We Need More Hobbits In this World, Drugs, My Dad, Cancer and the Boston Marathon

The first time I blogged the first section of this post back in 2013, I checked with my dad to make sure he was okay with it. He was.

My dad is dead now and reposting this is hard, but also good. Because that’s how life can be – hard and good.

So lately, thanks to brilliant blog posts by writers like Jo Knowles and Tim Wynne Jones, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to love life and to really live it. Jo’s post ponders Maurice Sendak’s NPR interview where he implores people to live their lives, and the sadness and urgency that he has as he expresses that thought as he, himself, is in the last months of his own life.

And for me, that is even more poignant as I listened to my own father sob on the phone last Friday, lamenting a family member who is still alive with us, but whose personality has been twisted by drug use. 

“Where is that person I used to know?” my dad asked. “Where is that person I was so proud of?”

I told him that the person is still there, buried beneath the drugs, that their soul is still a bright light underneath all the layers of drug dependence and anger and need. 

But it made me wonder about how people can change for good or for bad, about how we are all a product of our choices and our intentions. 

“Our family is shrinking,” my dad said, “and I am so alone. In the mornings, when it is bleak, I look out at the cold trees and I am so very lonely.”

I listed all the people my father has, all the people who love him. My sister and all her grown kids live near him. My brother, his son. My dad’s brother and his sister-in-law have him to dinner every single night. My dad has friends still alive that he has gone on grand adventures with, but the worry about his drug-addled relative has devastated him. All the good things don’t matter any more because he has chosen to only look at the horror of the present.

And that’s sad.

And it’s easy and normal to feel that way. 

And I have felt this way too — times when I am impossibly sad even though I am one of the luckiest humans in the universe — times when I think that the days are too cold to leave the bed and walk the dogs and eat. But the thing is, you fight through them. It isn’t that life is a gift. It isn’t that life is a curse. It’s just that life is. It is. And we are meant to experience it and travel through it and we can choose to make that journey have meaning like poets do, like Jo does, like Tim does, or we can choose to just manage, to slug through. Our choices can change. Our intentions can change. Our purpose can change. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we are meant to experience this life – this great big is — and how we do experience it is up to us. 

And so in that phone call I had with my dad I told him, “I love you. What is happening to our relative is not your fault and not all your responsibility and whatever choices you make, you will make with love, and that is all that matters. What matters, Dad, is that you love, that you have always loved, and that you always will love with all your heart.”

He said with a shaking 83-year-old hobbit man voice, “I am such a coward. I am so scared. I am so scared for them.”*

But my little dad isn’t a coward. He faces his pain, his sorrow, his worries, his life head on. He touches the sad, hurt parts of his own soul and knows them. My dad doesn’t hide. He doesn’t pretend to be someone he isn’t. 

“Being scared doesn’t make you a coward,” I tell him. “You have never run away from life, Dad. You will never run away, and that makes you one of the bravest men of all.”

*I changed the pronoun to ‘them’ because that makes it even more difficult to identify the person but also because them is a pretty cool pronoun.

And then less than four months after that post, I posted this:

It is Thursday and an oncologist whose last name is Snow has just told my father that he has a few weeks to live. Sometimes poets use snow to signify death. As I wander through the tiny patch of woods off the Glen Mary Road in Bar Harbor, I think that this is appropriate in a bad way. The doctor’s name is Snow. Snow. A lone crow alights from one pine tree bough to another, leading me down the trail. There are superstitions about crows. One crow is meant to signify death.

“I already know,” I tell the bird as he lifts his shiny wings, “but thanks.”

And about five hours away from me and the crow, Doctor Snow leaves my dad’s hospital room and my sister hands my dad the hospital phone so that I can say hi.

“Carriekins,” he says to me and his voice is cheerful somehow.

“Hey Dad! I love you!” This is the only thing I can think to say. I try to make my voice cheerful, too, but it isn’t strong like pine boughs and it can’t hold up the weight of me. I try again and manage to sound chipper. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” he says. “How is your day going?”

The first thing he asks, moments after he finds out that he is about to die, is how my day is going. This is how my dad works. He asks people questions. He wants to know how they are doing, what they’ve done, what they think, why they think it. His favorite thing to say is, “I don’t know enough about you. What can you tell me?”

And I never know what to say. I never feel like I have anything to tell.

“My day kind of stinks, Dad,” I tell him, stepping on a fallen pine cone. Crushing it  will help to scatter its seed, but I still feel badly about it somehow. “I mean, it does stink because of what the doctor just said, but it’s good because I get to hear your voice and talk to you.”

It is the last time I have a real conversation with my dad. The next day they fill him with morphine and move him to a hospice center. He can’t talk because of the drugs. That is Friday. On Saturday, he can only wheeze into the phone.  I tell him he sounds like Darth Vader and that I will be there Monday after a wedding I have to go to and after I drop my daughter, Em, off at college.

He dies that night or really early Sunday morning right after the sunrise. He loves sunrises.

Doctor Snow had given him weeks. He lasts two days because of a fast moving, wildly spreading small cell cancer that has already officially claimed the area around one of his lungs.

Before we knew he had cancer he said, “You know I would go down on my knees and kiss the ground and praise God if I could breathe again. Isn’t that something? Isn’t that something you’d never expect to hear from me?”

And it was.

My dad was a hobbit kind of man. He believed in breakfast and laughing. He believed in second breakfast and laughing even more. He believed in dancing and smiling and telling stories and listening and a third breakfast that included cake. He believed in life and people. He was capable of looking straight into someone’s soul and getting right to the core of what made them special and because he had that gift, he forgave everyone everything. He forgave people all the time and he loved them just as much as he did no matter what they put him through.

Two weeks before he died

Right after the Boston Marathon bombings, I am sitting in a Cambridge, Massachusetts restaurant with my daughter, Em. People are eating, but mostly everyone is craning their heads, watching the television screen that displays what little information exists about the attacks. My cell phone vibrates and I learn that my dad, who has gone into the hospital three days earlier because he couldn’t breath has tumors. They don’t know if the tumors are cancer. They just know they are there.

On the screen above my head are news people trying to make sense of a tragedy that I have just personally witnessed because I had been at the marathon. I don’t need the television to see the blood and the pain, the hope of people helping, the determination of doctors and civilians and paramedics and cops.


People before me have compared hate to cancerous tumors, compared the way hate metastasizes and invades a society, taking it over the same way cancer takes over a body. It is not new to think about this, but I do.  The hate isn’t in the restaurant this night though. In the restaurant, the patrons and servers are still trying to understand how things like bombs can happen in their city, trying to isolate the type of hate that this cancer was, trying to understand it.

Some things are hard to understand. You can label all different types of cancers (lymphoblastic, Kapoki sarcoma, fibrous histiocytoma, ovarian, oropharyngeal), and you can label all different kinds of hate (misogyny, domestic terrorism, international terrorism, fear, self-righteousness, homophobic, racist, religious, ethnic, sociopathic) but those labels are just labels, they don’t get at the core of the hate, the essential interwoven elements of it.

“Grandpa Barnard has some sort of tumors,” I tell Emily, “and fluid around his lung.”

“It is cancer?” she asks.

“They don’t know yet.”

It isn’t for another ten days that they tell him that it is definitely cancer, and a bad kind. In those ten days, I spew out a blog post about the goodness I saw at the marathon, I talk to librarians, I attend a wedding full of love.  The doctors aren’t sure where the cancer originated. They just know that it is. My uncle who is in his late eighties immediately starts citing statistics about Raydon. My family has never been a family that has cancer. He wants to find a reason. He wants to understand.

But we won’t ever understand exactly what made my dad’s body become cancerous or where that cancer first struck or even where else in his body that it is.

“There is no point in doing scans,” Dr. Snow says on this Thursday. “The only point is that we have to keep him comfortable, manage his pain.”

And this is where cancer and violence part ways. Because as a society we always have to do the scans, always have to figure out where the hate started, what tools it uses to kill others, what elements it needs to thrive. Because as a society, we need to feel safe and we need to be a place where nobody wants to destroy innocent runners or spectators or children. We have to be a place that understands hatred and actively works to try to stop it, to turn it into something good and peaceful.

When my dad finds out about the Boston Marathon he says, “Humans can be so horrible to each other, can’t they Carriekins?”

And I say that they could, but I add, remembering what I had seen at the Marathon, “They can be good too, Dad.”

“Yes, they can.” He sighs. “I would have liked to been a locksmith. I would have liked to have a nice, simple job helping people.”

“You helped people all the time, Dad,” I tell him. “You are a good, sweet man.”

“I wasn’t a great success.”

“Yes, you were. You were a success because you made people laugh,” I tell him. “You were a success because you try so hard every day to be good.”

And it is true. Even at the hospital he is flirting with nurses, complimenting their bright orange pants, asking them how their days are going.

Even when he finds out he has less than a month to live, he asks me, “How was your day?”

That is what good is. That is what gives me hope when cancer tries to infect our country or even our own souls with blame and anger and bigotry. People like my dad give me hope. It is the hobbits of the world, the ones who find the beauty in breakfast or a nurse’s fluorescent pants, who find the love inside a angry person’s heart, who want to save those who hurt them, the ones who find the kindness and joy and laughter inside a hospital room, these are the people who make our world good.  We need more hobbits like my dad. He may have not have been a famous man or a ‘successful’ one, but he was good. He was unrelentingly good and I will miss him.

I do miss him.


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.

You can also support the podcast monetarily (cough) via this link . Your support helps us justify doing this and also buys dog treats.


It’s a big holiday week here and so Carrie is going to be taking a bit of a blog break for the next two weeks. There will be a new podcast next Tuesday, but other than that? It’s a little time for Carrie’s brain to recharge and rest. So, she’ll be posting random blogs from her past. Thank you for understanding!



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

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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.

Time Stoppers Carrie Jones Middle grade fantasy


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.

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

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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


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


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.

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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

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Mommy Fears (in Honor of the Emster)

In honor of the Emster being home on leave this week, I’ve conjured up this old blog post about my mommy fears and her innate Emster capabilities.

What I find interesting about this is: 

  1. How openly neurotic I have always been.

  2. How she has always been kick-butt.


Here you go: 

Okay. You know how when you’re a mom you have these certain levels of fear when it comes to your kid? Well, most moms do. Sorry to all you people who are not moms or aren’t neurotic. You will probably be bored with this blog post.

 So there’s the deepest level of Mom Fear, which is that:

1. Your child will be kidnapped on an airplane like in that Jodi Foster movie where she ends up blowing up the airplane in a feat of total mom awesomeness.
2. Your child will be assaulted or violated.
3. Your child will be murdered/seriously injured or threatened to be like in that Denzel Washington movie where he’s the bodyguard but he might as well be the dad because he is so amazing to Pita and she even names her teddy bear after him.
4. Your child will marry a ghoul:

Mommy Fears-2
Please do not marry him, Em, at least not when he’s like this.

But then I have what I call the Secondary Level of Mom Fear, which includes:

My child will starve because I have no income.

My child will become a heroin addict because I suck, etc…

My child will become a monster full of hate.

But also on this Mom fear level is this one:

My child will get on the wrong airplane at the airport.

And yep… It happened.

So the Emster was done with this super cool Fresh Film Program in New York City (thanks to amazing author and human Saundra Mitchell) and she was flying home to Maine. Em did everything right:

1. She got a car and had money to pay it. She got in the car at 8 a.m.
2. She told the driver she wanted to go to US Airways at Laguardia Airport.
3. She buckled her seat belt. Gold star, Em! Gold star!

But then things went wrong. There was an accident. Traffic stalled. She was stuck there for about an hour. But finally they move again. The driver drops her off at the airport, but wait — He drops her off at the United terminal. Em realizes this once she gets inside. She asks for help. Twice. She runs to the shuttle for the other terminal. The shuttle bus doors have just closed. She looks hopeless.

Em is the one smiling with teeth. 😉

Hopeless doesn’t work. So, instead she goes into Looking Cute mode. The shuttle bus doors magically open.  She asks the driver for help. He tells her to hop on. She does. There are a MILLION stops. They get to the terminal. She goes to the kiosk to get her boarding pass but she doesn’t have a credit card and can’t pay the $20 for her luggage. Someone else helps. She gives them cash. They don’t even make her weigh her suitcase. Score! (Note: Shoes are heavy. Em likes shoes).

She finds the Security Screening. She goes through. She finds her gate. It is 9:30. Her plane is supposed to leave at 10. There is nobody milling around like normal. Em being the astute little camper that she is, goes to the woman at the little podium/counter thing and asks if this is the gate for the Bangor, Maine flight.

Woman: That flight is closed.

Em: !!!!!

She decides to look cute again.

 Em is still the same one.

Woman (speaks into walkie-talkie): MUMBLE MUMBLE.

Em: ?????!!!!

Woman (to Em):
Okay. You can go out. The plane is on the tarmac.

They let her through the doors. She rushes to the airplane, climbs up the stairs, gets on, looks at her ticket and then says to the flight attendant:
Is this the plane to Bangor, Maine?
Flight attendant person: No. This is the plane to Buffalo.


Flight attendant person:
The Bangor plane is behind us, I think.

Em runs down the stairs, across the tarmac and towards a plane that was completely obscured by the Buffalo plane. She drops things on the tarmac. She picks things up. She runs. She scrambles up the flight of stairs and says, “Is this the plane to Bangor?”

It is.

But wait!

Her seat is gone. They have given it away because she is late.

“NO!!!!!!!!” Em screams.

But they let her sit in the exit row all by herself. She buckles up and makes it. Nobody kidnaps her. She does not fly to Buffalo. She flies home.

She is amazing.

And cute.

And resourceful as heck.

Me: You will write about this some day.

Em: I have already lived it once; I do not want to live it again.

Writing News

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. She’s heading to Houston, North Carolina, and Virgnia soon, just to talk about it. How cool is that?

My Post copy 6


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.

Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services, but she’s also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! (WSS) six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.


And finally, for the month of July, Carrie’s book FLYING is on sale in ebook version on multiple platforms, which means not just Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically Men in Black meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer but with chocolate-covered pretzels.

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Proof of the sale-nature of July.


Thanks so much for reading my blog! Please comment or say ‘hi!’ if you feel like it!




What I Used To Be

I used to be a newspaper reporter and editor for small award-winning local papers.

Sometimes I miss it.

Sometimes I don’t.

Thursday afternoon five workers (reporters, editors, sales) at the Capital, an Annapolis newspaper, were killed.

People are violently killed each day. In newsrooms. In homes. On streets. In wars. In schools. In places of religious worship.


And that’s the thing.

It’s everywhere.

I Used To Be A Reporter and Editor

When I was a reporter and an editor, I made barely a living wage, but I did it because I loved learning about the people in my community and I loved sharing their stories. I didn’t do it for the money. There was no fame unless you count Maine Press Awards.

Spoiler alert: Those shouldn’t count.

There was just a passion to make sure that people knew what their local government was doing, what they could do, what was happening.

As a member of the press, I often felt powerless because I had to report on things that needed to change, but I couldn’t be an active agent/instigator/or participant in that change.

I still feel powerless even though I’m not confined by my job anymore.

Once the publisher and executive editor of the second paper I worked for called editorial staff into a meeting because someone we wrote about in the police beat was threatening the paper. The police were made aware, but our downstairs office was vulnerable with big opening windows, meant to reflect the transparency of our work and our openness to staff.

One of my editors said to me after, “We will all die if someone comes in here with a gun.”

I said, “I know.”

“What can we do?” he asked.

“Just continue until we can’t,” I suggested. “I mean, what else can we do?”

I didn’t really believe it would happen. Not really. The meanest thing I had to deal with as a reporter was people insulting my intelligence because I had ‘pigtails.’

Note: They were braids.

I didn’t live in fear. The worst thing I had to deal with were town managers making sexual comments and random people asking me out on dates and a boss #metooing me into another position.

Yes, I did make that a verb, a hashtag verb.

I Used To Be Innocent

I thought people could understand that everyone was human and that once they had that magical understanding – poof! – their hate would stop.

I forgot about greed as a motivation.

I forgot that people ignore facts that don’t support their belief systems.

I was naive.

When politicians and hate-media vilify the press, reporters, journalists, photographers, they are vilifying and dehumanizing people – real people – often your neighbors.

Let me tell you about the reporters I know, working right now. 

There’s a woman who sings to a friend’s dog on back porches during parties, quietly bonding with him when everyone else has left him.

There’s a man who plays drums in a 80s cover band. I found a body with him once.

There’s a woman who falls in love with every stud she interviews, but never ever does anything. She likes chocolate and her family.

There’s a woman who wants to be a traditionally published author much more than she wants to be a reporter, a woman who dreams.

There’s another man who walks his golden through the neighborhoods of Bar Harbor, greeting everyone he sees with care and kindness.

They are not anyone’s enemy. Just like children aren’t. Just like black men driving aren’t. Just like a wife isn’t.

But I don’t know how to make people understand that.

I Used To Be Someone Who Believed in Safety

I thought that my closet was safe, my mom, big dogs, my bed surrounded by stuffed animals. I was lucky that way because for a long time I believed that home was always a good place, a place to run to. Not everyone had that. Not everyone gets that. And then I thought work was that place… until it wasn’t.

What does it mean to live in a world where nothing is safe? Where going to school, going to church/temple/mosque, going to eat, standing on a corner, sleeping in a bedroom, walking down a street, doesn’t feel safe?

It feels like this. It feels like denial and shock if you have been living privileged and lucky.

But what it really feels like?

Is wrong.

So many times in the last ten years I’ve pitched book ideas only to hear, “That doesn’t happen. That doesn’t still happen.”

People were shocked by #metoo, shocked by the systemic racism that causes people to die, shocked by the continuation of white supremacy groups, by the mysogyny, by anti-LGBTQA crimes, by human trafficking, and hate.

That shock is a lovely luxury, but we can’t be shocked anymore.

I Used To Be Someone Who Thought I Could Save The World. Alone.

I had a savior complex. I know better now.


When people tell us their stories, don’t laugh. Listen. Be honored that they trust you enough to share themselves with you – and that includes the sad, scared, angry parts, too.

Women shouldn’t be afraid of violence in their homes. Children shouldn’t be afraid of violence in their schools and homes. People shouldn’t be afraid of police, of nightclubs, of  snipers and bombs and sometimes even cars.  People shouldn’t be afraid to post their opinion on the internet because it could mean stalking and trolls. People shouldn’t be afraid to worship or protest or eat at a restaurant or board a plane or go to work or practice for a softball game or drive a car while black, or stand outside their home while in the Tohono O’ogham Nation.

But people are afraid. Or they are shocked.

Exposing the hate that happens? That’s a first step. But it’s only one step and this fight, the rectifying of our society isn’t going to happen in a straight line. There has to be multiple work on multiple fronts and one of those fronts is inside of ourselves.

Here’s a Huffington Post article that shows just how real the anti-press hate is. It is uncensored and explicit.



Writing News

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.

Moe Berg The Spy Who Played Baseball
Moe Berg


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.

Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services, but she’s also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.