Space to Breathe

Written Sunday, May, 20, 2018

I love Indiana mornings in the late spring and into summer. There’s a stillness to the mornings: the birds singing over their breakfasts, the leaves rustling. No cacophony  of the day yet, just the sounds of the world waking up, beginning. My soul can breathe in these moments, not pant in the rushing or gasp in the lack of space. In these mornings, I can truly “taste and see that the Lord is good”. I can drink in the quiet, breathe, and remember why I love living where I do. There are still so many lovely places left for me to discover, moments of peace I’ve yet to have, of beauty I’ve yet to witness.

Right now, immediately right now, all I want is to go for ad rive to somewhere beautiful in the countryside. It’s all I’m thinking about in this morning, honestly. I just want the sun and the breeze and away from the noise of life. I want rustling leaves, rushing and babbling water, freshness, and clean air. Maybe on Memorial Day or something, I can make this happen somehow, or at least sometime soon.

I have been lacking space to breathe lately, space for my soul to just be and feel. Even when my daughter is abed, I’m still Mommy that waiting just in case she wakes up. I’m still Wife who frets about what housework still needs to be done. I rarely have spaces where I can just be Mel, where my soul can breathe instead of pant or gasp. I want more of them, I need more of them. I want to breathe, both lungs and soul.

So that is my goal for this summer: to breathe.



Well, I’m Back!

Oh, those words! How they stir my heart each time! Today has been a day of awesome firsts and dreams come true. Today, I voted for only the second time in my life but for the first time in a presidential primary. If you’re wondering, I voted for Bernie Sanders, though, if Hillary Clinton gets the nomination, I will definitely turn out for her in November.

13139339_10153585710983133_4363788591045689663_nAfter voting for Bernie, I made my way to the local campaign offices for Hillary Clinton and hung out there for a while, with a singular purpose. Sean Astin was to be campaigning through our state today for Hillary and I have wanted to meet this extraordinary man for most of my life but especially the past sixteen years. Like most of my peers, I have grown up watching him on the silver screen, but it was his portrayal of Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the RIngs that has filled and stuck with my heart and soul. Sam is a character to whom I would dearly love to emulate in my lifetime. A dear friend calls me “her Samwise” and I strive every day to be worthy of that moniker.

After chatting with folks at the campaign headquarters and playing with my daughter for a little bit while we waited, Sean arrived with Senator Joe Donnelly and worked his way through the small waiting crowd, shaking hands, taking pictures, and signing autographs. He took a moment to laugh and proclaim, “I’m just going to dance with the kids,” and then proceed to do so with my three-year-old daughter and her new little friend who were bouncing around him little Tookish little hobbit children.

When it was finally my turn, I shook Sean’s hand, said how wonderful it was to meet him, and asked if he would sign my copy of Forgotten Leaves. I explained that the book contained my first academic publication, an essay on Tolkien’s heroes. I’m sure I babbled more than a bit as I tried to explain how I had examined all of Tolkien’s heroes with their differing characteristics, triumphs, and failures, and had found Samwise to be the one who 13173798_10153585711198133_4453832520624279180_nmost embodied the traits that Tolkien considered the embodiment of heroism: loving service, loyalty, devotion, and sacrifice. Being as self-deprecating as the character he so brilliantly and lovingly portrayed, this dear man signed my book “Sean Astin. “Sam”, 1 of the heroes”. Fittingly, he signed on the dedication page which simply says “To the Professor”, which I thought was amazingly appropriate.  After taking a photo with me, Sean pointed at my “I Voted” sticker and exclaimed, “At last! I’ve been all over this state today and this is the first one I’ve seen anyone actually wearing! Well done, you!” That sticker now resides in my journal where I will recount today in all my geeky joy with more than a few squees in bold letters on the page.

And did I mention that he tweeted back at me a little while ago? Squeeeeeee! It’s been a really, really good day! I have to smooch my hubby extra much to thank him for alerting me to all of this going on today so I could be a part of it.

Sean Astin tweeted me!! ^_^


Snyder, Melissa. “He Who Would Be First Must Be Last: Tolkien’s Heroism in Lord of the Rings.” Forgotten Leaves: Essays from a Smial. Eds. Jessica Burke and Anthony Burdge. Staten Island: Myth Ink Books, 2015. 7-28. Print. 

Store Link: from-a-smial


NaBloPoMo Day 24: The 21st Turn

I do not have any journal entries about my 21st birthday night aside from the mention that my friends and I were going to go to dinner and then a film festival (don’t even remember what the films were about). But I do have a particular journal entry from the night before my 21st birthday that I really like and would love to share with you.

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So…soon (in a matter of hours), I’ll be 21, and I find that rather odd, honestly. I have a hard time stepping out-of-body and looking at myself, not as the little teenage girl who came here almost four years ago, but as a 21-year-old woman.

There are ways in which I KNOW I’ve grown. Only in the past year have I truly found what it means to be comfortable in my own skin. I’m a ‘walking contradiction’, and I like it. I’m a paradoxical simplistic, a semi-angsty romantic, as I once put it. I’m a girly-girl with a love for action and battle prowess; I’m a hobbit who speaks the tongue of Elves; I’m a wielder of pen with a love for the sword;  I’m a teacher who loves to learn; I’m a drama queen who has to work on graciously accepting compliments; I am a self-confirmed bachelorette who would someday like to get married; I’m a walking contradiction.

And I like it that way.

For years, I tried to be only one thing, what I thought people thought I should be: the perfect young lady, the angsty tomboy, the all-knowing sage, etc. No, it doesn’t work that way; I’m merely bits and pieces, as are we all–flawed but lovingly forgiven. This past year has just proven to me that God can put the pieces together in ways we could never imagine. Pieces that ‘should not go together’ come together perfectly in me. That’s not saying that I am perfect, but my Creator is, and I admire His ingenuity.

NaBloPoMo Day 12, Part 2: A Lady’s Journal Excerpted

Author’s Note: This is my journal entry from today as I sat alone in Panera Bread during lunchtime. It’s very stream of consciousness, I admit, but sometimes I just need to let my mind flow.

12 November 2015

Today is a most frabjous day! Today is my day out! A few hours all by myself! The little miss is out to luncheon with her grandparents so I can cavort by myself for a little bit. Of course, it’s only a few hours but I will take it!

So here I sit beside one of Panera’s big picture windows, watching the leaves dance around in the gales outside. Ladies bustle to and fro in lovely long sweaters, coats, and cardigans (of which I am one). Old friends are catching up at either table across from me. I just did my best Cho Chang expression and asked for a cheese pastie [though it was not a true pastie and just a cheese pastry, really]. And I am blessedly alone!

I am pretty in pastels and knee-high boots that lace in the back. My hair isn’t quite the fairy tale that it was yesterday, for being tousled and flirted with by nimble, windy fingers. (I am forcing myself to slowly down as I write this. There’s no need to rush right now.) I just watched a very handsome man with a handsome scarf exit his car and enter the restaurant. I just want to observe and record the world around me suddenly, the way I used to. It feels and tastes of winter outside, as if the Old Man’s reindeer are kicking up to be off on their heels. The air inside bites of too much cold for indoors right now. The sky is close and grey, thick like my favorite blanket. I just watched a leaf pirouette on the tip of its stem. My phone battery has run out; I really need a new one. That might be my Christmas request for this year. I find myself wishing to hear voices in the din, voices I know. I miss long lunches and longer conversations. Life can really get in the way sometimes, but I would never wish to change it. Too much risk and ingratitude in the wishing.

My Sacred Spaces: Pen and Paper

Author’s Note: Here is the second installment of my “sacred spaces” writings.


When I started this post, I was sitting on the floor and next to me were my newest journal and my fountain pen, waiting for when I was done blogging so that I could pick them up and record and reflect on my day’s moments. This is one of my sacred spaces: pen and paper. When I open my journal, a notebook, or notepad, and am greeted by empty lined pages, I cannot help but feel the potential, a welcoming sense in that openness. Like the page is waiting for me, holding its breath as it waits to see just what I will create on that open paleness.

As I write, I sometimes feel like my mind is just pouring out through the 11863455_10153060013348133_4766593114216941972_ncracks, flowing out through the ink in my pen. Some of those cracks are repaired, healed, and stronger than before, some are still healing, and yet others are just now nicks that I am trying to tend to before they hairline and snap. My pain, my joy, my creativity, my utter lack of spoons, whatever is going on in that particular moment, it all flows through the fissures in my humanity, filling the page with emotions, perceptions (correct or incorrect), rantings (impassioned or enraged), worlds, characters, fantasies, life decisions, prayers, dreams, and reflections.

As I let it all pour out, I sometimes feel those fractures getting lighter, as if my own flawed humanity doesn’t weigh quite so heavily on my soul. Whether I share that poured out humanity with others or keep it private, the lightening is still there. My heart feels a bit freer sometimes when I force myself into honesty. To answer your question: yes, honesty with one’s self is just as hard or maybe more so than honesty with others. When I sit down with my journal or my computer, I still sometimes struggle with the idea of being accepted, ie, the freedom to write whatever I feel like I need to write. I cannot accurately describe the force of will and courage that it has taken for me to press the “Publish” button sometimes, and the reception hasn’t always been great BUT I was true to my soul and what I felt I needed to write in that particular moment. And that is worth it.

There is a peace in putting pen to paper that I do not think I have ancient or perfect enough words in my vocabulary to describe. I have been filling notebooks and journals since I was in middle school. Geek moment: I once filled three notebooks in the writing out of the film “3 Ninjas” from memory. There are hundreds of pages filled with the story of my life, with the peace that I have found in reflection and pouring out my heart and mind through the cracks. I even remember particular favorite spaces to write. One of the is the booth all the way back, against the wall, on the left as you walked into the Student Union on the University of Evansville campus. From there, I had a great view of the rest of the union and, particularly, the corner that the theatre students had claimed as their own, and, from there, I could turn inward and fill pages with silver and black ink, the sweet scent of leather in my nose from the journal cover, as I worked my way through my undergrad years, those first few years on my own away from home.

I will forever call pen and paper home, safety, peace, and portal. A deeply sacred space.

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The Right Reason to Write…Or Not?

My journals since 2000, minus the most recent one.

One of the most interesting things that I will bequeath to Elizabeth (and other children we might have, if we decide to) is my stack of journals. I have ever journal that I have kept since entering college in 2000. I had one when I was a kid but destroyed for reasons I can no longer remember. I love writing here but it will never replace a paper journal. Which leads me to other thoughts.

Why do I need this? Why do I have the need, the compulsion to physically write down my thoughts?

I like writing. I like seeing the words flow out of my pen. Sometimes I don’t know my own thoughts until they are voice and, at the same time, I’m not comfortable voicing them to another living soul. My journals are the reliquaries for my emotions, for my thoughts, my failures, my joys, my despairs, my memories.

I write things down so I can remember them, remember that feeling in that moment for that reason. I wrote down the progression from theatre goer to script contributor for the American College Theatre Festival back in 2001 (though it’s not nearly as glamorous as it seems) because I wanted to remember every step. Every important date of mine and Ben’s beginning relationship is written down and my students were stunned to see that I could recite them all, which even on which date (first date, first kiss, officially a couple, engagement). I wrote down the date I first felt my daughter kick in the wee hours of the morning, the date that we found out that we were indeed going to have an Elizabeth and not a Jeremiah. I write these things down because they are important to me and so that, in my old age and inevitable senility, I can read back and, even if I don’t remember it, I can relive the warmth of it all just a little bit.

I write to hide. Like a friend wrote for his character not too long ago, “I know we’re supposed to feel, but feelings and actions are two different things…” he says. “Isn’t it better, sometimes, with some emotions, to stuff them away til later? Not forever… just til later?” I write to stuff those feelings and thoughts away so I can put on a happy face to the world or least one that doesn’t provoke questions and uncomfortable confrontation. (Oh, but I hate confrontation.) My journal holds those feelings, locked away from anyone else’s eyes. I’m a private person anyway and, though I am way past the journal-with-a-lock days, it is rare to never that I will offer you a peek at my journal. I always keep it near me and my mom was very good about reminding me to take it with me when I left the TV room and put it away. In my journals, My journal serves no other purpose than to keep my secrets and those parts of me that I wish to remain secret and private, ie, the perfect place to hide. Then, with the release valve hit, I can face the world with at least some bit of a lighter heart, maybe.

I write to know myself. Like I said, I sometimes don’t even know my own mind until I start writing it out. Sometimes I don’t like what I am thinking but it’s still does me good to find out just what that is.  And giving myself the space to admit that I don’t like the way I am thinking or feeling is helpful; there’s no one there to contradict me and I am able to be brutally honest with myself about myself.  I may not always be able to be so with people but my journal allows me a place to at least try to be honest about myself and learn about myself.

I’m not saying that there is feasibly no other way that I could gain a depth to myself without my journals but, for me, I think that this has been one of the best ways over the past 13 years. One that I don’t think I’m going to give up any time soon.