Monday, November 17, 2014

On the Backs of Angels

I thought this was going to be the hardest, most challenging part of my Monday...

...until I got pulled into family tree/heaven/nature of angel's traffic jam on the drive home.

Emily: I am making cards. I am going to make cards for Great- Granny for Valentine's Day.

The voice in my head: Oh, how sweet. She's thinking about Great- Granny. Ah, shoot. I haven't called Grandma back yet. Valentine's Day? I can't even start thinking about Christmas yet.

The voice that speaks out loud: That's sweet. Great- Granny will love it.

Andrew: Is Great- Granny in heaven with Jesus?

Me: Well, baby. One of your great- grannies is in heaven but not that Great- Granny.

Andrew: Which one is in heaven with Jesus?

Papa's mama.

Andrew: Papa's mama?

Me: Yes. Remember, we all have mamas. I am your mama. Great- Granny Nettie is Granny's mama. But Papa's mama, Great- Granny Retha, she's in heaven.

Voice in my head: That's a lot of mamas for a four year old.

Andrew: Papa's mama is in heaven.

Sad Me: Yes, baby. She's in heaven.

Andrew: How did she get there?

Me, idling:
She went to be with Jesus.

I know. But how did she get there?

Me, still cruising with the easy explanations:
She just went there.


Me, pushing the gas a little: The angels showed her how to get there.

Andrew, revving the motor: How?

Me, running out of theological gas:
I don't know exactly.

Andrew, undeterred: Did she ride on the angel's back?

Picture in my mind: Grandma smiling, riding on an angel's back...

Voice in my head: Have they covered this in Sunday school yet? Maybe we shouldn't have skipped church yesterday (and last week).

(Minutes pass and we drive-- in silence).

Finally, voice coming out of my mouth: Andrew, what are you thinking about?

Andrew: Christmas lights.

Got to love the speed at which the mind of a four- year old changes gears.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Beautiful Woman

As a little girl I was fascinated with this lady. I loved her pearl earrings, her pearl necklace, her perfect red lips. She was beautiful, and she sat, in her perfection, on a shelf, just out of reach, in my Grandma Retha's living room.

Lots of beautiful things lived on shelves in my grandma's living. Photographs--so many photographs-- in black and white and shades of brown that we were all we knew in 1980. Glass figurines of animals, random plastic toys that had caught my grandma's fancy at some point, baby dolls of all shapes and sizes. Oh, the baby dolls. And, bronze baby shoes for all seven of her children, bronze baby shoes that I now realize she must have scrimped and saved for. I confess I was ever only really interested in one pair, though-- the pair with the torn toe worn by my daddy in 1953 as he stood by a teddy bear and 1939 Ford.

Lots of things lived in my Grandma Retha's house, a house that grew in rooms and contents over the years. The house, built of cinder blacks, changed in color, too, although the pink years were my favorite. Each room, from floor to ceilings, was packed with treasure untold. Some might say it was hoarding, but I always saw each stack or pile as carefully picked and arranged with purpose by Grandma. Each piece had meaning and mattered. Why wouldn't I? That was how she treated each of us.

Despite the way the house morphed with the years, the shelves never changed and neither did the location of the beautiful woman who lived on the shelf.

I would search for her...

And, I would find her there, just like I found myself in my grandma's house every summer before I was ten--until about five years ago, when the woman began to live on my shelf.

That's when my grandma gave me the object of my childhood desires.

She gave it to me when she still knew who I was, before the Alzheimer's stole her away...

With a little research, I learned that my beautiful woman was originally created to be a vase-- a head vase, to be exact. These head vases were popular in the 1950s when florists would fill the small opening with flowers.

I guess I'll never know who originally filled this vase with flowers. I'll never know know how my Grandma Retha acquired this beautiful woman, if someone, like my Grandpa Junior, gave her flowers to woo her.

What I do know is that today, on the day of my grandma's passing, I am filling the vase, not with flowers, but with the petals of memories with which I am left holding...



bits of time

that together form the bouquet of my memory and love for her...

Little tiny glasses that were just the right size for us

Beauty pageants and underwear crowns where there was no winner because we were all too beautiful

Ice cream from the freezer with the magic top. It must have been magic because how else could you explain the way she could open the top, slip out ice cream cups, while never losing any of the stacks of stuff that sat precariously on its top?

Closets in every room, holding everything you would ever need and which probably already had your name on it. If the closet was full, might be hidden in her bedroom that was protected by a padlock on the door.

Baby dolls of all shapes and sizes, in glass cabinets, complete with certificates of authentication

Real babies, the ones of her own flesh and blood. At last count she had 42 babies, grandbabies, and great grandbabies. Many of us are lucky enough to remember her calling us baby.

And who else will ever call me Lucy?

Buicks of various models with no car seats and boosters, each with a pillow that would boost Grandma high enough to see above the steering wheel and help her maneuver past the bad men who lived in the house just after you came down the hill. All of us kids would hunker down in the back seat, hiding from the bad men every time we drove past that house.

But we were never too scared because, even if the door lock on the house was shaky, we knew everybody in the neighborhood knew Ms. Retha had a shotgun waiting on the other side.

We drove--

To the post office, Box 863, where she picked up piles of mail, including the latest Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes offer from Ed McMahon. Grandma saved them all because she was going to win big.

To the Hardee's where cousins fought over whether they were related or not.

To the Dime Store where I can't remember what we bought, only that Grandma always had the change for it.

She also always had a cure for it, too. Whatever it was, a little aloe vera, a little vinegar, a Hershey's kiss.

I still remember the shock of finding out what was really in the "chocolate" she dipped and in the pill bottles where she stowed the evidence.

We all have our vices.

So Grandma's was a little snuff, and I guess you could say her other vice was loving too much.

She loved us all with a fierceness that was comforting if you were the one she was protecting, biting if you were the one she was attacking. You didn't mess with her children, and forget ever thinking you were good enough for them because, well, you weren't.

Regardless of what she ever said about Grandpa Junior, we all knew it came from the same place everything else Grandma ever said came from-- a place of love.

She gave me my first love-- my daddy-- and I will never think of Valentine's Day without recalling how she always called my daddy "her Valentine."

The wood stove, her tiny feet, the bobby pins placed just so, biscuit pudding, chicken pastry

I remember.

Playing in the grove of trees by the road, the snowball bush by her bedroom window, the well- worn path to the store

I remember.

Pentecostal revivals, The Price is Right, General Hospital, Hee Haw

I remember.

And, it's in the remembering that I realize there's a beautiful woman who lives on my shelf, but an even more beautiful woman who lives in my heart.

Rest easy, Grandma.

Monday, June 16, 2014

What a ride!

Back in the day, on our tricycles we did play.

Then we turned four and wanted more.

Can you tell we are excited about the bikes we have sighted??

Now down the street we ride, as Mommy's heart swells with pride.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What a DINOmite pair...

We are on day two of being snowed in and the house is becoming increasingly smaller.

I started the day realizing that my plan to let cartoons babysit so I could sleep a little longer wasnt' such a good idea.

I stumbled downstairs and whipped up three bowls of cereal. Just as I was about to enjoy some flax and almonds (left over from my last health kick), I saw Emily take a nice, big bite of it, which she promptly spit back into the bowl.

Good morning.

I am now seeing the reason everyone is calling this snow event: Snowpocalypse 2014.

From used cereal, I went on to utter such phrases as:

"If you don't get down from there, Pluto's going to get it!" (As I held Pluto hostage).

"Drew, get out of Emily's space." (Repeated at least 10 times).

"Is that poop in my carpet?" (Yes. Yes, it was).

"No, you can't go outside and play, but I will feed you." (They accepted the offer).

The day wasn't supposed to go down this way. It's February 13-- the day of their class Valentine's Day party.

But, I should have known that nothing short of a snowpocalypse would occur when I actually had Valentine's ready almost a full week ahead of schedule.

The upside is the Valentine's are safely tucked away in a bag-- ready for the glorious day when preschool reopens.


Since I have nothing but time today, let me take you inside the creation of said Valentine's.

It's really a tale of love (and a little woe).

Here we are, ready to start. We only argued for a couple of minutes over who had the most dinosaurs. Then, perfectly in line with their personalities, Emily hoards hers and Drew lines his up.

Drew enjoyed picking just the right dinosaur for each of his friends.

Emily was equally as intentional as she picked just the right pair of socks for each of her friends.

Check out our "Hope you have a DINOmite Valentines' Day" and "Valentine, I think we are quite the PAIR" Valentine's!

In case any of you out there are thinking that this is just a little too sweet, a little too perfect, a little too Pinterest-ry...

Just wait.

There is a darker side to this tale of Valentine's love-- the woe, the low...

The tug- of- war over socks.

The meltdown over the Spiderman smack down.

The covert bagging operation.

The Olympic diversion.

Whoever said love never means having to say you're sorry has obviously never undertaken a craft project with 3 and a half year old twins.

I don't have any socks or dinosaurs to offer you, dear reader. Obviously, all of the ones I did have were claimed and fiercely guarded. I do, however, have a tip for making those cute printables you see everywhere.

While there are lots of free printables out there, I couldn't find just the right one for the DINOmite Valentine.

I stumbled upon a blog that suggested using PicMonkey. I've raved about PicMonkey before, but I love it even more after discovering how I could turn a jpg like this:

Into this:

The whole process took less time than breaking up a fight over a stegosaurus.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Keep calm and patch on

While everyone else in NC yesterday was stocking up on bread, milk, (and wine) and anticipating the closing of school for the coming snowpocalypse, I was nervously monitoring the situation to make sure we would still be able to make Drew's 8:00 am eye appointment at Duke.

Trying to reschedule would be akin to trying to find a loaf of bread at Wal- Mart right now.

Thankfully, the weather cooperated, and we had a safe, dry ride to Durham.

Today's visit was to check the progress we are making with the patching. As the doctor said at our visit in December, patching is hard and you want to know it's working-- even if that means going in every two months.

For a complete run- down of Drew's eye story, you can go here.

It's been quite a journey, especially since we started patching in October.

We are supposed to patch two hours a day, every day.

Most days we remember.

Most days he cooperates.

Some days he cries.

Some days I worry...

But, today, I was reminded why we keep on keeping on.

Today we learned that Drew's vision in his weaker eye (with his glasses on) has gone from--

20/150 in October


20/70 in December


20/40 today!

The patching is working!

I must admit there were times during the exam when I got nervous, like when the technician showed him this image:

...and Drew hesitated.

Then I realized the problem had nothing to do with vision. The only phone this kid has ever used looks like this:

So, even though we clearly have a member of Generation Z, we can say--

Yes, the patching is working, so we patch on.

We are going for 20/20, with glasses, in his weaker eye. Once we're there, we'll wean off the patching and hope we are three out of four who holds steady without further patching.

The glasses, however, won't go away. He's still farsighted with astigmatism. But, according to the doctor, he should still be able to get contacts one day since we have closed the dramatic difference in his two eyes.

All in all, it was good news. And, as now is our tradition, we celebrated-- with a trip to Chick- fil- a and the toy store!

And, we were back home with our bread, milk, wine with our new puzzle before we got another surprise: a really big snow in NC!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snow Day Interview

In North Carolina, few days are as magical as the rare snow day.

I am not talking about the typical NC "snow" day that results in a condition known as snow day disappointment-- that sinking feeling you get when you realize all 421 weather models were wrong, the stockpiled bread and milk are unnecessary, and the only weather gear you'll be needing is an umbrella for the cold rain that is falling in the place of where your beautiful white snow should be.

No, I am talking about the rare snow day when we actually get-- SNOW!

Enough snow for...

*sleeping in because school and work are both out of the question.


*making snow balls and snow men/women and snow cream.

*snow angels.

Yes, it was a glorious snow day today.

Emily and Andrew were up early this morning, and their first question was "Can we see the SNOW??"

And it was a question they asked all day long. So I decided to turn the tables and ask them a few questions.

Here's a recap of my snow interviews with each of them.

How did it feel with all of your snow clothes on?

Emily: Tight!

Andrew: It was hard to walk!

What does the snow look like?

Andrew: It's white stuff. It's white like my blanket (as he rolls himself up in his blanket).

Emily: It's white and fast.

What does the snow feel like?

Emily: It's good and crunchy.

Andrew: It's cold. I got some snow. I put it in my mouth and it was really cold.

What would Jake and Izzy say about snow on the ship?

Snow and ice melt and make water.

Andrew: They would say they want to play with us!

What was your favorite thing about the snow?

Andrew: Sledding!

Emily: Sledding!

Who goes faster?

Emily: Me!


Emily: No, Me!

Mommy: Okay, bad question. Moving on...

What's the best part of sledding?

Andrew: Going into the woods!

Emily: Going fast!

What's the scariest part of sledding?

Andrew: Going into the woods!

Emily: Going into the bushes!

If we built a snowman, what would you name it?

Emily: It would be a girl with a hair bow. Her name would be Sister.

Andrew: Michelle's snowman.

Mommy: Michelle?

Andrew: Yeah, you know, Michelle, at school.

Hot chocolate or snow cream?

Andrew: Hot chocolate!

Emily: Hot chocolate!

Mommy: Drew, you certainly weren't disappointed with the snow cream.

Snow or the beach?

Emily: Snow!

Andrew: Snow!

Mommy: I'll ask you again in June.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014



I think that word best sums up my 2014 so far.

Let me clarify, I am not talking about...
  • the new Disney movie, Frozen, which we took the kids to see in early December as a surprise celebration of the improvement in Drew's vision as a result of the patching.
  • or the way it felt to come back to December weather after our Christmas Caribbean cruise.
  • or the recent polar vortex that sent us plunging to single digits before we jetted back to 60 degrees in the same week.
  • I am also not talking about the way our hands and toes felt when we went tubing in the mountains a couple of weekends ago.
  • Or how we feel at the ice skating rink during our skating lessons.


I am talking about a bigger deep freeze...

  • the chill that seems to permeate my very being.

  • the one that has turned my motivation into a glacier.

  • the one that has stiffened my body into one, big, unmoveable block of ice.
Yes. Melissa has lost her heat, her fire, her fuel.

I almost bragged on Facebook that I was proud of myself for not setting any new year's resolutions. Then I realized that quip wasn't necessary.

Obviously, with Christmas trees still up in mid- January, I wasn't trying to signing up for any races any time soon.

Then, it occurred to me that it wasn't just the trees that seemed to be frozen in time.

It was other things, too. Other small signs of the freeze that was setting in.

  • like sitting around in a mess of a house, dishes piled high, in my pajamas, for days.

  • or putting the long in the proverbial long winter's nap.

  • or going to bed, like a hibernating bear, at 8:00, because, really, what else is there to do-- admire the icicles hanging from the unpacked suitcases that sat for weeks in our bedroom floor?

Then, it occurred to me that it wasn't just the little things that seems to be frozen in disarray.

It was a bigger thing, too. A bigger, more serious freeze had set in.

I wiped the frost away from my self- reflection long enough to realize I was frozen in the same kind of fear I thought I had cracked long ago--

  • the fear that I am not enough.

  • the fear that I might fail.

  • the fear that what I think others think of me is more important than what I know about me.


No inspirational Facebook meme was going to budge it.

No well- meaning advice from my husband about "not letting the lows get too low or the highs get too high" was going to melt it.

No self- talk backed by 38 years of hard- earned experience was going to chip it.


This is the part of the story where I am supposed to transition into the moment where my faith and wisdom kicked in, where a good friend gave me a much- needed pep talk, where I looked at my children and realized just how strong I am.

But, the truth is, the story didn't go down that way.

A freeze that deep doesn't dissipate overnight.

But what I've learned is you don't have to stay out in the cold.

So I've come back inside and I am trying to warm up.

I pick up the shoes that are stacked at the bottom of the stairs. I load the dishwasher and finally dust the TV stand. I push past the self- imposed bedtime of 9:00-- if only for 30 extra minutes. I make up the bed and hang up my towel.

And then I take on bigger things.

I get to work-- early. I engage with a lingering project that has been waiting for the right day. I think of a new idea and I pitch it. I sign up for a class-- just for the sake of learning something new. I end an email with an encouraging word.

I make some plans. I create my signature to- do list. I run some numbers. I finish a blog post.

Make no mistake...I am not lighting any fires yet, but I am gathering the tinder.

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