Judge Melvin posing with her motorcycle. PC:

We are both divorced mothers of a single, beloved son and I think we both would admit that while not many things can make us come undone with pride and love, our all-grown-up baby boys certainly rank at the tip-top.

We are both at the stage in our lives where the ‘hard stuff’ is mostly behind us, and we are both searching for our new place in the world. We’ve both seen that, yes, it’s scary out there when you’re by yourself, but it’s also pretty exciting.

We are both too independent for the traditional expectations of who and what we are supposed to be anymore, and many people don’t know and will never know who we really are on the inside. Sojourners (people who don’t like to stay in one place for too long) are like that.

She is a judge. I am a teacher. She is no longer on the Bench, but she will always be a judge. I am still a teacher even though I am vibrating with excitement knowing that my years in education are coming to conclusion, but I also know in my heart I, too, will always be a teacher.

We both wrote a book about our lives and that’s how we met.

Laura Melvin is anonymous now, but it wasn’t always that way. Judge Melvin, like me, was born a Creator and after decades in the world of Criminal and Family Law, meeting people, children, who left footprints on her soul, she penned a book by the same name. After spending most of a lifetime journaling her thoughts about what that job did to her spirit, she (like me) realized that bad experiences sometimes make great stories. Throughout her career in the judicial system, and then in the years that followed, she found that writing was again and again the sanctuary she needed to process the mostly horrible but occasionally beautiful things she saw and heard. A mutual friend introduced us recently, insisting that Laura and I led parallel lives and didn’t even know it. I read Laura’s book, and our friend was right. I feel like Laura is my shadow and she walks a road just slightly ahead of me, and reading about her journey over the last twenty years has me more excited than ever to cross over into my next chapter.

This is a heartfelt book recommendation for a very specific kind of person. Laura’s book is a memoir, so any woman of mature age who has raised her children and watched them grow up and away will relate on a deep maternal level. Laura’s book is a suspense novel, so anyone who enjoys real-life drama and turmoil, the kind that finds itself inside the chambers of a court of law, will enjoy the first-person accounts of what it’s really like in the trenches of family disputes and criminal punishments. Laura’s book is a confessional and anyone who has the heart (and the stomach) to bear agonizing stories about children who have been harmed and sometimes killed, and to be able to watch the ways redemption was sought and found for them in Judge Melvin’s court…well, this book might be for you. Laura’s book is an action piece because she hasn’t stopped to let grass grow around her feet for one moment since folding up her robe 16 years ago. She is an accomplished sky-diver and motorcycle traveler, and you will not even believe all the places she has seen. Finally, Laura’s book is a self-help manual, or at least it was to me. She gives me hope. Her book made me happy, it made me feel alive, it made me feel like I might not be getting as old as I sometimes feel. She is almost 20 years older than me and she is in better shape than any woman I know. I hired a trainer for myself this week after meeting Laura last week.  My A-game is on now. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22.

I think you’ll love it and I think you should read it. “Footprints on My Soul” is available online at  If you’re lucky you might run into her around town. It’s crazy to believe that someone so amazing is just a regular person like you and me, carrying that torch for badass women everywhere.

Visit Laura Melvin’s website HERE.

Judge Melvin Skydiving! PC: Courtesy of



About Dawn Quarles

Dawn Quarles is a high school political science and American history teacher who moonlights as a blogger and writer. She lives on Pensacola Beach, Florida.

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