Mar 202015

Originally published in 2011 & excerpted from the New York Times Bestseller Carry On, Warrior.

Let’s head back to the morning of March 20th, 2003 for a moment, shall we?

Craig and I have been married for six months. Chase, our firstborn, is five months old. Skip the math and stay with me. I’m home on maternity leave and spending my days alternating between the ecstasy and despair that accompany caring for an infant. I’m a little worn out.

But on March 20th, I wake up renewed and refreshed and tingling with excitement. Because as soon as I open my eyes, I remember: It’s my birthday. MY BIRTHDAY! I lie in bed and wait for the surprises and festivities and celebration of me to begin.

I wait. Then I wait a little longer. I look at Craig sleeping soundly and think, Ooooh- this is gonna be good. He’s still asleep! He must’ve been up all night preparing for my big day. Can’t wait.

Still waiting. Staring at Craig.

Craig opens his eyes, turns to me and smiles. Happy birthday, Honey. I bat my eyes and smile back.

Craig gets up and stumbles to the shower.

I stay in bed. Still waiting. Waiting patiently.

He comes back twenty minutes later and says, “Can I make you some coffee?”

Um. Yeah.

I climb out of bed. I put my hair up and throw on some make-up so I’ll look nice in the pictures Craig’s sure to snap of me when I emerge from the bedroom and see all my balloons and flowers and perhaps the string quartet he’s hired to play while I eat the fancy breakfast he’s prepared.

I take a deep breath and fling open the bedroom door with much birthday gusto. I prepare my most surprised face.

Turns out there was no need to prepare. I am surprised. Because there are no balloons. No quartet. No nothing. Just Craig. Smiling, hugging me. Happy Birthday, Honey. Gotta go. See you for dinner tonight?

Craig leaves. I sit on the kitchen floor of our teeny apartment wondering if perhaps this is a practical joke. I repeatedly open and close the front door in case he’s hiding there with all of my friends whom he’s flown in from the ends of the earth to yell SURPRISE! at me. No friends. Nothing.

I sit on the couch, shocked. I am misunderstood. I am unappreciated.

Please understand. Growing up with Bubba and Tisha, birthdays were a big deal. They made the world stop on my birthday. I never knew what would happen, but I knew it was going to be good. Tisha served breakfast in bed with flowers and gifts and out-of-the-ordinary things happened all day. In high school Bubba and Tisha sent roses to my fourth period history class with a card that said “from your secret admirer.” Nobody was allowed to get flowers delivered to class, but Bubba knew people. He also knew that those flowers would make me the most popular girl in school for the day. And they did. I walked around shrugging my shoulders when people asked me who they were from- glancing nonchalantly in the direction of the captain of the football team. He didn’t know my name. But still, anything was possible on my birthday.

Let’s just say that the morning of March 20th, 2003, I did not feel like the most popular girl in school. I did not feel like anything could happen. I felt like nothing could happen. Defeated, I sat down on the couch with my crying baby and turned on the TV.

The news anchor announced that America had officially declared some sort of war.

WHAT??? I yelled at the TV. ON MY BIRTHDAY?????

And that was IT.

I called Craig at work. He didn’t answer, so I hung up and called back immediately, which is our bat signal for it’s an emergency. He answered on the first ring, “Hi, What’s wrong? Is everything okay? Another fire???”

So, I had set the apartment on fire the week before. Twice. Firefighters had come both times. Blaring their sirens and holding their big hoses and wearing their big masks and costumes and everything, which I thought was a little dramatic of them. I mean the fires weren’t even that big. C’mon. But Craig was still a little jumpy. Anyway -I don’t want to talk about that right now. For the love of God, try to focus on MY BIRTHDAY.

Me: “No, husband. There is no fire. It is much worse than that. You should know that I have cancelled my birthday. Today is no longer my birthday.”

Craig: “What? Why?”

Me: “Because it is already eleven am and nothing extraordinary has happened to me yet. Except, apparently, some sort of war. I hate this day. And so it is not my birthday. Cancel it in your brain. Tomorrow is my birthday.”

Craig: “Okay. Ooooookay. Should I cancel our reservations and the sitter for tonight?”

Me: “No. No you shouldn’t, Husband. We will still go out to dinner tonight. But it will be a working dinner. Bring a pencil and paper, Husband. Because tonight I will be holding a seminar for you about my birthday expectations. They are many and they are specific, so you will want to wear your thinking cap. Also, find a sitter and make reservations for tomorrow night, too. Tomorrow night will be my birthday dinner. My birthday is tomorrow. Consider it a second chance. You are welcome. See you tonight, Husband. For the seminar.”

So we went to dinner that night. I explained to Craig how growing up, my parents showed their love by really celebrating special days. I told him that they paid attention to what I really wanted and cared about, offered thoughtful gifts, and created meaningful traditions. And I explained that this is how I learned to accept love. And so when he didn’t do that, it made me feel panicked and unloved somewhere down really deep.

Craig explained that he loved me very much. And because he loved me, he wanted me to feel loved. But he said that sometimes it’s hard to know what makes a person feel loved best. So he thought it was kind and wise that I figured out what made me feel loved and shared it with him. He said he was grateful. It made him feel safe, like I would help him through this marriage thing instead of being secretly resentful.

The Love Seminar worked for us. It lasted for four hours. There was some crying and lots of laughing and talking about how hard it is to come from two different families and try to make a new one. And how impossible it is to read minds and hearts. How wonderful it is to just hear what the person you love needs and learn how to give it. To set each other up for success rather than failure. Tweet: Hear what the person you love needs & learn how to give it. Set each other up for success, not failure. @momastery

The next morning, on March 21, 2003, my temporary birthday, Craig walked into our bedroom with hot coffee and bagels covered with pink candles. He sang to me and asked me to make a wish.

When I peeked out of the bedroom I saw posters covering the walls of our apartment. They said, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HONEY! I LOVE MY AMAZING WIFE! The posters had balloons and hearts drawn all over them. Boys can’t really draw balloons and hearts. Ridiculously cute.

I squealed and Craig beamed. I kissed him goodbye and he said he’d call soon. Every hour, in fact.

I peeked into Chase’s room and saw that his crib was decorated with blue streamers.

I went pee, unrolled some toilet paper and little sticky notes fell out of the roll, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABY!”

Teamwork. Love takes teamwork, I think.

These days, Craig is known for his skill at celebrating special family days. He takes pride in it. He is a master. Legendary. I can’t tell you how many times a friend has said to me, “You are so lucky. He is amazing.”

And part of me wants to say, “Lucky? Whadyathink he fell out of the sky like that?”

But instead I say, “I know. He is. He’s amazing.”

He is.

Happy Wife, Happy Life. It’s true. For me, at least.

Originally published in 2011 & excerpted from the New York Times Bestseller Carry On, Warrior.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest

Mar 112015

Hello friends. Got this letter in the mail. Please meet my new favorite person in the whole wild world—Rachel. Warning: a bit of profanity ahead. To me it is perfectly placed, exactly right profanity—but I am just telling you so you’re ready.




I have been writing this thank you card in my head since July. Your blog post “Your Body is Not Your Masterpiece, Your Life Is” changed my life. That make sound a bit dramatic (not too surprising with my personality) but it is 100 percent true. I have been working for years in therapy to find peace with my body. I had been working and working and trying and trying and together, my therapist and I have made some progress. But a few days before your post, I experienced a pretty major setback and felt pretty torn up inside. I had worked so hard and it felt like my battle with my body was in full swing. And then—and then, sweet G, your blog post landed like magic in my inbox. Paintbrush! My body is my paintbrush and my LIFE is my masterpiece?! Tweet: My body is my paintbrush and my LIFE is my masterpiece! @momastery Something about your words just moved me. Literally moved me to tears, moved me forward on my journey, and moved me towards peace in a lifelong battle. It was like I had been humming a tune with no words in my head, at times it was so quiet and all the nasty voices in my head so loud, I couldn’t hear it. With therapy, I worked on quieting the nasty voices and listening carefully to the music and humming along. But G, your blog was like hearing the words to the song for the first time. Your blog gave me lyrics to the music I had been trying to write, language to hold onto when the battle felt fierce. THANK YOU. That doesn’t even seem like anywhere close to what I want to say—like it’s a tiny fraction of how appreciative I feel.

“Paintbrush” has become a special term for me. It’s my mantra. I meditate on it and repeat it to myself every time I do pretty much anything. I say it to myself at the gym when I am celebrating my body by using it, I whisper it to myself on the way to first dates. It’s my thing. In fact, on the day I first brought your blog to my therapist, through tears I exclaimed, “My body is a fucking paintbrush! It’s MY paintbrush! I am going to dress up like an effing paintbrush for Halloween!!” So enclosed, please find a photo of me dressed up like an effing paintbrush for Halloween. Thank you so much, G—for so much.

Love totally wins,


With her letter, Rachel also sent me a copy of the book Tattoos on the Heart, along with this postscript:

Tattoos on the HeartBooks are pretty much my favorite ever. So my favorite way to say thank you is to pass along special books to special people. I hope you enjoy this one. Father G is an inspiration. Homeboy Industries is an incredible agency that teaches former gang members to find the love they have been missing…inside themselves. (I have no affiliation with them, I am just sort of a stalker of Father G’s amazing love from afar and, since I am a social worker in LA—he is a bit of a rock star to all of us working with the underserved.)  Father G’s book is one of my favorites of all time. I read it over and over, listen to the audio version like it’s going out of style, and cling to his words (like I do yours) for strength and inspiration. A priest who devotes his life to teaching gang members to love themselves and each other and writes to us all about it? Brutiful! I hope you enjoy.

“Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.” – Gregory Boyle 

Rachel: I read it. Then I read it again. Then I begged everyone I know to read it. It is now one of my all-time favorite books and Father Boyle is one of my all-time favorite humans.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest

Mar 042015

Last night I was in my cloffice finishing something up and I heard my girls start fighting for the seven millionth time. They were yelling at each other and their voices were getting louder and louder and I just got so pissed. I felt so DONE. I was so tired of their fighting that I totally forgot that peace begins with me and I lost it. I just lost it. I stood up and RAN out of my cloffice with such fury that I bashed my toes against the wall. And it hurt like a mother. It felt like a FIRE had just started on my foot. The pain traveled all the way to the top of my head and my entire existence became stubbed toe.  I looked up at Tish who had just walked into the room and I let out the F-bomb. Loudly. In her direction. And then with my most terrifying monster voice I growled. GET. OUT. GET. OUT! She immediately started crying hysterically – she thought I was dying – and she ran out. I let her go and I crumpled onto the floor.

This really would have been bad enough, but I had more damage to do. Because I was angry and exhausted and a little embarrassed and so it was important for me to make sure everyone knew this was NOT MY FAULT. It was THE FIGHTING. It was THEM. They did this to me. So I picked my bashed toes up of the ground and I limped out of my room and I found both my girls huddled and crying in the hallway. And I looked them right in the eye and I said: Do you SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FIGHT LIKE THIS? BAD things happen. I got HURT.

And they looked at me with the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen because their mommy was hurt and it was all their fault. And I looked back at them with the saddest eyes because my girls were hurt and it was all my fault. And I should have grabbed them right then and there – but I couldn’t say sorry yet. I just couldn’t. I was so tired. I just wanted everybody to feel as bad as I did for a little bit longer.

So I went back to my room and shut the door and sat on the floor and held my foot and rocked back and forth there for a while. My toes didn’t even hurt anymore. I just held them in case Craig walked in. He needed to think I was hurt badly. I needed a good excuse. And Craig did walk in a few moments later – holding a frozen bag of broccoli. And he sat down on the floor next to me and silently held the frozen broccoli on top of my foot. I’m pretty sure he knew I wasn’t hurt all that bad. But still. The broccoli was grace. And grace is what makes a girl ready to apologize.

So after a few minutes I stood up and walked out of my room to find my girls again. I wiped their weepy eyes and I grabbed their teeny hands and I asked them to follow me. They did, because they still trusted me. We curled up on Amma’s bed and Craig came in, too, and I kissed their soft, soft faces and I said: I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for scaring you. None of that was your fault. Sisters fight. It’s normal for you to fight. Mommy hurt herself and she was angry and she lashed out at you because she wanted someone to blame. You weren’t to blame at all. I’m so sorry.

And they cried and promised that they forgave me and I rocked them like they were babies again, because they were. And then I looked up to see that Chase was standing in the door, taking a picture of us. And I said, “What are you doing?” And Chase said, “My homework for photography class is to take one picture that represents my family. This is it – with all the apologizing and hugging and crying and forgiving. This is us.”

Yes. This is family: With all the apologizing and hugging and crying and forgiving — a place to practice giving and accepting grace. Tweet: Family: With all the apologizing, hugging, crying & forgiving-a place to practice giving & accepting grace @momastery

Family pic

So, there you go. This is Us. Us is Grace. And Grace is good enough for Us.

*When I put Tish to bed she said: Mama. That sure was an overreactment of you, wasn’t it?

Yes, Yes it was. I said.

Mama – you said the F word.

Yes, Yes I did. I said.


The Melton Family Poem
Grace for you,
Grace for me,
Grace for her and him and we.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest

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