Mask of Light

When I rode in the car with my mom, I rode in the front seat next to her (one perk of being the only child of a single parent). I remember looking up at her face a lot. At night the reflection from the rear view mirror cast a reflection of light in a strip that fell over her eyes. It seemed like a mask of light. And who wears masks?


Of course, I didn’t appreciate her heroics at the time. In my selfishness, I would whine incessantly when she saw an accident on the road and would pull over to help. One time she pulled over for one accident and found a man bleeding to death so she squatted down and put pressure on that artery for about an hour while the authorities debated on whose jurisdiction this was on. She squatted for an hour, keeping pressure on gaping wound, keeping this man alive, comforting him  & trying to keep him conscious. Yet when the cop comes over to my mom and my mom starts to tell this guy’s info, the cop looks at her and says, “Mind your own business.” And I didn’t appreciate that despite that, she continued stopping at accidents to help.

I didn’t understand how amazing it was when she invited a certain girl from my class to my birthday party. This little girl had Down Syndrome and my mom accurately assumed that this little girl didn’t get invited to very many parties. When it was time for cake, she looked to her mom who looked to my mom and said, “She’s never had birthday cake before.” When my mom looked concerned (because the little girl had diabetes), the girl’s mom said with a big smile on her face, “I think we can adjust the insulin this one time.” She didn’t like the cake (too sweet) but she had the chance to try it because of my mom. I didn’t appreciate that my mom had made one day fun and exciting and “normal” for this little girl that died only a few years later.

I didn’t appreciate that she let my grandparents live with us off and on throughout my childhood. She would do anything for them. My Pawpaw drove her nuts and they (politely) argued all of the time but she still opened her door to them anytime. And it was because of her generosity that I had the chance to spend time with my Mimi & Pawpaw. I had the chance to develop wonderful memories that I hold so close to my heart now that they’re gone.

I didn’t appreciate how hard she worked as a nurse. She took care of people. She saved lives. She was hard on her body, hard on her spirit. She ruined her knees. She was underpaid and unappreciated. She came home covered in fluids that are not supposed to be on the outside of a human body. And in the latter part of her career, she did something that only a special person can do. She was a hospice nurse. She was the best hospice nurse. She has a file cabinet full of cards from clients’ families thanking my mother for the care she provided. When the mother of one of the administrators at the hospice at which my mom was working got sick, the administrator refused to let anyone but my mom care for her.

My mom has spent her life doing for others. She has given and given and given. She has asked nothing in return. She has put everyone else before herself.

I am so proud of my mother. All of the selflessness she has shown over the years has taught me so much about the person I hope to be.  But that is not what makes me proudest.

My mom, after years of taking care of everyone else, did some nice things for herself. I’ve never met anyone who deserves it more.

She has loved dolls her entire life. We always had dolls when I was growing up. We played with them together. So I wasn’t surprised when her doll collection started to grow. Those dolls brought a smile to her face. She deserves smiles.

When I was a kid, I remember looking up at her, seeing that mask, and thinking she looked like a superhero. I was right more than I knew.





What I Got

My friend was murdered on January 19, 2016.

Jared was choked to death by his stepfather in their kitchen. His stepddad admits doing it but said it was self defense and that Jared was the aggressor.

Now I’m not a detective  (though I like to play one when I watch TV ) but the fact that Jared had broken a couple of ribs earlier that week and was in extreme pain makes the self defense argument a little shaky in my world.

The police report says he was accidentally choked to death. Again, not a detective but how exactly do you accidentally choke someone to death? Oh, I tripped and fell and grabbed on to your neck and squeezed until you died. Um, no.

But the case is closed and no arrests will be made.

Jared’s mom is standing by her husband. Her abusive, murdering husband.

She didn’t have a memorial for Jared. I honestly think it’s because she wouldn’t be able to look us in the eye.

But as much as I want to be, I can’t be angry with her. She had 2 sons and they both died before the age of 40. And all she is left with is an abusive man who murdered her youngest son. I can’t imagine the pain she must be experiencing.

And Jared deeply loved his mom and I don’t think he would want anyone to have hard feelings towards her. But that piece of trash stepdad is another story.

What breaks my heart the most is how tragic his death is.

Jared messed up a lot in his life. He took & sold drugs. He drove under the influence. He did things that I’m sure that I don’t know about. He did really bad things.

He went to prison.

And he got clean. And he turned his life around. He got a job that gave him every opportunity to relapse but he stayed strong. He started writing for an online publication. He was motivated and determined and inspired. Then he was dead.

When he and I got back in touch after 20+ some odd years, it was through Facebook. He had posted some lyrics from a song I love. So I replied with some more of those lyrics. And that led to some awesome conversations.

And I think about how those lyrics sum up my friend. The details aren’t necessarily the same but the overall message is totally him.

Here are those lyrics from Sublime:

Early in the morning, risin’ to the street
Light me up that cigarette and I’ll strap shoes on my feet
Got to find a reason, a reason things went wrong
Got to find a reason why my money’s all gone
I got a Dalmatian, and I can still get high
I can play the guitar like a mother fuckin’ riot

Life is too short, so love the one you got
‘Cause you might get run over or you might get shot
Never start no static, I just get it off my chest
Never had to battle with no bulletproof vest
Take a small example, take a t-t-t-t-tip from me
Take all of your money, give it all to charity

Love is what I got, it’s within my reach
Yeah, and the Sublime style’s still straight from Long Beach
It all comes back to you, you’ll finally get what you deserve
Try and test that, you’re bound to get served
Love’s what I got, don’t start a riot
You’ll feel it when the dance gets hot

Lovin’ is what I got, I said remember that
Lovin’ is what I got, I remember that
Lovin’ is what I got, I said remember that
Lovin’ is what I got

I don’t cry when my dog runs away
I don’t get angry at the bills I have to pay
I don’t get angry when my mom smokes pot
Hits the bottle and goes right to the rock
Fuckin’ and fightin’, it’s all the same
Livin’ with Louie Dog’s the only way to stay sane
Let the lovin’, let the lovin’ come back to me

‘Cause lovin’ is what I got, I said remember that
Lovin’ is what I got, I remember that
Lovin’ is what I got, I said remember that
Lovin’ is what I got, I got, I got, I got


Body by Crazy

Paige and I went to Mexico over the holidays. I didn’t have a bathing suit that fit so I decided I needed to buy a new one.

And I did something I’ve never done before.

I bought a bathing suit that I thought is cute. No other criteria. It didn’t have to be slimming. It didn’t matter if it showcased my puffy belly. For the first time ever I didn’t care how I looked in a bathing suit.

I am very proud of myself for that.

I have always struggled with my weight. By struggle I mostly mean being self loathing for reasons including but not limited to being overweight. Sure I would “diet” and promise that I was going to exercise but inevitably those good intentions would fall by the wayside of convenience and habit.

I have also always struggled with mental illness. And that has been more of an actual struggle, especially considering that I was not correctly diagnosed until I was 33 years old. Don’t get me wrong – I started receiving diagnoses at the age of 12. But they were wrong & the treatment corresponding to the diagnoses was also wrong.

Self loathing was not the only common bond between my weight and my mental illness. They were very much connected. In fact, I’d say they were the best of friends.
I am bipolar. I know that most of the world knows what that means. For those who don’t and who haven’t looked up on Google yet, the really basic breakdown is that my mind (emotions, thoughts, etc.) volley between the extremes of the mental spectrum. I go from deep, deep depression to crazed mania and back again. It’s not a leisurely stroll either. It’s more like a pinball machine.

Some of the elements of mania, or mania as I experienced it anyway, are not sleeping, not eating, and having tons of energy. Well, that kind of state can be pretty hard on a body. I would lose weight fast, like scary fast. I walked the line – fell over the line a couple of times – of anorexia. 5’4″ and 85 lbs is not healthy.

But never fear, depression would appear. The mania would abruptly end, sending me plummeting into a depression that left me mentally paralyzed. Having no energy, no hope, no enjoyment of any aspect of life made it easy to gain the weight back. That would go on for a while and then our old friend mania would stop in for a visit.

Even though the yo-yo weight wasn’t healthy for me in any way, I did become accustomed to losing the weight that I had gained during depressions. I guess that is one positive thing about cycles; you know that what you’re used to will come back around.

Enter mental health. Finally, I got the right diagnosis (even though I did have to figure it out on my own), I got the right medicine, and I got something else that has been foreign to me my entire life – stability.

Well, almost. I was in the midst of depression when we realized that I am bipolar. I was overweight. And I was gaining weight here and there even after my diagnosis.

But no mania came to even it out. No crazy popped up and put me on the “unhinged” diet. I just kept gaining weight until it finally dawned on me that I had been kind of depending on my insanity.

And then there was the dread of actually having to make an effort to get physically healthy. But I’ve been working on it. And my wife is an inspiration. She has been making it easier for us both to eat better. She bought a treadmill that I thought I would never use but surprisingly I’m on there everyday. She is encouraging, even when she doesn’t want to be. And I am grateful to her for that and so much more.

Also, I no longer believe that I am worthless or bad. I’m just overweight.

But I’m working on it.

With the self loathing element gone, I am able to be happy in my “struggle” with my weight. I’m able to set goals and meet them. Or not meet them and that’s ok too. I’ll get to where I need to be when I need to be there.
Because I know I will get there. And I won’t need crazy to do it.

Turning the Page

Today is October 16th. I realized this today and the thought nearly knocked me down. October 16th means that Labor Day has come and gone. The anniversary of my stroke has passed. It tiptoed past me without a sound. And I didn’t notice.

Labor Day has held so much meaning to me by reminding me what I’ve experienced, what I’ve overcome, the person I’ve become. It takes me back to when my life was so dramatically changed and I’ve used it as an opportunity to reflect.

But I missed it this year. For the best reason ever.

This year around Labor Day I was preparing to have some extensive oral surgery that would make a huge difference in my life. I was scared and nervous and excited. I was also a little anxious about the 20th high school reunion that was approaching. I wondered if I would be healed enough from the surgery to go to the reunion and actually talk to people. I was spinning in a whirlwind of emotions. About the future.

I didn’t notice the anniversary of my past because I was looking ahead.

And I didn’t do it as a part of some plan to self-actualize or heal from within. It just happened. Naturally.

This doesn’t mean I’m not still proud of how far I’ve come or that I won’t still reflect on the trek. I think I will still look back on the journey. I think, though, that I am more focused on the wonderful things scattered about on the road ahead.

Courage, Hypocrisy, & Focus – Oh My!

Something has been bothering me since I posted my last message. Two things, actually.

First, I am aware of the hypocrisy of my advice to my coworker. I told her that the courageous thing to do would be to be honest with her friend. But I am not completely honest with her daily.

In this rare case, I am a hypocrite by choice. (Usually the hypocrisy is purely accidental.) I would like to be honest with her and have been tempted several times to tell her what is on my mind.

However, I am pretty sure her reaction would not be positive. And we have to work together so I’ve held back. Rather than courageously telling her the truth, I make the choice to keep the environment friendly, and, thus, become a hypocrite.

The second thing is the one that is really eating away at me.  The more I think about the negativity I’ve expressed about this coworker, the more I realize that I’m focusing on the bad things. Granted, it’s not hard to do that as she offers many undesirable characteristics to focus on. This, however, is not the person I want to be.

I mean what if everyone in the world only focused on the negative characteristics of the people around them? What a terrible place this world would be!

And I would hate to think that anyone saw only my less than desirable traits.

I need to focus on the positive qualities she has. I don’t believe that this will make her negative qualities disappear but perhaps there will be more of a balance.

And I don’t need to limit it to just her. I need to make more of an effort to focus on the positive qualities everyone has to offer.

That would be a change I would like to see in the world.


So I have this co-worker. She drives me nuts but she does have some good qualities. I’m resisting the urge to just unload about all of the things I cannot stand about her because this message isn’t actually about her. She just happened to utter some words that made me think.

This co-worker loves to come in to my office, sit down, and tell me all about her love life. Please note that I have not once asked her about any of it. She says that she loves how she can trust that I will always be honest with her, even if the truth isn’t something she wants to hear.

So she tells me all about this guy she has known for quite some time. She said he is her booty call and has been for a while. She said that she enjoys that there are no strings attached and it’s not complicated at all. She mentioned that the last time they were together, though, it was different. She said that he wanted to talk and even asked her to stay.

She was clearly uncomfortable. She did not want a “relationship” with him. She said she didn’t know what to do. And she wanted my opinion. So I gave it.

“Well, you could talk with him about it; let him know where you stand,” I advised.

“I’ll probably just not call him back and not return his texts,” she replied.

“Well, that’s not very courageous,” I said.

“We’re not all trying to be courageous, Melissa.”

It was her last statement that has stuck with me.

Why not?

Why aren’t we all trying to be courageous?

What’s wrong with being courageous? Is it too hard? Maybe we just don’t know what it means.

So I decided to look up the definition of courage. As I looked through the various sources, I realized that there is not one definition of courage but many. They all have the same general concept: a quality or state of mind or spirit that enables one to stand in the face of danger. Some say “without fear” or “without showing fear” but I disagree with that. Without fear, it’s not really courage at all. It’s just action.

The definition I like the most was from the Macmillan Dictionary (

Courage – noun – the ability to do something that you know is right or good, even though it is dangerous, frightening, or very difficult.

I think without that element of “right or good” you just have daring and not really courage.  But I digress.

“We’re not all trying to be courageous, Melissa.”

Well, I am.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Ever since I first read those words, I have tried to incorporate it into my life. And I would like to see more courage in our world. And I would like to see more kindness. And I would like to see more compassion.  And I would like to see more honesty.

And I would like to see less of that co-worker…if I’m being honest…

The Fountain

I love fountains.  I find the sounds of the water to be soothing, which I am aware is very strange for someone with a very strong fear of water.

I have fountains all over the house. I love all different types of fountains and am always looking for a good deal on one. So occasionally look on Craig’s List to see what is out there. What I find is usually either super high end (and quite expensive) or the super low end which is less expensive but also has quality issues.

So I was quite surprised when I came across this one really cool fountain not too long ago. I’d seen it before in catalogs and online and it is a higher quality fountain than the ones I’m used to getting. Thus it was always out of my price range. But there it was on Craig’s List and the list price was really inexpensive. I read and reread the listing looking for the flaw that must be there for such a great fountain to be listed so reasonably. Yet no mention of  water spraying straight up in the air or an unusually loud motor was made.

So I emailed my inquiry and received a response promptly.  Then life happened for a while and I forgot about this amazing find until I was cleaning out my inbox. At that point life had slowed down – I mean, I was cleaning out my inbox after all – so I sent the fountain lady another email asking if she still had the fountain. A few days later, she responded that she did have it. I happened to get that email on my birthday so I responded that since it was my birthday I wanted to get the fountain as a gift for myself.

So we set it up. I was to pick it up later in the week after work.

I arrived at her house and she invited me in. I heard a large dog in another room and saw a young girl head up the stairs to a loft area where she promptly started playing with some dolls. There was no tv on in the house (that I could hear, at least), there was a fire burning in the fireplace, and there was a beautiful Christmas tree in the corner.

The fountain lady walked over to the fountain, which was much larger than I had anticipated. It was beautiful. The copper had beautiful patina and the slate was in really good shape.  She mentioned she had considered having it running for me to see that it worked and how it looked when it was going but had opted against it because she didn’t think I would want a wet fountain in my car.

I told her it was beautiful and I started to get the money from my purse. She told me that she wanted me to take it as a birthday gift. I must have looked as puzzled as I felt. That’s when she told me that her daughter had wanted to “move” upstairs so she had needed to clear out the things that she had stored up there. And she kept going through things she had that she didn’t use or need any more. She mentioned that the only reason that she listed the fountain on Craig’s List because “what would a shelter do with something like this?” She continued on to say that it would make her heart feel good if I took the fountain.

I thanked her repeatedly and left. I decided immediately that the money I was going to pay her for the fountain, I was instead going to donate to a shelter (actually, I was going to double the amount because she was asking so little for the fountain in the first place). I mean, she would have given them the fountain if they could use it but they couldn’t. But they can use money, even if only a little.

On my drive home, I cried. I was moved. While, yes, she was sweet for giving me the fountain, that’s not what touched me.

She was a giving person, a truly generous person. She gave the things she didn’t need to shelters that do need them. And she said that as though she didn’t even know of another option.

And I had merely stumbled upon the chance to meet her.

Gratitude washed over me like…well…water in a fountain.