace, sits as she creates a computerized map of women-owned businesses on Mount Desert Island. The women are just two of many at the Women-Owned-Business Expo in the old gym at the MDI YWCA.

Behind them are various tables all featuring women-owned businesses. The range from financial planning to real estate, arts to mortgage services. Marketing materials, art work, drums, examples of their work decorate the tables.

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The women here will tell you that business ownership changes you. Every interaction, every solicitation, every success and failure, brings with it an experience, a toughness, a life lesson. And these women? They leave an impact on their clients, their students, their community. Those impacts? They matter. The sounds of the women are joyous and insightful as they talk and help each other set up.

Ouellette asks Brooks to sign up for a raffle of business books. All the books are written by women and stacked on the table, right behind an entry form and sign-up sheet. Brooks happily adds her name.

“I think this event attracts women who want a book with the word, ‘badass,'” Ouellette says, lifting one up that has that exact word in the title.

Brooks agrees, laughing, and then even as the other women continue to set up, Brooks segues into something pretty poignant for early on a Saturday morning in a small coastal Maine town of only about 5,000 year-round residents. She starts talking about how real estate is her passion and how part of that is empowering women, two ideas which most people don’t immediately hook together. But after a negative life event, when she was able to buy her own house, she felt incredibly empowered.

“Financial freedom… equity in real estate,” she says. It means something to her.

Ouellette agrees, “I spent my entire twenties trying to get my friends to open an IRA.”

Owning a business for many of the women is about doing something they enjoy, a passion, a love, but it’s also about making money, supporting themselves, making connections and empowerment.

One of Ouellette’s businesses, Anchorspace, is cohosting the event with the MDI YWCA. Her business’s tagline is, “Where Downeast Maine gets to work,” where she hopes people will work smarter, healthier and together. One of her many passions is apparent at the Expo, it’s bringing people together so that they can support each other, shout out each other’s successes and hook them into new revenue streams and friendships.

“I’m meeting so many women, really cool women,” Elise Frank of Edward Jones says.

Surely that kind of joy and connection is both important for the women themselves as well as the community they work with. Maybe networking and friendship skills should be taught in schools as well as at home. Maybe learning to listen to a new friend should be learned when you’re learning your ABC’s and then again with a refresher course in high school. The world would probably be a better place.

That’s what is happening here.

The event is held at the MDI YWCA, whose mission is empowering women and promoting diversity. Throughout the three hours there’s a lot of happy networking happening. Women keep adding more and more names to the map of local women-owned businesses, trying to remember everyone and not leave anyone out.

“That seems impossible. There are so many… so many women,” one lady murmurs. “It’s pretty incredible.”

At the same time, new clients are potentially met, and friendships solidify.

The talk keeps turning back to certain themes. Mothers. Potential. Abilities. The desire to become something, to create something, and to reach their own best potentials. Liz Cutler, owner of ArtWaves. talks about her mother’s brilliance in mathematics and how she gave up a promising career when she became a mother.

“She was wonderful,” Liz says, but she also has to wonder how hard that was.

Becky Carroll talks about her desire to become more artistic like other members of her family, about exploring new talents . Women murmur about fitting in, striking out, holding each other up even while remembering their relatives who may not have had those same opportunities.

After three hours, the business owners say goodbye to Ouellette. Sherri Dyer of MDI Mortgage offers to help Cutler carry her paintings and easels out to her car. But before they leave, they join in a chorus of women thanking Ouellette for the opportunity.

“Thank you.”

“Thank you.”

“Thank you.”

It’s a chorus of appreciation for a kindness and an event meant to empower women, create friendships and promote each other. It’s a litany of thanks for an event the world needs more of, an event that’s about lifting each other up instead of pulling each other down, about community and opportunity, about learning more about your neighbors than you knew before.

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Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

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.

Timestoppers3_005

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

 

Apply Now!

Moe Berg

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?

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. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.