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Doing the best we can against the Jabberwocky

This magnet is on my fridge:

It has a hilarious, sad weight to it that reminds me of Nicholson’s line, “What if this is as good as it gets?” Its fatalism reminds me of a bottomless well where you can never hear a dropped rock splash.

That well has been home for a while; I’ve been straining to hear for years now.

I noticed a couple weeks ago that I related a story about Jake like nothing was wrong, and for a minute, the world seemed a bit bent, like a funhouse mirror that I’d stepped into. The disorientation passed; I’m living a new normal with one phantom son. It’s a one-person Wonderland, a mansion of many rooms. I know. I’m not alone in this place, but that doesn’t matter. It’s still a solitary confinement.

But this, yes, this is as good as it gets. For now, and perhaps always. This is as good as it gets, and I’m doing the best that I can just like everyone else, and some days it’s terrifying. The world should be a better place but it does no good to rail at it. Nothing changes unless we do, unless we identify something we love and make more of it, whether it’s a physical item or an environment we want to live in.

Lavigne’s song for Alice in Wonderland is both whiny and defiant. She’s giving the finger to all who tell her not to cry. I mean, look at the still of the video below. Doesn’t it look like she’s about to give us the bird?
I’m not going to cry, dammit, even though I’m in this weird hellhole in the middle of the earth.

I found myself in Wonderland
Get back on my feet, on the ground
Is this real?
Is this pretend?
I’ll take a stand until the end

…I’ll get by
…I’ll survive
When the world’s crashing down
When I fall and hit the ground
I will turn myself around
Don’t you try to stop me
… I won’t cry


What sticks with me from the film is Alice’s battle at the end and the things she says that give her strength to beat the Jabberwocky are six impossible things that she has come to believe.

I’m gathering mine. What are yours?
I hope you’ll share in the comments.

Brain real estate at a premium right now

I’m thinking out loud here.
I waffle about posting about what I’m thinking and feeling about my son being missing. I am not adding any new information, and much of what I share is about what I deal with emotionally day by day. It’s repetitive. The grief never subsides, although my awareness of it ebbs and flows.

I ultimately choose to post about it because I don’t have another safe outlet to talk about this ordeal. And right now I’m giving myself this little note to remind myself that I have permission to be repetitive, to grieve through the written word, to write the things that keep me up at night. I have to do this because I inevitably second-guess myself and castigate myself for not shutting up. And I’m doing this for anyone else who can relate.

So: lately I’ve been sleepless and preoccupied with questions I can’t get answers to. I cannot shut my brain down.

  1. Where is my son? This is an obvious, simple question, but thinking about it and trying to answer it take up much of my brain time. I still search ditch banks. This is a reflexive action; I cannot help myself. My brain says, “No, you might have missed something the last time you looked. Look again.” I drive down alleys. I scope out the local cemeteries. And I still check the unidentified persons database. I’ve managed to put some days between my searches, but for nearly a year I was checking every day. My brain says, “Many volunteers contribute to this database. You have to stay abreast of the new. Check again.” I have stopped short of volunteering to work for the database and help them add more unidentified bodies. It’s tempting to think that I would have more control over this horrible circumstance if I were helping in that way. It is not off the table.
  2. Is my son dead? This also takes up a lot of brain time. I’m not thinking it when I’m searching, nor when I’m teaching, nor when I’m engaged in any of the stuff I do to mute the agitated neurons. (I’ve signed up for a lot: Kiwanis activities, organizing an upcoming teacher conference, writing projects, teaching and research, enrolling in graduate classes, reading, someday-quilting, and Clash Royale.) This is also when I tap my inner tape that says, “It’s easier to disappear on purpose than by accident.” It doesn’t matter that I don’t fully believe it. It temporarily sedates.I don’t fully believe it because my son’s smart enough to do it right. The one real comfort I have is that he did not seem to be thinking clearly before he disappeared.
  3. Is my son homeless and helpless?  In the summer I worry that he doesn’t have water or shelter to get out of the heat. I know he hates being hot as much as I do. We both have metabolisms that make us radiate heat. We are always hot, and the summer is particularly miserable for us. Is his face sunburned? Does he have athlete’s foot and jock itch? Does he have soap and toothpaste and deodorant? Is he thinking he smells like garbage, or is he past caring? Does he have coherent thoughts? When he was in high school he found errors in his calculus book, used Legos to build puzzling geometric problems, and went by the online name of 2brncells1gun. When he worked at the mine, someone asked him if they used fresh water or saltwater to excavate, and he answered, “I don’t know. I’ve never tasted it.Is that Jake apparent to anyone around him now?

    I worry now that winter is at the door because toes and fingers need protecting. Heads need covering. Weak bodies suffer more.
    Is he wearing a coat when it’s cold?
    Does he have those  cursed small boots on, still? Is he punishing himself?
    Is he sleeping under a bus station bench and getting kicked by people who hate homeless people?
    Does he have dirty hair and a dirty beard and grungy clothes that disgust people when they see him?
    Does he get rained on and then have stiff frozen clothes when it freezes overnight?Is he wearing a trash bag over his clothes?

  1. Is my need to know where my son is more important than his right to be left alone? Am I invading his privacy by writing about him? Am I keeping him away because he is afraid everyone will shame him? If I shut up will he come home? If I do everything perfectly will he appear? Oh, toxic thinking.
  2. How can I best love my son? Am I doing it correctly now? When did I do it right? What did that look like? Is it too late?
  3. Do I have to parade my faith for it to be evident? I can’t make myself do that. I believe there’s a bigger picture that I can’t see. I believe I am not singled out for suffering. I believe that talking about my suffering gives others permission to talk about theirs. I think that is unconditional love in action. I believe that those pockets of indescribable peace come from trusting God.  I think perhaps I don’t blurt my faith walk because I fail so much. If I trusted God more I’d have more peace, y’know? I worry about this because I think it’s built in me to worry about what people think.  I need more songs to pipe into my brain to help me shed that habit.
  4. Today, a new question: How can I help other mothers?  I grieve over suffering children, and today on Twitter I saw the link below.This is happening right now:
    A few days ago, “…at al-Sabheen hospital in the capital, the ABC’s producer in Sanaa witnessed more than a dozen emaciated babies and toddlers receiving treatment in the
    malnutrition ward. Their tiny skeletal bodies are evidence of the dire food crisis that is overwhelming this country” (Mcneill).I found this:
    And this:


It feels so small. I feel so small. And I wish I could see the actual help.
I hope others will join me in this.

We are small. And we matter even when it doesn’t feel like we do.

Six months missing.

On October 30, our church hosted Celebrate Light, as it does every year. My husband and I manned a booth for Chuck the Chicken, and in between scooping out candy for the kids and dipping down to pick up chucked chickens I scanned the crowd for my son.

The festival was the one time each year that I was pretty sure I’d get to see Jake, no matter how mad he was at me. I guess the church property was neutral ground for him. He wasn’t surly, and one year he actually let me drag him around to introduce him to people, and he lingered afterward, like he didn’t really want to leave. That gave me this wild hope that he’d come around, but he didn’t. It was another year and some months before that happened.

So I found myself looking for him, even though I’ve been pretty sure he isn’t in the Valley. I just…hoped. You know?

He never showed, of course, and I still have no idea where he is. This past week’s been particularly difficult (why!? I don’t understand the randomness)– I’m afraid he’s on the streets, not himself. And it hit me afresh that I may never see him again. That makes me feel lopsided.

When you have your children, you never envision a future without them. It’s incomprehensible. You think they’ll always love you, too. My mother told me this, between the lines in her journal and in person when I visited her the year before she succumbed to cancer. She envisioned me frolicking with her in a meadow on a warm, sunny day.  Yeah, we never frolicked, but I think she tried–I remember shooting the rapids in the aquaducts in LA, and camping at Thomas Hunting Grounds and Deep Creek and Heart Rock.

Then I definitely went my own way.  And on this side of her death, on this side of Jake’s disappearance, I see how hard I was on her.  This is why parents have to stick around. So the kids have time to figure out how to forgive them and love them back.

And of course I now wonder if I’d forgiven her sooner would it have made me a better mom?
What if if if….

Got a ton of those.




This hard thing


You walk this thin line when you’re going through an emotionally dark time. On one side you’ve got an abyss of fear, and on the other is a  pit of despair. You have to let go of things that throw off your balance. If you hold on to a thing that crowds your brain with bleakness, you tip toward the pit; if your imagination does the giddyup, you totter toward the abyss.

Most of the things I’ve let go of are energy sucks.  I ask myself daily, how much energy does this [fear/resentment/thought] cost?

Resentments–woo, out the window, baby.  Ain’t got time to have hurt feelings. Only room enough for one car on the pain train.

Worrying about what other people think–this really took the stuffing out of me this summer. I worried that I was too emotional, not emotional enough, too preoccupied, not preoccupied enough.  I worried about how spiritual, thoughtful, loving, pretty, available, etc., I was. To my brain and my heart, I say, “I’m sorry. It’s enough to be upright.” This stuff’s scattering like the fall leaves I wish we had here in the desert. My version of the fall season, I guess. heh

I’ve been aware of the tightrope, of course,  all summer long. I just didn’t realize what was making my balance so precarious until I let a cool writing opportunity pass me by recently. I could have written an essay about how I teach, but I could not bring myself to do it, and when the due date passed I was disappointed in myself. No, worse than that. I shamed myself. Something so easy, and I balked because I was afraid that 1) I would find out that I do actually suck, and 2) now people would know I sucked.

It took me some noodling to get to the root of my resistance, but when I found it I also understood that this was something interfering with my skittery tightrope walk. It has to go.

At the same time I was working through this, I came across a news video about the bombing in Aleppo. A small child is pulled from the rubble and set on a seat at the back of an ambulance. His face is covered in dirt and blood, and you can tell he’s barely waking up and is not processing anything. He must feel the weight of something on his temple, because he reaches his hand up to touch his head, and when he feels the wetness he pulls his hand back and looks at it briefly. Then he sees that it’s messy and his first thought must be to wipe it clean; he rubs his hand on the seat.

No one is there with him; he sits alone because rescuers are busy digging through the rubble for more survivors. He sits quietly, and his eyes are blank.

I can walk this damn path. It may feel like a tightrope, but it really isn’t. It’s just a hard thing. And what now propels me to write is something I feel self-conscious about, but I’m sharing anyway:  Writing brings income, and I want to spend it helping children like that little one in Aleppo. (I want to add qualifiers (writing potentially brings income) but I will not. Will not.)

I’ll be writing more about the writing process, but will also post any updates about my missing son when I have them. Right now, all I know is that he’s gone, and his body has not been found. I am mostly trusting that he is alive. Some days, you know….


The two videos below resonate with me today.

The Blog of Missing Day 118: An update

Someone asked me where Day 1 was of the Blog of Missing. I started with Day 20, which is kind of a let-down, right? Where’s the beginning? There should be a Day 1. A way to find the genesis of the heartache.

And there should be words for every day of the missingness. We’ve got all the feels every day, and by we, I mean everyone who misses Jake. A post a day keeps the insanity at bay (except there ain’t no sanity clause….)

I don’t know exactly when Day 1 is. I know the first day he left.
I know the last day someone thought they saw him.
I know the first day, approximately, that I started worrying about him before he disappeared.
I know the first day he stopped talking to me three years ago.
I know the day he started talking to me again. And the day he said he forgave me and that he had been mad for dumb things.
I know the day I dropped him off at Denny’s.
I know the last day he called his dead friend’s phone.
I know many significant days.
Which one is the first?

Today marks 118 days since I knew he was safe, had shelter, and he was talking to me.  Now I have hope that he is not dead. I don’t know about shelter, I don’t know his mindset, and I don’t know that he’s safe, but it’s comforting to feel mostly sure that he’s not dead.

This summer two people approached me to ask if I’d been checking Jake’s Facebook. When I said no, they told me that their messages to him in Facebook had been read by someone. I myself have seen that twice. I dismissed it because I believed (and still do) that Jake had sold his laptop. I figured someone had access to his Facebook messages.

I have reason to believe he is at least alive and has access to his Facebook account because I used to be able to see his friends list, and now cannot. A person with access to his account would be indifferent regarding privacy, I think.

You know as much as I do.

I can extrapolate a lot from this info, but I’ve learned I’m usually wrong about stuff when I do that. Too many assumptions.

This. It’s where my head’s at.


I’ve found a website that offers help to those who have been reported missing:

Here’s what the page says:

You might not be ready, want or be able to return home at this time, but still want family or loved ones to know you’re okay. You could be scared of how they might react or be worried about a difficult situation you left behind.
It can be very hard to make that first contact or find the words you want to say to someone, for a range of personal and individual reasons. That is why we have developed our Message Home service.
Remember, we won’t disclose your location if you don’t want us to.
Simply talk to us and provide us with information that will help prove your identity to the person we are passing the message on to, such as your date of birth or any memorable information. We will then get in touch with your family and ask if they’re willing to receive a message from you.
After, they will also be given the opportunity to pass a message back to you and we will check with you first to make sure you are willing to receive the message.
We will never pass on abusive, harmful , threatening or upsetting messages between family members or messages regarding legal or financial matters.
Want to talk? We are free, confidential and available 24/7.

Call or text 116 000


You can text us even if you have no credit left on your mobile phone.

Here is more general information for someone who is missing:


If you are reading this, know that there’s help available, and it’s okay if you don’t want to pass on a message. I love you.

Love, Mom




The blog of missing: Day 20

It’s weird how some things stall you in your writing, and other things rip you wide open.

When my son disappeared 20 days ago, the first report I wrote for law enforcement was three pages long. It had bullet points for easy reading, but still. Three pages. But how can you know how to properly track someone if you don’t know the little things?

It took me several drafts to pare it down to the essentials so I could fit them onto a flyer with his picture.

Along with a physical description:
Missing. Gave all his things away. Call me.

I continue bleeding words onto a page of updates. I don’t know who gives a crap about what steps I’ve taken–I’m not really sure I myself care–but I’m compelled to keep track or I will feel like I’ve done nothing.
The words are a trickle on my Facebook page now, and now, well. Here I am. The list is maybe not so important.  But this has substance.

This, I think, is better than sending emails to the ether. Better than Facebook messages to my son that withhold that precious “seen” checkmark. Better than editing the updates page with TO DOs and DONEs.

At 1:06am today I woke with a snap, Jake’s slurred voice in my head saying, “Where are you?”
I got dressed and drove to the house where he was staying before he vanished. Convinced he had spoken to me in a dream, in a stupor, helpless.
Shined a light in the window.
Sniffed around the window and front door for a dead body odor.
I’m not crazy, but that’s crazy behavior. Who sniffs windows?
And why? Dead people don’t slur.

Reminder to Stacy: You have no control over things you can’t control.

In all the encounters I’ve had over the last 20 days, only two have been negative.
One man lectured me via text about children who don’t want to talk to their parents and how we need to accept that. I engaged at first, then realized I don’t care what he thinks he knows.

Another man messaged one of Jake’s friends on Facebook, saying that my son was found living in my basement.

Someone actually did that. Part of me accepts that this is just a dopey person who doesn’t realize how callous that was.
Maybe thinks he’s funny.
The other part…well.
Perhaps he will call me with his theory and we can talk.

It’s only been 20 days.
When does it become valid?
Why does it seem invalid?

I make it by grace.
That’s all.


Grace, by U2

Grace, she takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

Grace, it’s the name for a girl
It’s also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

Grace, she’s got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She’s got the time to talk
She travels outside of karma
She travels outside of karma

When she goes to work
You can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty in everything

Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things




A strange but compelling love story

I got married last year after being in a ten-year long-distance relationship. People regularly express wonder at the length of our time living apart, and everyone asks the same question:  how?

For the last 9 months I’ve been shrugging off the question because, you know, we just DID it. It was just the way things worked out for that time frame, and we dealt with it. But today I was asked again, and it finally dawned on me (because I’m quick like that) that people really want to know what it is about our relationship that made it last through ten years of being about 3,000 miles apart.

Some reasons we have lasted:

  • Trust.  That seems obvious, perhaps.  You HAVE to trust that you’re not one of a long line of people on booty-call speed dial, right? But how do you trust that when you can’t see what the other person’s up to except when you visit once a year? Well, I have to ask why anyone would be in a relationship where this is even a question. If you can’t trust the person you want to be with,  look at yourself. Are you trustworthy? Are you asking that question because you know you’re out cattin’ around?   Of course, there’s insecurity. I’m human, and I’m pudgy. I worried that he saw a tall, beautiful, slender blonde woman in town who would suit him far better than I did. There were times when I was convinced that I wasn’t beautiful enough, and I realized after a long time that this was my issue, and only mine, but I arrived at there because of …next point:
  • Grace.  A crap-ton of it. And for a while, much of it was one-sided. Not me! Tom.  I am awed by how much I have learned about what love is from this man. I can be a horrid, grudge-holding woman over dumb things. Heck, we had an 8-month break-up because of my stubbornness. He wrote me a letter during the break-up that I did not answer, and when I finally, miraculously, relented and wrote him, he answered immediately.  (All of which makes you wonder, uh, why does he love her?  Answer: When I’m not being horrid, I’m awesome.)  But grace:  it is undeserved. Forgiving.  Sometimes baffling. And it usually ends in…next point:
  • Humor. Not a day passes that we don’t laugh. There’ve probably been days of arguing over the years that we couldn’t laugh, but they’re outnumbered by the laughing days.  And the secret here is that we’re able to laugh at ourselves. We both know we can be childish and unreasonable, and we’re safe with each other so we can say, “Oh, wow. I suck, and I’m sorry.” Tom says part of my awesomeness is that I own it when I’m wrong, even if it’s not right away.
  • We believe the best of each other. If Tom says something that hurts my feelings, I’ve learned to step back and consider his words in the light of his love for me.  I had to wear bracelets for a while to remind myself of this, but the lesson did take.
    I get it now.
  • Refusal to give up. Tom says I’m relentless. I say I’m determined. Whatever. We’re both thankful. And really, he’s one to talk.  It’s he who showed me how to love when it was hard. It’s he who taught me that I was loveable by doing everything he could to make me laugh so I would get over my self-consciousness about my loud laugh. It’s he who called me every day, even when I was mad at him.
  • Communication. We talked almost every night. I think we probably talked more than most couples did who lived together. In fact, I’d bet we know each other far better than most people who’ve been married longer. We learned to listen to tones in each other’s voices.  And we have a rule: no hang-ups. Hanging up in the middle of a fight is the worst kind of storming off. So we’d have these long pauses when we could not speak because we were so mad and had nothing friendly to say, but we couldn’t hang up so we were forced to work it through till we reached some kind of resolution.
  • Commitment to the relationship. We both wanted it to work. This means you have to dump pride to the side, and you have to be able to give and receive grace.
  • And now: God. We recognize that God was there all along, but we weren’t paying attention to that at first.

3,000 miles can exist within the same house between two people.  Physical distance doesn’t break a relationship; emotional chasms do. Tom and I learned to bridge them while we lived so far apart, and now we are discovering how much we enjoy being together in the same house with no chasms to cross. It’s pretty amazing.




Week 2: Acceptance update


The bracelet works. It’s reminded me every day that my goal is to pray for those who annoy the crap out of me, who hurt my feelings, who –well, you get it.

I’ve had a week of challenges, and it’s been, what, 4 days? All I can do every day is shout at the bracelet that I am trying to pray, dammit, but I don’t want to….

…and every evening I read an update on Facebook from a couple whose daughter’s been in a terrible accident, and they’re working with her to regain basic abilities, and they end each post with 5 things they’re thankful for. Last night the Mom’s flight got delayed, so she has to work with very little sleep, and Dad is rejoicing because through some [unmentioned] grace he’s able to be with his daughter. Each step of their journey is grueling, yet each parent finds time to get on Facebook and share where the family’s at.  And I was complaining about what…?

I regularly forget my blessings!
This article on GoodLifeZen reminded me about keeping a gratitude journal, so I’m going to do that, and I’m going to wear a second bracelet just for gratitude.

Today I’m thankful because:

  • It’s Monday. A new day. A new week. Today I get to chart the week ahead.
  • I got a beautiful night’s sleep last night.
  • Yesterday my good friend, Lawna, gave me geranium essential oil (the scent makes me ridiculously happy.)
  • Lawna is also going to make a special essential oil blend (an aphrodisiac!) for my wedding to share as favors.
  • My fiance is collecting Veggie Tales videos for me. Those stories and characters delight the little kid in me, and this in turn delights Tom. I think that’s sweet and wonderful.