"Tell your story. Tell it on your bruised knees if you must, tell it at the risk of madness, scream it at the top of your lungs." –Andrew Lam

Month: December, 2012

Grandmother. Mother. Grand-daughter.

I was very young when I realized the blurred lines between grandmother, mother, granddaughter. Each with our vices. Our head and heart hitches. Each infuriating. I’ve been slapped straight on the face. For telling her truth she didn’t like. For calling bullshit on the mind games. Knowing my mother learned it from her mother. We all want each other to be proud, to be pleased, to accept the women we are. We have all acted like the adult and more often like the child. I live in fear and brawl with fear and hate fear. And my grandma lives in the worst, most ridiculous fear of all of us. Fear of throwing anything away. Fear of the weather. Fear of anything-you-name-it.

Maybe crazy is a learned behavior. Grandma never wanted us to go outside. Or answer the phone. Or ride bikes or cross the road or try a new experience. I’ve inherited from grandma the same strange low self-esteem that comes off as vanity, the presumption that people are mean and everyone hates me and why should I trust you and “outside” is a dangerous place. I’ve learned from her my shutdown mode. My hesitation and excuses. My automatic jump to worst-case scenario and grudge with change and problem with not letting the past go. She is bitterness and beauty and prayers in middle of night and suffocating stalker love. Like me, she has a strange relationship with Church. She thinks my sister’s too skinny and my hair’s better blonde. She picks out the best birthday cards, plasters my pictures and writing on her refrigerator, makes the creamiest mashed potatoes, has the prettiest skin, and knows red is always classiest. At my wedding, she let go and danced like no one was watching. I was proudest of her right there. Right then.  

She’s in the hospital. 9 inch tumor. Fears true.

I want to protect grandma in that hospital room from my mom’s harshness when life doesn’t go exactly perfectly right. I want to help my mom protect my grandma and comfort and show hope and love to her. I’m proud of my mom for making her go to the hospital. For being strength. For staying with her. For finding her the most comfortable pajamas. I fiercely love my grandma. And loathe so many of her ways of thinking and her way of living that is not real living. And here I am Waiting. Pacing. Muttering under breath, talking to myself like she does. Pleading prayers of don’t let this be cancer. Give her reason to believe that life is not all bad things. She can dust off bruised knees. She can see life can be more than sibling deaths and divorce and poverty and tests and trials and mental institutions. She can get herself unstuck. Live the rest of life not fearing all the things that shouldn’t have been feared.
I want us to dance again. With the music and the rhythm and the love blurring all the lines between grandmother, granddaughter, daughter.

merry + bright

what’s making my days merry and bright lately:
The Odd Life of Timothy Green, the people who send me messages saying how much this little blog helps them or inspires them (THANK YOU…because I know you don’t have to tell me), flower deliveries to sweet elderly people, puppy plans, diet coke deliveries, stella’s carrot cake, stella’s stockton scramble plate, stella’s pancakes, ok…stella’s everything, amber romance lotion and body spray…it’s been my favorite ever since I was old enough to giggle my way around victoria’s secret, antler creek vineyards, aubergine carnations, kitchen kisses, matchmaking, porch swing and blankets, rum and coke in mason jars, a safe escape from the blizzard, when Piper falls asleep on me, watching Josh with his niece (so precious..I melt), fudge making, my mom’s potato soup, southern sunny december days…I do the Timothy Green thing…arms outstretched soaking up every bit of warmth and wonder, Bullard’s, the smell of their bakery, the color pop of a new bright red-orange scarf, early morning writing sessions, morning kiefer coffee talks, sister country harmony while peeling taters, dark nail polishes, flash mobs, my Harvard sweatpants (an explanation is needed: the OLs always go to Goodwill to dress our laser tag partners up in ridiculous outfits. Jeff Bennet wanted to make me a gangsta, so he found the baggiest pants available…and they are the most comforting, coziest fat-pants in the universe), good sleep nights (I sleep terribly up north), Christmas anticipation, favorite aunt and favorite cousins coming soon (I get just as giddy/excited as when I was five), Buzzword, Josh’s smile, old EC high school hoodies, when Jess and Josh give each other crap, when Jess hikes up her festive HOHOHO pants like Steve Urkel, knowing Christmas Eve will always be at grandpa’s (He *owns* Christmas Eve), little prairie sundays, sister’s reeses cup cookies, worship, sweetbabyjesus’birthdayamenhallelujah ❤    

Natalie, Sam, and Sandy Hook

The day of the Sandy Hook shooting, I realized it was my Natalie’s birthday. My Natalie who should have been twenty. She claimed I was this great influence on her, and it’s that claim that makes me feel guilty—it wasn’t enough. I guess teachers, friends, loved ones..can’t always make the demons go away. I wondered what she was thinking as she made the choice to jump, and as she fell, and right before she hit hard ground.  Or maybe she felt like she had no choice. Hundreds loved her, lifted her. One pulled her down?

Well she was precious, like a flower. She grew wild, wild but innocent. A perfect prayer in a desperate hour. She was everything beautiful and different. Stupid boy, you can’t fence that in. Stupid boy, it’s like holding back the wind.

I watched coverage of policemen leading shoulder-linked Connecticut kindergartners out of a school that would never again be a place of innocence and imagined thousands of bruised knees hit the floor in anger, in wailing, in questions and prayers for tiny victims who had no choice. Who had no choice. Same old, same old stupid boy.

That same day, I watched the “Midday with Mike” online streaming where he interviewed a Sam who didn’t look like my Sam. A Sam in a wheelchair with bloated face and eye patch advocating for St. Jude’s pediatric brain cancer research. Samstrong. A strength beyond strength. So I rummaged through the boxes (just as I did a month ago to find Natalie’s English journal) until I found a piece of Sam’s art— a professional-looking cartoon, so unique, so Sam, pictures depicting the play Julius Caesar in his small, precise pencil-writing. I wanted the innocence and fun of his freshman and sophomore year back.

Before the headache.

Now he says he’s honestly not afraid to die. I do not want to say these are his last days. Because I choose to fight for my students, fight like taking bullets from a gunman while hiding kids in cabinets and closets, like catching one who’s falling, like not giving up. I choose to see a runner. A mischievous smile. An artist and cartoonist. A beautiful, brilliant brain. Who is using his every hour for others.  Same smart, perfect perfect boy.

This world is screwed up. I see examples of evil, the sickeningly inhumane. The bad and unfair. And I see the victorious, humble, heroic. The moments, stories, memories, the pictures that restore our faith in humanity. Sometimes, ironically, those moments are smack in the middle of the catastrophe. That’s the paradox that makes life so Thick. Blurry. Weighty. I understand that man holds the potential to be both horrifically evil and extraordinarily good. I want the good. I want to be the good. I was a part of the Fall of Man. And I want to climb, sweat pouring, reaching, grabbing, grasping all the way back to Eden.  


I was usually mistrusted in the education field. Too young. Too ditzy. Most parents didn’t trust me to educate their young adults. They didn’t believe I knew Shakespeare. Could quote it. Or that I held a hundred poems in my head, stories in my heart.

I like that I’m no longer second-guessed. In the flower shop, customers automatically believe I can make pretty things. They call and trust my soft and reassuring voice that I’ll deliver an arrangement to grandma that is special, lovely, fitting. And thousands of dollars in wedding flowers? Don’t worry about a thing, you gorgeous brides. I wonder when the secret will get out, the secret that I’m not-so-crafty. I’m not a natural. But then again, parts of teaching did not feel natural either. (Perhaps most of all the rules, the being in charge part). I’m not natural like my artistic sister. Or talented friends. Or my decorator mom.  

My mom always had the radio on WFIW in the mornings while we ate breakfast before school. Every morning we heard an ad from Melissa, Your Friendly Florist at Your Downtown Flower Shop. I liked her. She sounded super and had a squeaky voice like mine. Enthusiastic. Almost too energetic, like she was on speed. But most of all she sounded familiar. Comforting. Like sausage links and peanut butter on my waffle. She started out my day on a high note.

“You’re a teacher,” they all say. “Damnit, why aren’t you teaching?” He asks. “Why do I have to remind you to check the Regional Office of Education website and force you to send out your résumé?”
Because there are no teaching jobs. Because I’m twenty-six and still look like I’m twelve. Because maybe I look more like a person who can make pretty things. Because they never choose me.

Because I’m Melissa, your friendly neighborhood florist, and I love it. And I’m thankful. And isn’t it ironic.   


He tells me I used to giggle just like that in high school when he tongue-tickles the underside of my top lip. When his cold-outside hands slip under my sweatshirt to find all the warm flesh. I know him when he laughs. When he freely sings the old songs in his head. I know him in all the ways you don’t understand. I know all the gentle good.    

My sister and I had locks on the doorknobs of our upstairs bedrooms and bathroom. When one of us got mad or annoyed, we’d lock the other sister out. But on the ledge of each doorframe was the key. We’d stack chairs upon chairs and stand on tip-toes to snatch it. Because the intrusion of privacy made us madder. Still, the key on the lock was an extra step. It bought several seconds—the key had to jiggle in the lock just so. Seconds allowed sisters to barricade the door, or later, when boys came, to fix and reposition clothes when parents climbed the stairs.

I married the one who got to take off my clothes. And he doesn’t allow me to lock the bathroom door.  In this house, there is no key to the bathroom lock. Or we don’t know where it is. Sometimes I’m so mad that I need space. Need to breathe. Need to get warm. Need to drown. Would rather drown than talk. And he would smash the door down. Just to look at me and make me communicate. Would you please just get out. Get out of my face. His face I used to hold to memorize.

 He knows me. He knows all my bad. Don’t you dare ever lock that bathroom door again. Ever. And I won’t. Because the truth is he knows everything you don’t understand. He knows that space can be dangerous for me. He knows I really do want him–just him–to come in.       

good tidings

here’s my comfort and joy…

family game nights, new purse, comfy boots, invitation for cinnamon rolls and coffee, the always warm welcome from a school that will always be my family, inspiration to create my own cozy with whatever I have and whatever I can make (doesn’t have to be perfect, doesn’t have to match, doesn’t have to be fancy), facebook Bible studies, duke and dolly, horses, target practice, kennels, dogs, sunshine, rocking to sleep, psalm 27 (my nephew’s favorite), beginning to dream again, vanilla mt. dew, dimaggios twice, 7 hills, carhartts, finishing paperwork, k’s happiness, when friends pray for you in front of you (so powerful..and I always cry), starbucks with sister, hearing “mama, mama”, hearing what they plan to do in the future, birthday messages from students, lavender chamomile sleep aromatherapy luxury bath, farmer’s daughter restaurant and bakery, pasta, Christmas shopping finished, birthday lunch with mom, happy babies, hand kisses, cousins coming south for Christmas, rustic exposed wooden beams, sexy showers (giggle), chocolate peanut butter cupcakes, “say ‘cheese fries,’”a safe trip home despite the fog, the scent of ginger-fig, primitive present wrapping, the movie The Thomas Crowne Affair (ok, not an entirely appropriate movie…but I love wit, and I love art, and I like those actors), making our house and the flower shop merryfestivejoyfulbright (love adding special touches), being on an organization kick, breakfast invitations (thanks, annie!), extra time with josh, a re-stocked fridge (sort of), fruit and nut trail mix granola bars (I keep about three in my purse at all times), watching dvrd grey’s while sipping my coffee before work, “season’s blessings,” sweet customers, stella’s cherry pie, wreath-making, a new computer (because joshua spilled coffee on my old one…merry merry Christmas to me), black leggings (do I ever have to wear real pants again?), the movie Great Expectations, the book Great Expectations, real balsam Christmas garland and wreaths (yeahhh, Stockton!), African autumn tea, mumford and sons, pinecones, communion, simplicity