photo taken September 2009

If you’re on the internet, you’re bound to get hate mail.  Even my ninety-year-old grandmother, who has an incredibly honest, personal blog, has received nasty commentary!  (If you haven’t read svensto, go, and start at the beginning – it’s an incredible read.) When I read said comments on her blog, I immediately thought, “whoever you are, you are lucky you’re anonymous,” because I could feel myself getting violent.  Grandma, however, was unfazed, and knowing that, the issue left my mind.

I get hate mail, too, and it, too, rapidly leaves my mind.  When I first started getting hate mail, it did affect me, though not for the reason most people would assume.  It didn’t make me feel bad about myself – rather, my thoughts were more along the lines of, “this person doesn’t understand the whole picture – they’re jumping to an ill-conceived conclusion, and I must clarify the situation for them because then they’ll understand!”  Naive?  Perhaps.  Major time suckage?  Absolutely.  I have since come to a place in myself where I allow people out there to hold whatever conclusions about me that they do, simply because I have things I’d rather be doing with my time than convincing strangers I’m decent.

But key in there, which makes this internet-wide obsession with hate mail so perplexing to me, is that I never felt personally taken down by the nasty messages (and, oh, some have been nasty).  Maybe the black-lipstick-wearing teenager is more alive in me than I realized, because I really DO NOT CARE what people think of me.  I seriously don’t.  If I did, I would never have gone to photography school.  I would never have written Eating Gluten Free.  I would never have ridden my Vespa across the country by myself.  I would never have raised Charlie.  My dreams and my selfhood have been demeaned, to my face, by people I cared about and respected, and after that (and getting over that), a stranger’s thoughts have no effect on how I feel about myself, what I believe myself to be.

Many people have emailed me asking what my tattoo says and what it means – it’s on the inside of my wrist and is partially visible in the photo on page 36 of my book.  It says “FEVER FATALE.”  When I was 21 or so, I wanted to get a tattoo because I wanted to know what it felt like.  But I didn’t want to get a tattoo of something that meant something to me, because I thought if I did, I would get bored with it.

So one night, I was sitting in an alley behind a bar at 1 or 2 in the morning, and noticed the words Fever Fatale stenciled with spray paint on the asphalt next to me.  “That is what I will get as a tattoo,” I thought, “because I have no idea what it means.” And I did.  I got bored with it anyway.

But then, years later when I was living in New York City, my tattoo’s meaning revealed itself to me after a profoundly beautiful encounter with a homeless man on the Alphabet Streets.

Fever Fatale, literally, means fatal fever.  Death by burning.  Hell.  And I saw time as a landscape, as in Slaughterhouse 5.  And I saw how we are so often apt, when someone slights us – whether it be an unkind word or cutting us off at an intersection – to snap at the next person we see, and the negativity is perpetuated, on and on, travelling further and gaining momentum.  And I decided to do my best, when on the receiving end of meanness or negativity, to keep it at my wrist, to stop it there instead of passing it on to someone else.

I’m not perfect in this task, but I strive toward this goal.

195 Responses to “Untitled”

  1. Becky Says:

    I so enjoy everything about your website and I’m also very glad you don’t let the bad stuff get in the way. What a great way to start the day w/you, Charlie, Chloe, eli, Daisy & Ranger!!

  2. Justin Says:

    Take this to heart.
    You are a beautiful, brave, strong, adventurous woman. Your story (and by extension Charlie’s) is an inspiration to us, who are reading about you on the web. Your choice to save a life has affected more than just Charlie. And it’s all for the better.
    Let the naysayers squawk and squabble. They only tear down and destroy things greater than themselves.

    Be Well and Safe and Happy. (And give Charlie a hug from us, your fans.)

  3. IdahoAngie Says:

    I have loved your blog from the day I started keeping tabs on you and your lovely family. And I have never been able to understand all the hateful comments I have seen on it.

    Just from what I have read in your posts and your book makes me want to meet you. But alas I am not going to travel to your home and think I can just waltz right in like some have tried. I am a big time nature lover. I would love nothing more than to live away from what most people would call normal.

    I am right now dealing with stomach issues and one thing my Doctor is going to test me for (it is hard to get in to see him and my appointment is still yet a month away) is Celiac Disease (not sure I spelled it right). I know a little bit about it thanks to you and some others that I know. I do know it is going to be not so easy for me. Since most of the gluten free foods I have tasted via friends that have to eat that way…I did not enjoy the taste of some of them. Like rice bread… blehh! As well as there is only one place here in Idaho within a 20 minute drive that I know of for a fact that sells gluten free items and their selection is very limited. And very gross. Not going into a long story here. I wanted to email you personally but you have never responded to my emails. So I will post here.

    I have also emailed and asked if I could do a pointillism of your furry family and I would send you the original. As my gift to you for being such an inspiration and a break from the so called “real world” that I hate so much and wish I could leave.

    I grew up in the country on a farm that family owned and loved it. And I miss it. So reading about your experiences and your lovely furry family is a breath of fresh air for me. I would love to have land where I could have goats and chickens and cows, etc. I definately am not a city girl. I hate it with a passion. I know Idaho doesn’t really have a major city. I know I have lived in Chicago and NY. Boise is a baby compaired to those two cities alone. But Boise is annoying none the less. I hate going into Boise. But I love the state of Idaho. I fell in love with the country here the first time I ever visited. Now I just need to move to the country.

    So Shreve even though you get hate mail and you have haters. I am sure you have a whole lot more fans. And we love/like you for the way you are.

    I walk into any situation not listening what others say about someone because I want to get to know that person for myself. As with my husband when people told me he was a jerk I ignored them and got to know him and found he was a sweet heart. As with people who talk crap about you…hun I think you are doing exactly what I would do if I could do it. I would love to buy land and build 2 cabins on it. I take care of my parents because of health issues so I am stuck in the city for easy hospital access. But I would love to move my parents as well as my husband, children and I out to the middle of no where and live.

    Well this is wayyy to long…and I work the graveyard shift…even though I was sent home last night due to stomach issues… I do need to head to bed and hope that I am feeling well enough to work tonight when I wake up. Because otherwise I need a doctors note to miss another day of work and my appointment is a few weeks away yet.

    Keep up the good work. And God bless your family. I love reading your blog.

    God bless,

  4. amanda Says:

    I am one of the nosies that has emailed asking about your tattoo and what it says and means. Hearing the story in this way is amazing and beautiful, and a special look into you, thank you. Just a few paragraphs and you’ve given us all a reminder to stop the cycle of ‘grrr’ that can effect all of us throughout the day. We’ll all be keeping this in mind for quite a while I’m sure. Thank you.

  5. Greta Says:

    Rock on Sista’ !!!!! Good on ya’ !!!

  6. Chris P Says:

    From what I’ve read on this blog, you seem to live life on your terms (or at least try) without infringing the rights of others. I guess some people are threatened by independence. I say bravo, and keep it up. Independent thinkers may be more frustrating to deal with, but the interaction is more rewarding in the long run.

  7. Tammy A Says:

    Wise words. Thank you for sharing.

  8. sara Says:

    Thanks for the post and open comment. An opportunity to pass along this website: http://string-ring.com/ I don’t usually go in for this sort of thing, but I did buy a string ring because I could always use a kindness reminder. I get a nice lift from your images and story.

  9. Trisha Says:

    I so admire you. I admit I’m also jealous of your life, though I know at times it must be difficult and your work is never done. The life you’ve chosen is not easy, but is obviously so rewarding in ways I’ll never get to experience. Thank you for sharing with us. I so look forward to seeing pictures every day and reading what news you have to share.

  10. Hans-J Says:

    Looking at something is a creative process, it means creating complex combinations and a truth for oneself.
    Our view creates a certain relationship between the outside and our inside. Though its only a reflection and projection of our own internal dialogs into the outer world, we tend to blow up our personal interpretations as absolute truths. This adds color into human life – but leads combined with fanatism to many fatal confrontations.
    If one knows this principle, differences in opinions are a nice play to enjoy. If not – we may have a problem to digest what our ‘eyes’ eat.
    It doesn’t make much sense to look at commentaries without taking into account the commentator. The true meaning of a nice or an ugly comment lies in the inner culture of the commentator’s mind. The value of a good or bad critique for us is our own creation and responsibility.
    If someone tends or has to be destructive due to his inner constitution – this decribes his present state of life. Its a life quality, when one is free to choose to support the unfoldment of a peaceful harmony of differences. Strength should preferably result from being in tune with the intelligent organizing creative power of life. Not by having the power to attack or to act unscrupulously.
    I think its helpful to remember this.

  11. Trisha Says:

    Life is too short to worry about what other people think. I am aware that my “tell it like it is or like I feel it” philosophy makes people say OMG I can’t believe you said that. But to me I am being honest with myself and others. I do not allow what other people say to or about me bother me. I prefer to look on life as a wonderful adventure, full of joy, and sometimes tribulation. But it is a jouney, never boring and always interesting. So people if you don’t like it, don’t let the door hit you on your way out!

  12. Hans-J Says:

    I would like to add that its a great joy to know that there is a life like yours out there in Wyoming.

  13. Lora Says:

    Dooce didn’t recieve the majority of that in email, she took comments from a site . So she had to go look for it. I’m sure she gets some hate email- everyone that “puts themselves out there” always does. Put the majority was taken from a site she could have stayed out of, but it made a good entry and got her lots of hits which equals money.

    I love your site!

  14. Ellen Says:

    How lucky you are that your grandmother is telling her stories on a blog. My grandmother was from Finland and died about 30 years ago. I would have loved to have her stories.

  15. Ann Says:

    Dear Shreve,

    My ex-husband is one of those people who posts hate comments and sends emails. Even to today it absolutely astounds me that he makes the time (as in a morning routine!!!) to make others feel horrible because 1) he enjoys the games of manipulation, as knocking someone down is a form of it, and 2) it really made him feel good. To him, the happier a person is, the more *fun* is is to throw mud at them.

    Anyway, I mention this because I’m assuming that this goes across the board on those who conduct the same behavior. At the end, I think I actually pity them. I mean, how messed up must you be to where others’ misery makes you happier?! You lead a pretty spectacular life and they probably wish they had at least one tenth of the happiness your posts exude.

    By the way, I echo the Daisy sentiment someone expressed in the earlier comments. I now dream of having my own milk cow!!! She is a beaut.

    Thank you for sharing your life with us. :)

  16. Carrie Says:

    The love and respect that you get from your readers must absolutely drown out the hate; I hope so anyway, even if you don’t take the negativity to heart. Thank you for your many gifts.

  17. Aidyl Says:

    I envy your life. I look at your photos and look at the landscape and I wish I lived there. I love looking at the photos of Cleo and Charlie. I didn’t think animals smiled but they sure do. Looking at the Sibling Revelry photo I could practically hear them laughing. I’m sure it’s hard work living there but it looks all worth it.

    As far as negative comments I wish it didn’t bother me so much. It’s so weird. I don’t even know you, Heather and your grandmother but I get all riled up when I see stupid, hurtful and ignorant comments. I guess I’m too sensitive about these things and just hear the boos. Lance Armstrong said that the boos are louder than the cheers. A lot of people will be cheering but all you’ll hear are the boos. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to cheer louder to drown out those boos.

    Yay Shreve! Yay Heather! Yay Grandma Svensto!

  18. LSG Says:

    Hi Shreve,
    I read blogs for entertainment value or education. I haven’t the time or inclination to begin a hate campaign…I have way too much else to do.

    I found you on here because of your book (THE book to me) – Eating Gluten Free. But I love your four legged gang too. Fans and haters are sometimes the best indication of success. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Ania Says:

    So, I find the whole hate mail discussion that has been floating around interesting as well. I’m a follower of Dooce, and I am aware that she took comments from another site. However, this woman has been terrorizing her for 3 years now, posting pretty vile comments about her, her children, her husband. How can anyone stand to see that vitriolic crap for three years and stand it? I don’t think even the most confident among us could have been able to ignore it. So Dooce created a site publishing those hate comments and calling her out. However, what most people don’t know quite yet is that she is giving the money made off that site to charity. So, she’s taking hate, and turning it into good, which I find admirable.

    By the way, your writing is quite lovely.

  20. Cathryn Says:

    Congratulations, Shreve. You’ve come to a very wise place at a relatively early age. You know yourself, which is more than I can say for most people. Keep on keeping on. I adore your website and read it every day. Your photos are amazing, and you have MC and all these great animals in your life. Who could ask for more?

  21. Deidre Says:

    Sorry I left Flicka out of the listing of your menagerie…knew about you having her…didn’t know her name!!! Also…need more pix of Eli!!! Was he your first of did Ranger come first???

  22. Pam Says:


  23. Jeff Says:

    A quick note just to say I’m impressed. I’m currently reading (savoring) the Daily Coyote, and found your site as a result. As far as this post goes, I think you have it. I believe that people inherently know the truth. I think they understand that there is a path, and that they’re either on it or not. The tricky part is, that they know… Consequently when they see someone who is actually “on” their path, they feel guilty and resent it. As the “Four Agreements” mention (and rightly so me thinks) is not to take anything personally (easier said than done) since it isn’t “all about us.” On the other hand, people like you have a light that those of us who have looked inside and seen the good, the bad, and yup, the ugly, can see and appreciate. Unfortunately there are others out there that don’t want to have your light illuminate, but then, we don’t always get what we want, but hopefully we get what we need. Stay well.

  24. Courtney C. Says:

    This made me think of The Avett Brothers “The Ballad of Love and Hate”. If you haven’t heard it, it’s definitely worth while to find it and listen. The lyrics can be found online, but it isn’t the same as hearing the song.

    I think you are wonderful and amazing. I’m glad that the pointless negativity of others is like water on a duck’s back…it just rolls right off. That’s an admiral way to be. Thank you for inspiring us all.

  25. Theresa Szpila Says:

    Hate mail? Addressed to YOU, Shreve??? Absolutely surreal.

    How anyone could possibly find anything to object to about you, about the way you live your life, is beyond me. And who made them the boss of you, anyway?!

    You are a role model and an inspiration for the rest of us. We wish we could live our lives as you do – knowing who and what we are, knowing what’s good for us and what’s bad and making the right choices, for living a strong and independent life without detracting from anyone else’e life…I could go on and on.

    I know there are plenty of people out there who aren’t happy unless they’re making someone else miserable, but I can’t help but think they are pitifully misguided and must be suffering from a combination of small-mindedness, jealosy and weakness of character, and must be drowning in self-loathing.

    I admire your ability to let it all wash away, like dirty water down a drain. Again, your strength of character is an inspiration to us all.

    If you’re looking for a title for the very apt photo at the top, I’d suggest:
    “From old bark, new life, new hope.”

    Bless you Shreve. Bless you and MC and Charlie and Chloe and Daisy and the calf. May you all have long, happy, healthy lives, and may you continue to share your lives with us who have come to care deeply about you all.

    Hugs and adamant support!

  26. Lydia Says:

    Just had to say that the Neapolitan photo up above is the cutest, CUTEST photo ever. I love it! I hope you’ll offer that photo as a prize one of these days. I wonder if all 3 are still trying to fit in that one pillow.

  27. Kate Says:

    Your life, photos, insights, and love for animals are a joy to behold. You, dear woman, are actually living the life that countless others would love for themselves. Thank you for sharing.

    And good for you for no longer wasting your time trying to explain things to clueless assholes. You are appreciated, admired, and respected SO much more than you will EVER know.

    Kate Thomas, Houston, Texas

  28. J.F. Says:

    Oddly enough, I am currently dealing with a ‘hate’ e-mail addressed to a company I work for. I’m trying to find a balance between polite professionalism and strict discipline, and it’s tough.

    ‘Hate mail’ is so common as you say. It comes in many forms. Electronically, through snail mail, phone calls, face-to-face, things being called at you from across the street, while driving, even from people in the service industry who really ought to know better (and towards them, of course, from people who also ought to know better). It’s easy enough to brush off for those who have confidence and have a life that they are proud of. But it can be so difficult to ignore for others. Those who are downtrodden, who have had ‘one too many bad things’ happen that day, or week, or month. Those who have no love for themselves.

    I work in two industries. Editing and by-law enforcement. Both have a great amount of negativity that gets directed at me. Usually, for no other reason than people having a bad day and needing a ‘convenient target’ to take it out on. It can be difficult, some days, to ignore it and realize that it’s not personal. They know nothing about me – all they see is the title, or the uniform. And so they vent and spew and cry ugly things to my back and write scathing e-mails.

    Usually, I brush it off. Some days, though, I really wish I had the authority to say something back.

    But you are right in your last few paragraphs, about ending it at oneself and not breathing further life into the hate. It is the best thing anyone can do in such instances. After a negative run-in, I always like to meet with reasonable people and do something good for them, as if to prove to myself that all of those horrible things I heard or read are not true after all. Give a warning instead of a citation. Give a compliment and tone down a criticism.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts here and allowing discussion on this topic.

  29. Anonymous Says:

    Dear Shreve,
    You don’t need to go online to be attacked – most people think they have a right to judge and talk about others freely. I’m glad you DO talk freely about your thoughts and feelings: they are inspirational.

    You are brave woman, Shreve, and I respect you for that.
    You have so much to give and so much to say; I urge you to write another book, please. In the meantime, please, keep posting in your site: it’s a delight.

    All my love and support to you and your beautiful furry family.
    Laurie (and Nico)

  30. LaurieH Says:

    sorry, that was me in the previous post :(

  31. spirou Says:

    I, too would like more pictures of the cow Daisy, did I miss the birth of her Baby ?
    I was in Europe for a month,on an island middle of the north sea, no internet.

  32. Wendy Says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for over a year now, and have read your book too. (Love them both)
    I think whatever hate mail you’ve received has probably contributed in a small way to developing what I view as an extremely healthy and well balanced view of yourself.
    You’re positive slant on the world around you and how you choose NOT to carry forward the negativity you encounter in your “internet world” is truly a PERFECT response to the FAR LESS than perfect mentality of the people who for some unknown reason can’t keep their nastiness to themselves.
    And thank you for “sharing” Charlie with us.

  33. Swissbarb Says:

    I’ll be brief: I love the blog, love the book, and think you’re an amazing person. Go Shreve!

  34. zizzy Says:

    the same reason you receive so much undeserved hate mail is the reason democrats and republicans hate each other with such passion, the reason some of the best people in history have been assassinated-Gandhi, JFK, Lincoln, Martin Luther King jr…

    but anyways, i am with swissbarb, wendy and everyone else on here who is sending the e-love you deserve
    (give charlie a bellyrub for me!)

  35. Elise Says:

    I love it! I literally just deleted an email I had written (and saved as a draft) giving me the “last word”. But it never really is the last word, is it? And 5 minutes before reading your blog, which I absolutely adore, I emailed my husband who told me to hang in there, as it’s been a rough week, and I said “I’m going to turn into butter, and just let everything slide off my back.” thank you for the inspiration.

  36. Julie Says:

    What on Earth could someone post negative about your life? I absolutely envy it. Your kind of life is one I have had a deep desire to live forever. Unfortunately, like many, I cared what people thought so I didn’t get the life I truly wanted. Not that I’ve had a bad one, I haven’t but there is always that deep longing for something that will not come now. I can live vicariously through people like you though.

  37. katie Says:

    Thank you thank you thank you. You bring peace to my day.

  38. Jill Says:

    It is not the idea of posting the hate mail that bothers me, what bothers me is the people that would choose to write hate mail in the first place. It is sad that people spend their time sending hatred out there into the blogosphere at all. Although you deal with it well, you shouldn’t have to deal with it at all!

  39. Wine Dog Says:

    I realize that your readership is at least 100 times what mine is, but really, people write you hate mail? I’m amazed by that. I can’t even begin to wonder what there is to hate about what you do. You saved a wild animal from almost certain death and raised him. You write, you live on the frontier and you don’t really publish much of an opinion about anything. I guess some people are really that unhappy that they have to pick on you. Your blog and the Charlie mailing list make my day.

    Although I have to wonder, how do you get hate mail and no one bothers to write me hate mail. I’m opinionated, generally angry about something and normally spoiling for a dust up. And they pick on you? Shame on them.

  40. Ontheotherhand Says:

    I once wrote a letter to the local newspaper. They printed it with my name and the area I lived in. Somebody looked up my address in the phone book and sent me some very nasty snail mail.

    Anonymous opinions aren’t the end of the world. And thinking of the freedom the internet has brought to those who live in places without the luxury of free speech we enjoy (yet criticise the use of), a little perspective is a good thing. If criticism is bilious, it doesn’t neccesarily negate the point.

    What I hate about the internet and its opinionising is people’s inability to read something smileyless without interpreting it as a rant.

    Then again, I just hate thje internet for stealing so much of my life and allowing my Devil’s Advocate tendencies free rein, which negativity I must now apologise for, I suppose.

    [Insert emoticon of choice here]

  41. PSDeas Says:


  42. David Says:

    I’m a bit puzzled because I can’t understand why someone would send you hate mail? I can understand ignorant comments but hate mail? It’s very hard to imagine…

  43. carmel Says:

    walk tall and look the world straight in the eye

  44. carmel Says:

    hey, when people are talking about you…someone else is getting a rest !!!!!!

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