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The Scar – A Poem

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I have a scar on the bridge of my nose, straight across.

I don’t see it, but others do.

Especially in the summer, when the slash of skin darkens.

It’s narrow, but long, slightly curved

like the edge of the paint can

my tiny toddler nose encountered

at the bottom of the basement stairs.

One person who always saw the scar,

saw it all his life

was my father

who was supposed to be watching me

when I tumbled

over and over,

down and down.

“We can get that fixed,”

he would say.

“It’s OK,” I would say.

It didn’t bother me

the way it bothered him.

Or maybe I liked that it bothered him.

I used to wonder, was he drinking?

paint-bucket_zy8Lrv_O

In response to today’s word prompt: Scars

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Unmasked

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I could have written about Orange Man: how his campaign admits that he is “playing a part” and can easily change roles, how scary it is that millions will undoubtedly fall for whatever persona his bloated but insatiable ego adopts next, how dangerous his particular mental illness is — Narcissism, Borderline Personality Disorder, Sociopathy, Megalomania, whatever. How easily ungrounded people are  manipulated!

But no. Instead I decided to write a Blackjack poem (7 syllables, 3 lines = 21) in response to today’s word prompt: mask.

See? I’m not obsessing about Orange Man at all anymore. Really. Honest.

♥♥♥

Unmasked

Disguise, deceit, masquerade.

Exhausting! I gave it up.

Ask Love who you are; then be.

♥♥♥

When in doubt about how to be who you are, ask a tree

When in doubt about how to be your true self, ask an old tree

 Related posts:

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/are-you-faking-it/

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/trump-psychopath-or-sociopath/

The Safe Time

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My Dad would sit in the kitchen chair, the one with the ripped blue plastic seat cover, and read the newspaper to my Mom while she made dinner: meat loaf or tuna casserole or fish sticks and some kind of frozen veggie — if they were lima beans, they would be burned. He’d turn one page with his good arm and shake it out straight, while holding the other page stationary on the table with his crippled arm.

“Oh for Pete’s sake,” he would mumble, and my mother would say, “What?” Pause. “Frederick, what?” He would finish the story, grunting, and then summarize the latest outrage for her, reading the choice bits out loud. Usually something to do with Democrats.

“Oh for God’s sake,” she would agree, the fresh indignity fueling energetic attacks with the carrot peeler. “I don’t know what this country’s coming to.” (She really did say that, and not infrequently.)

“It’s the communists,” Daddy would say, unless he had finished a glass or two of sherry in which case he would say, “It’s those damn communists,” and mother would say, “Frederick!”

He would lick the thumb of his good hand to get it sticky, turn the next page, shake it smooth, and begin to read the latest from the Sports page.

“Mmmm,” Mom would say, and “Oh my.” But she would be humming and not really listening anymore.

When he got to the comics, he would laugh till he wheezed.

I loved the rustle of the newspaper, the predictable banter, that safe time each evening before the sherry kicked in and “the unpleasantness” started.

I loved to hear my Dad read

I loved to hear my Dad read

Thanks to WordPress for the word prompt: Newspaper

Tony’s Trials: A Happy Ending

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The first person I encountered today was Tony, our mail carrier. Tony has been delivering my mail for twenty-plus years, and he is a model of what someone in the service sector should be.

Tony is thoughtful and conscientious and kind. Whenever his head bobs past my kitchen window, the Andy of Mayberry theme starts whistling in my head. They just don’t make ’em like Tony anymore. He knows everyone’s names, welcomes us back from vacation, and lets us know when a box has been on a neighbor’s porch for more than a day. He always points out when someone has my address wrong, but still delivers the misaddressed mail. He once alerted me when my next door neighbor’s cat had escaped and was meowing to get back inside the house.

Four years ago, the Postal Service fired Tony, ostensibly for “performance issues,” but we had our doubts. Was it a coincidence that he was approaching the date that his full retirement benefits would kick in? I called the local letter carrier’s union and found out this sort of thing had happened before.

The new carriers were surly and uncommunicative, tromped on my flowers, and often mis-delivered the mail — which wasn’t surprising given that they were constantly talking on their cell phones and not paying attention to their jobs.

After a letter-writing campaign to the local paper, a petition drive outside the grocery co-op, and several neighbors testifying at his hearing with the threat of picketing the Post Office, we were able to get Tony reinstated with his full benefits.

Every day I see Tony coming up the sidewalk, I smile. I love a happy ending.

Thanks for the Daily Writing Prompt, WordPress Gods: “Write about the first person you encountered today.”

Who made you smile today?

“About Those Refugees,” Says Jesus

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A favorite character from film, theater, or literature with whom I’d like to have a heart-to-heart, and what would I talk about — kudos to the creator of this daily blogging prompt!

It’s hardly an original answer, given that the Bible is the most read book in history, with four billion copies having been sold since I arrived on this planet, but my answer is Jesus. 

I’d have a lot to ask and would struggle to shut up and listen to his answers, before posing another question. I’d set aside all the God-sized questions, because the relationship between God and Jesus is no doubt complicated and might monopolize the conversation — that whole Trinity thing and all. So I wouldn’t get into suffering and eternal life and whether there is a hell, etc.

No, I’d start with, “Couldn’t you have been a little more clear, Jesus? Parables are great in their place, but we’ve got a mess on our hands and could use some clear direction. Terrorists, climate change, social injustice, sick people with weapons, corrupt political leaders . . .”

He might answer that except for climate change, they had all that back in his day. Now we just see it on a grander scale because of technology and the media. The problem, he would say, is and always has been the human heart.

“What can we do?” I’d wail.

“I think I suggested that you try loving God with everything you’ve got and then loving your neighbor as yourself. If you start with getting to know God, you will realize how crazy-much God loves you, and then you would learn to love yourself, and it would overflow to your neighbor. Isn’t that clear?”

“Well, it sounds clear,” I would answer. “Kind of. But it’s not practical. I mean loving your neighbor could get out of hand. Look at all these Syrian refugees wandering the globe! There might be terrorists in those masses. We’ve got to think of the safety of our kids. Surely, those people aren’t our neighbors.”

At this point, I would probably have to hand Jesus a tissue, because the Bible tells us that Jesus weeps.

winter 2013 & Jesus pix 045.tear

“How many times did I tell folks back in the day, ‘do not be afraid?’ Like, constantly! Love, don’t fear, I said. Remain in my love, and your joy will be complete, I said. I don’t see enough joy around here lately. All this hate and division? It’s just fear.”

He’s not looking particularly joyful, and grabs another tissue. “I thought I was pretty clear on this, but just in case — I said that if you want to be aligned with God, here’s the deal: I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in; naked, and you clothed me. When you do it for anyone, you do it for me. Those Syrians? They’re me. We’re all one.”

“Yeah, but . . .”

“Go do that, and then get back to me.”

Syrian refugee camp

Syrian refugee camp

Photo courtesy: Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief

Learning To Be Love, That’s All

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LEARNING TO BE LOVE, THAT’S ALL. WordPress offers a writing prompt today, “Write a six-word story about what you think the future holds for you, and then expand on it in a post.” So that’s my story, that’s what my future is, or what I would like it to be. If I don’t get off-track or distracted, that’s the direction I’ll be headed in.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving.” I buy that, although I think that movement is overrated. The important thing is which direction we are facing, what are we looking at, pondering, absorbing?

What are you pondering?

What are you pondering?

I also think that pondering the present moment is way more important than pondering the future, which is why it’s such a crying shame that many people who think they are following Jesus are obsessed with figuring out who gets to be in Heaven when this whole show on earth is over, instead of focusing on what God might be doing to bring hope and health and wholeness right here, right now.

But I digress.

My life is not what I thought it would be at this point. When I was growing up, most people – myself included – imagined they would get married and have kids and be happy, unless of course you were gay, in which case you might get married and have kids and be utterly miserable and make your poor heterosexual spouse miserable, too. But I’m not gay, so I was going to get married and have a girl named Annaliese (and Dorothy if I had a second girl) and a boy would be named Griffin, to keep the family name going.

Then I decided I wanted to be an environmental lobbyist and talk sense into policy makers and save the planet, so I did that for twenty-seven years instead of having kids, and then I got tired of smashing my head against that wall, and through no decision of my own ended up being a family caregiver for about ten years, through dementia and mental illness and death. Twice.

Meanwhile, I got my Masters Degree in creative writing, and I’m so, so glad that I did, although I’ve quickly tired of smashing my head against the publication wall, sending out my writing only to be rejected again and again, so I don’t send it out much anymore and of course it doesn’t get published.

Then all of a sudden my church asked me to be a pastor, and here I am. As pastor of Prayer & Healing, I spend a lot of time with people who are in pain. I am learning – slowly – that I can’t save them. I am also learning that most people are in some amount of pain, they just don’t talk about it the way folks do during a crisis. Often, people aren’t even aware of their pain, they are only aware that they work too much, or drink too much, or eat too much, or surf the internet too much, or fill-in-the-blank too much.

To “succeed” in my new role, I began frantically reading about pastoral counseling and spiritual companionship and “grief work” and emergent theology, but am coming to realize that really, I already have what I need. I’ve been through a lot of pain and loss and addiction in my life, and I get it. I know how to be with people in those spaces (whether or not those people know they are occupying those spaces), and as long as I focus on putting my roots deep into God, who is entirely and purely love, I am who I am supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

Being

Me, Being

I need to be healthy enough and grounded in the God of Love (not the judgmental, vengeful God of Christian broadcasting) so that I come from a place of abundance, not neediness, and then I am good to go.

I might write a book. I might become a teacher. I might work for another non-profit. Heck, I might get married. Who knows? But I do know the bottom line, and that’s what matters. Learning to be love, that’s all.

The Heart of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter

Peppermint Stick, Please

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I had peppermint stick ice cream on Sunday, two scoops with warm fudge sauce. You have to grab it when you can get it, because only a select few establishments serve peppermint stick. Not peppermint, peppermint stick, with little pieces of pink and green candy in it.

I was with some friends at Seibel’s restaurant, an old family-run business in Spencerville, Maryland. They serve meatloaf and mashed potatoes and open-faced turkey sandwiches and creamed spinach with bacon. The vegetarian options are limited (no veggie burgers or California wraps here), but believe it or not, the potato and sauerkraut croquettes with sweet and sour sauce were quite tasty, and I was completely sated. 

But Seibel’s makes their own ice cream and they only occasionally offer peppermint stick, so there was no question of passing it up.

I’m not an ice cream fan in general, only peppermint stick. I’m also not generally a WordPress Daily Prompt fan because I’m not focused enough to finish a blog post in one day, and I’m usually not passionate about the prompt ideas. But when today’s prompt asked “Vanilla, Chocolate, or something else entirely?” my passion was aroused (in an ice cream kind of way).

The ice cream I had on Sunday was good, not great. There weren’t nearly enough candy chips in it. You need to be able to tuck all the candy bits into the inside of your cheek so that at the end you have a big sticky ball of candy to suck on.

Worse yet, Seibel’s has no marshmallow topping. And it goes without saying that marshmallow topping is de rigueur for peppermint stick ice cream.

Marshmallows in all forms, including the swarm of Easter Peeps that has descended upon our grocery stores, is the one chink in my holier-than-thou vegetarian armor. I just can’t resist the horse hooves that make up the gelatin that makes up that fluffy white stuff.

And a digression — did you know that the original marshmallows were made from the tuber root of the marshmallow plant? That’s where they got their name. I learned that in my college Marsh and Dune Vegetation class, which if you said it real fast sounded like Martian Dune Vegetation and always made us laugh, especially when we had been inhaling a certain type of burning vegetation. Hey, it was college.  (OK, that was multiple digressions, but they were short.)

The very best peppermint ice cream I know of is served at The Piazza in Keene, New Hampshire. It’s best eaten when surrounded by four excited grand nieces and nephews. I get a large cup of it, smothered in extra marshmallow sauce. To. Die. For. (Do people still say that?)

Coincidentally, the place I discovered this pink bliss at the age of ten was also in Keene, New Hampshire at a now defunct ice cream parlor called Mackenzie’s where my family used to go when we visited my grandmother, Beedie.

Beedie loved Mackenzie’s and always suggested we go there “for the children.” It was one of the few places I saw her really relaxed, surrounded by her grandchildren and daintily picking at the whipped cream on her sundae. Beedie was not relaxed by nature. In the first place, she was British. She also saw “some things” growing up in South Africa — her little cousin was murdered by Zulus and she was never allowed outside alone again — and she lost her first child in its infancy and her husband in an awful ship fire at sea and her family money to her late husband’s brother’s schemes.

Beedie was a stiff upper lipped, soldiering on type of woman, except when she was at Mackenzie’s. There she became her child-self again. I don’t remember if her favorite was peppermint stick, but I like to think it was, and I like to think of her slipping peppermint chips into her cheek and sucking on her wad of candy — surreptitiously, of course, because a proper British lady would never do such a thing.

NH2014 019

From a long line of ice cream lovers: my nephew Jeff and his son Josh

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