This is a story about Melissa. They are all stories about Melissa: she is the main character in all of our tales. She is the star: radiant, inspirational, warm, and, like all stars, destined to flare out.

Melissa drove a bright blue cloth-top Wrangler. Sometimes her hair was bright blue, too. In my favorite picture of us, I’m peeking around her headrest while she takes a selfie from the driver’s seat. We had just hiked somewhere – St. Helen’s or Rainier, one of those – and she’d scraped her knee so badly that she had to use her bandana as a bandage. It was St. Helen’s: I remember how rocky it was, and how sunny. The lupines matched her hair, then.

She pulled in friends like a sun capturing comets, accumulating adventures and anecdotes with every orbit. In February, they were snow shoeing in the mountains; in July, whitewater rafting; in November, backpacking in Patagonia. Sometimes I’d meet them for beers after and they’d share their pictures. Melissa almost made you feel like you’d come along. She always made me feel included – like my star was missed even in her huge constellation of friends.

I’m a little envious of the adventures she was able to take, but not of her. It wasn’t possible to be envious of her, not when she’d work with Habitat for Humanity and blood drives. Not when she’d come jump your car in the rain – actually, she’d drive you to work so you could get to your shift on time, then call up one of her orbiting friends to help jump your car and drive it to work for you. Not when she’d show up at your house after the latest atrocious Tinder date with a pint of gelato and a half-dozen mini bottles of whiskey.

“Mel, you don’t even drink!”

“They were 99 cents!”

And I’d drink one mixed with Diet Coke and we’d watch our favorite Top Model episodes until two in the morning. She was that kind of friend. You don’t get too many of those in your life.

Mel came alive outdoors. She’d straighten up, smile more. You could see her expand in the fresh air, like being kept indoors made her wilt. She especially loved the beach. She’d grown up inland; I’ll always treasure being the first one to take her to the shore, to see that expression, that expansive smile that breached horizons.

That’s why I’m writing this here, on the beach. I hiked down the rocks after dark and started a fire. I have a tiny 99-cent bottle of whiskey, a pen, this paper, and my memories.

I should have known they wouldn’t all fit.

I’m sorry I couldn’t be at your funeral. I hope this is good enough. It’s everything I loved best in you, captured as well as I can, and when I’m done, I’ll light a candle under it and send it airborne. You’ll get to fly, the one thing in all your adventures that you never got to do. You’ll float out over the waves, into the night, and I’ll watch until this last bit of you flares out.

unsplash-logoIsaac Davis


FBFF: Easter

This week’s FBFF theme is Easter.  Maybe it is an Easter bonnet, or your favorite scene from Easter Parade, or how to dye the perfect egg – what’s Easter to you?

Option D: Jesus?

Calm down, stick around.  There’ll be chocolate at the end!

One of my earliest memories is of some kind of Easter performance at the Methodist church we went to in Oregon.  I vaguely remember ballerinas.  Other early memories include Easter baskets lined with that pastel paper grass, chocolate egg hunts throughout the house, and absolutely terrifying Easter Bunnies at the mall.

Easter has always been extremely church-centric for my family.  “My” church, where I went from age 10 onward and which I still consider “mine” even though I don’t get to visit much anymore, was a behemoth which brought out the full orchestra and choir for the big holidays.  I brought Kevin home for the first time ever for Easter weekend, 2006, about two weeks after we’d started dating.  I figured if he could weather the pomp and circumstance of Our Church At Easter, he could handle pretty much anything.  His church experience was very limited – in fact, he was an atheist for a long time, although he would occasinally go to the Bible study his uncle hosted in his living room.  Bringing him to that service was pretty much dropping him into the deep end to see if he could swim, and of course, he could.

Spending Easter in Bellevue became a tradition for us for the rest of college.  My mom even made him his own Easter basket each year.  We developed an egg-hunt system in which my sister, Kevin, and I each got a room to hide chocolate eggs in for the others.  (Kevin was so good at this that my mom would find eggs in his designated room two or three years afterward.)  It was on those Easter visits (the very first one, actually) that Kevin first told me he loved me.

All those family memories, along with the tradition that Easter is the day for Christians, the day on which we are all forgiven no matter what we’ve done, if only we can bring ourselves to ask for it, add up to a simple feeling – Easter is love.  Easter is unadulterated, unconditional, endless love between families and between humans and God and each other.  Easter is the love that will not quit on you and doesn’t mind when you quit on it sometimes.  Easter is joy and renewal, the fulfillment and expansion of everything awesome about Christmas.  Flowers are finally blooming, the sun is finally breaking through, and we’re reborn.  All that plus chocolate.

Told ya.

That’s my Easter.  What’s yours?

Valentine’s Day, I Guess I Should Do Something

Valentine’s Day, man.  It’s nearly as controversial as Christmas.  It’s another holiday with good intentions that got swallowed up by corporate consumerism, chewed up, and spat out in a mess of pink and red and chocolate and conflicting societal expectations:






You get the idea.

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it’s happily-ever-after time

I’m getting married in three days!  At this point in the process, things are at about 75% crazy.  That number is significantly lower because Kevin’s awesome sister came to help me with decorations yesterday and we got a lot done. (Thank you!)  However, I keep catching glances of things that still need to be taken care of, like getting a new email address with my new last name and making sure my clothes for the weekend are all laid out.  I’ve taken approximately four trips to craft stores over the last week to get more ribbon because I keep running out.  My coffee consumption has increased considerably.  I haven’t even gotten a chance to stress out about being in front of eighty-some people and reciting vows to…oh wait, no, there it is.

But the point of all this is the marriage, and I’ve been working hard over the last few weeks to keep that in perspective. I’m focusing on remembering all the ways in which Kevin is amazing and how excited I am that we’re going to take on the world together.  I always tear up over other bloggers’ posts about their partners, so I figured Kevin deserves one, too, starting with Day 1.

I generally don’t believe in love at first sight, but I can still remember how his smile made my heart jump when I saw him in class on the first day of freshman orientation.

I know, right?

I also remember thinking that someone that cute and that, well, cool-looking would probably never notice skinny little me.  Yeah, I thought he was out of my league.  We wound up in the same group of friends, though, and we discovered that we both liked video games and that we both thought “Return of the Jedi” was totally the best movie from the original trilogy (because it is).  Kevin turned out to be an incredible friend right from the start – not just to me, but to my other friends as well.  Even if we had just stayed friends, I know I would have been grateful to have him in my life in any capacity.

During the following spring semester, the flirty-flirty started happening.  We spent more time playing Halo 2 in his dorm room and I usually wound up there to agonize over my accounting homework.  Our friends noticed and were drawn to the situation like sharks to blood in the water, only with a more romantic metaphor.  I think by the time we started going out, at least four of our friends had somehow been involved in the process of getting us together.

It was (well, still is) a running joke among our friends that Kevin somehow hasn’t heard of about half the things other people have heard of.  There were dozens of times at Linfield when we would be talking about a popular old song or a well-known childhood cartoon and he would have no idea what we were talking about.

One of these things was Fandango.  You may be able to tell where this is going.

“V for Vendetta” had come out recently, so I emailed him to suggest that he try using Fandango for the first time to find us tickets.  (Keep in mind I’m not into chick flicks.)  When this email was sent, I was on AIM with Tess, who was on AIM with Kevin’s roommate, who was reporting Kevin’s reactions.  The conversation went something like this:

“He’s reading the email.”

“What does he look like?  Is he happy about it?”

“James can’t tell. (pause) He just asked James if you meant this as a date.”


“He thinks so.  Okay, yes, he’s happy about it and he’s writing back to you now.”


That movie was followed by other romantic classics like “The Prestige” and “300.”  We dated for the rest of college, and after my summer internship, Kevin hopped the pond to propose to me in London.

There are still moments when I look at Kevin and realize how blessed I am to have found someone like him.  He’s the kind of guy who stopped to talk about my problems and let me cry on his shoulder in public even though he’d only known me for a few months.  (This happened when I didn’t get into the introductory creative writing class and thought my future was being derailed.)  He’ll listen to me gripe about my stressful day and then suggest getting cheap pizza or Chinese food for dinner.  He’ll never let me forget my goals and dreams and he encourages me at every turn.  He appreciates, or at least tolerates, my bad puns.  He’s smart and he works incredibly hard because he knows what he wants his future to be like and he knows what it takes to get there.  And he looks darn good in a suit.

He indulges in my nerditude to the point of buying me (with the help of his parents) all three seasons of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and a good portion of the Clone Wars show.

He indulges my other nerditudes as well.

In exchange, he’s slowly introducing me to the romantic comedy classics, “French Kiss” and “Return to Me” among them – but, in keeping with our fondness for action movies, he’s also shown me his favorite war thrillers, like the Jack Ryan movies, “Crimson Tide,” and “The Guns of Navarone.”

We’re trying new foods, we’ve visited new cities, and we’re shopping for new furniture.  Even after knowing each other for almost six years, we’re still learning new things about each other.  We’re building a life, bit by bit, and on Saturday it becomes forever.  I’m so grateful it’s with him.

Fun Food Friday: summer lovin’

It’s a sunny afternoon here.  I’m sipping an iced mocha, paying bills, and working on the last of the wedding decorations.  My belated birthday cupcakes are baked and almost ready for frosting.  Kitty is in her favorite spot on the windowsill.   A stack of new cookbooks is waiting for me to flip through and pick some new recipes to try.  Kevin and I get married in eight days.  I’m reveling in the fact that I just won first prize in a statewide poetry contest, which is the first time I’ve won prize money for my writing and the first time I’ve gotten money for my writing, period.

I have earned money with my writing.

I am twenty-four years old, a prize-winning poet, able to check off a huge life goal from my list, about to be married, and it’s sunny.  Life is really good today.

sports announcers are a strange breed.

“And with a snow angel, he saves it! Mastodonic.”

I wasn’t really paying attention to the game. It’s NHL playoffs season, but the Sharks weren’t playing, so I was tuned out. I was posting photos on Facebook. But “mastodonic” isn’t a word you hear often, and I wasn’t going to let it slide.

“Wait, what?”

Kevin grinned. “Yeah.”

“No, wait, did he – mastodonic?


I just stared at him, waiting for an explanation. “Okaaaay. Why?”

Kevin just started laughing. “He’s a big guy!”

“Okay, but how big? Is he like that one guy who’s six foot nine? Is he huge? What? What is the deal?”

Kevin just kept laughing, obviously unaware that the use of the word “mastodonic” was currently causing me a good deal of distress (or, more likely, enjoying it). But it was like hearing Bill and Ted try to teach a science class, or deliver the State of the Union. It was like hearing Bill Nye comment on sports. It was not okay with me.

“Mastodonic? Why mastodonic?”

Kevin was still laughing. “Look, he’s a crappy LA announcer! What do you want from me? The Sharks wouldn’t say something like that!”

Well, turns out an official definition of mastodon is “a person of immense size, power, influence, etc.” So…I guess it turned out to be a learning experience.

I still think it’s weird.