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The blog of missing: Anywhere but here.

Over the last 8 months I’ve focused on just, you know, staying in the precise center of my boat. I get hit by the waves but I haven’t been thrown overboard. No thanks to any skill I have, frankly. I’m just trying to get there. Wherever there is.

My there is anywhere but here. Here is where despair creeps like fog over the edges of my boat. The tendrils curl around the lip of the boat like fingers, and I know that if I give it too much attention it will yank the sides of the boat apart. I’ve stayed afloat this long by giving it the side-eye, but despair is relentless.

I want to hope.
I want to believe that Jake’s out there somewhere, being Jake.

I don’t.


Despair Machine


Fortunately–or unfortunately, depending how surly you feel–life is relentless, too.
Dawn comes whether you sleep or not.

I had an early morning meeting with people I value, in which we discussed issues and plans for the year. I came back and meditated on goals and lesson plans and syllabi and the dinner menu. I read the Word, which helps me maintain perspective. Last summer I worried that I would lose my faith over this ordeal.  I’d just returned to the faith and had found peace; I didn’t want to lose that.

I haven’t lost my faith.

I’ve learned that I can feel despair and yet feel peace.
I can ache and yet be okay.
I can be in despair and not be depressed.
I can be present for my son, Josh, and be glad for who he is.
I can go on dates with my husband and enjoy him.
I can be in despair and yet laugh.
I can be a ghost mother and walk in the desert and find joy in the things that have always made me happy.

Everything does not exist in the context of my missing son.

I haven’t lost. I’m not lost.

I know this on some level most of the time.
What I’m missing is hope.
Which maybe sounds like I’m not okay, and maybe I’m not.
I have peace with not being okay for now.

partial lyrics:

Have we eyes to see
That love is gathering?
All the words that I’ve been reading
Have now started the act of bleeding
Into one, into one
So I walk up on high
And I step to the edge
To see my world below
And I laugh at myself
While the tears roll down
‘Cause it’s the world I know
Oh it’s the world I know





Even silence resonates.

I’ve been thinking to myself, thinking that I’m not ready for real life to start up again. Apparently my lizard brain thinks that the last two weeks of December are not real life. Dunno what’s up with that. It’s not like I have this starry-eyed notion of Christmas; most times I don’t even like it. I just don’t see the sense in wrapping something I’d rather just hand over with an “I love you.” I also don’t see the sense in waiting all year to give my husband things he’ll love. (He’s the same way. he brings me something cool a couple of times a week.)  It could also be that recently Christmas has just been plain difficult and has lost its flavor for me. (right?)

Whatever the case, I’m glad it’s behind me but I’m dreading the upcoming weeks.
I am involved in several activities by design several months ago when I foresaw my state of mind. I’m not happy about that right now. It means I have to participate. Grand jury, Kiwanis, school, writing, quilting. No, I do have to. Of course I may choose not to, but integrity and responsibility require otherwise, which I knew would be the only things that would propel me forward. So I’m thankful that I know myself, but I’m a little short on truly appreciating it right now.

Here’s what I know, why I scheduled these things for myself back then:  It’s when you least want to do something that you need it the most.

Case in point:  I got hit by the don’t-cares on Wednesday. I’d gotten free tickets to the Book to Screen event at the Palm Springs festival for Tuesday and Wednesday. I was excited to go for a week, and I’d relished the movies on Tuesday–and now in retrospect I see that I avoided conversing with anyone beyond polite howdies. (Seriously. I skirted rooms and stayed close to the walls and avoided eye contact. )
Wednesday promised to be interesting, since authors and screenwriters would be talking about their work. My favorite stuff.

But Wednesday morning I lollygagged and waffled and I was struck by the sudden fear that I would get in a wreck to or from Palm Springs. I finally decided to GO around 11am, surprising my husband, who’d been certain I’d stay, given my ambivalence.
The series began in the morning; I got to Palm Springs at 1:30pm, in time for the fourth talk.

I went for two reasons: integrity/responsibility, and David Ulin. If you’re given $200 tickets, you use them. And David Ulin was moderating a talk on the film, Genius. I didn’t know if I’d get to talk to him, but I really just wanted to hear what he had to say at the symposium. (David was one of my main profs in my MFA program, and it’s his voice I hear when I write or edit.)

I told my husband that I believed I’d get something unexpected out of just showing up, and I did. The talk itself was brilliant and insightful. But beforehand, David stopped to talk with me for  about ten minutes, and because of it my faith in myself reawakened. The fact that he took that time to connect underscored his words: What I have to say matters, and my writing resonates–our writing resonates–even when we don’t know it’s connecting with anyone.


I thought about this all day afterward. Why do our stories move others? I’ve been focusing on story more and more in my classes because I believe they  move people beyond the superficial recognition of another human being to actual connection with who they are. That toddler in the back of the ambulance in Aleppo moved people in a way that event reportage could not.

What does it mean when something resonates?
I think it’s like your body is an echo chamber that reverberates when it hears a story that has the same emotional weight that the one you’re living has. It doesn’t matter if the stories are exactly the same. Tonally they’re the same. My mother-grief and fear about my missing son is the same as any parent’s grief and fear.

It always takes me aback when people  respond to my ordeal with, “What I’m going through is nothing like what you’re going through. Yours is so much worse.”

No, it’s not.

There’s no measuring stick. If it’s ripping you apart it’s your own private hell. There’s no measuring one hell against another. The keen is the same.

That reminds me of a part in 13 Hours when one of the men paraphrases from the Joseph Campbell book he’s reading: “We carry heaven and hell inside us….”

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that we hold eternity in our hearts. So why not heaven and hell?

I found this interesting article about Shakespeare when I sought the exact *reference for Campbell’s quote:

In his greatest works, he strikes a chord with the essence of the human existence. Shakespeare causes us to turn our eyes in to our hearts and see there the greatness of man, and the horror that man can inflict upon the world and upon himself.

He makes us realize that, like his characters, we have a choice in what kind of person we shall be and that heaven and hell are not foreign concepts in our existence, but they are the consequences of our actions and how we live our lives. Heaven and hell are inside us, and are manifested in us as conscience and virtues. . . .


To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to. . . .”

The thousand natural shocks . . . .
The grief is part of the journey. The heartache. The silence.
Children are born to break our hearts. I’m sure I ripped my mother’s to shreds. Never meaning to, but still.
Because of this I understand and forgive and hope. I still fear so much that Jake is dead; every day I wonder, so much so that a callous has developed on the question.

On the way home from the symposium, traffic was at a standstill on the I-10 EB freeway in Indio because a young woman had fallen from the Jackson overpass. I’d Googled it while sitting there, and at the time I thought she had jumped. (I’ve since driven under the bridge again and can see how someone could fall off.) When I thought she’d jumped,  I wondered if the victim had had anyone stop for her when she was alive. And then I thought, with fierce gratitude, that just that day, David had stopped for me.  That act will resonate in me for a long time to come.


Here’s what’s resonating in me right now, and it ain’t cheesy. I love the first question.  I’ve been saying it a lot lately.


*Campbell’s quote comes from The Power of Myth.
You can find more info on Bill Moyers’ website:


Story Saved Me. Is Saving Me.

Once upon a time….

Those words perk up our ears like no others can.

Once upon a time….

We are wired for story. It’s in our DNA, it’s in our blood.
We need story because it’s how we learn about the world.

This one time, in Forest Falls, when I was about 8 years old, I tried to pop a wheelie off a 4 foot ledge. Did you know you can’t do that without a ramp? I started at the top of the hill, got going as fast as I could, and wheeee! over the edge…. But not like my beloved Evel Knievel. I went over that ledge without my bike. My front tire dropped down right at the ledge, and up and over those handlebars I flew. Landed right on my chest. Went back for the bike that betrayed me and wheeeeezed as I pushed it back up the hill home.
Do not ride your bike over ledges. Evel Knievel’s job requires a RAMP, ok.

I tell you my story, and you learn from it. Don’t ride bikes off ledges.

We need story because it’s how we learn how alike we are.

This one time, my mother took me and my brother to the Santa Ana aqueducts to shoot the rapids. We free-floated easily through the tunnel in the mountain. OUr voices echoed off the walls, and then there was this short space right after we emerged from the mountain where Ted could pull us up out of the water. I remember my mother telling me urgently that I had to pay close attention and grab his hand fast. My big, strong stepbrother pulled us out of the water just before it roared down the drain.

I tell you my story, and you learn 1) my mother was a little nuts, and 2) maybe you can relate to the crazy. Maybe all families have some crazy in them. I’m often astonished by the things I did in my childhood. And survived.

We need story because it’s how we learn to hope that the world might be bigger and better than what we know in our present situation. I’m on the edge of an abyss because my son is missing, and writing The Adventures of Oliver Cotton Midgefield and Fidget Copperbum is keeping me sane. I lose myself in the story, and yet I’m finding myself, too. Stacy Bodus, saved by the Brownies of Fort Covington.

I think books saved my life when I was a kid. Nancy Drew taught me that it was possible to have a father who treated you like a daughter rather than a wife. She also taught me that girls were smart, and resourceful, and could get themselves out of any sticky situation if they used their wits and relied on their trusted friends. It was she who taught me that I could survive anything AND land on my feet, wiser and stronger.

The Cat and Mrs. Cary taught me that people need love and kindness, no matter their age.
The Man Without a Face taught me that affection from a father figure can be honest and pure.
The Five Little Peppers taught me that family meant something, somewhere, in a world different from mine.
• A Harlequin romance with a homeless heroine taught me that I mustn’t ever assume anything about people on the streets.

I learned many lessons from books that I couldn’t have learned in my childhood home, and it’s because of this that I believe it’s imperative that we make books available to the children in our communities. I myself was blessed to have a mother who loved to read. Not all children learn that reading is important, and our communities are poorer for it.

Lisa Cron, in Wired for Story, states, “Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience reveal that our brain is hardwired to respond to story; the pleasure we derive from a story well told is nature’s way of seducing us into paying attention to it. In other words, we’re wired to turn to story to teach us the way of the world…. A good story makes us willing pupils, primed to absorb the myriad lessons each story imparts. We think in story, which allows us to envision the future. The brain uses stories to simulate how we might navigate difficult situations in the future.”

When we give away books, we are giving impoverished children tools to become more than what they see around them. And not just children, but adults as well, whether they’re reading those stories to their children or they’re reading the adult books we give away.

We may not see the impact of the books we give away, but every book matters. I would love to see Little Libraries® all over our region. I’d love to see ASES programs at our elementary schools with enough books to meet the needs of their students.
Even if each Kiwanis club built one or two Little Libraries, it would have a positive impact on the community. The Early Risers club in El Centro has given away more than 4,000 books since the 2015 Children’s Fair. If you need books, Early Risers can help, and I will personally help you with other logistical stuff, as well.

People are usually concerned that the supply of books will run dry. I’ve been giving books away since 2004–about 10,000 books so far–and I have never run out. Never. I think generosity begets generosity begets plenty.
Never let anyone tell you that kids hate reading or that they don’t want books. I’ve been doing this book thing for 12 years, and kids are the most avid consumers.

I’m writing this as a call to action:
1. I need help building Little Libraries®. Just the physical practical aspect.
2. And I need help finding places we can put them in Calexico, Westmorland, Seeley, Holville, Calipatria, and Brawley.
If you can help us with this, please contact me at sbodus @ (no spaces)

200 days

The last few weeks have been exceptionally difficult. Does it have to do with the holidays? I can’t tell. If I could just ferret out why I keep finding myself on the edge, I think I could control it better. You know, not tip into the abyss.
I hate having this continual ache because now it seems normal.

I found myself searching ditch banks on my way home from work a couple of days ago. On the way to work each day I see the Calexico cemetery along the way, and it normally doesn’t elicit an emotional reaction, but that day I remembered searching the cemeteries for his body throughout May, thinking maybe his body had not been discovered. Before class. Ugh. Mondays are just difficult. I got it together and was fine till I drove home, and there my brain was, on the ditch banks.

I don’t know what the trigger is. What’s the switch? If I could find it I could duct tape it off, right?

My son is still missing. No one I know has heard from him, and his Facebook account shows no signs of life that I’m aware of.
There’s this tension between dread of knowing the truth and grief at not knowing. Occasionally I find the sweet spot of peace in knowing that this is part of life, suffering is, and that I am not alone, and that I can do meaningful things in the meantime. I give away books, I quilt, I teach, I write.

And other times I forget.
Today I realized afresh how fleeting life is, and how thankful I am to have today, to have irons in the fire, to have things to look forward to. If you’re in my life, I’m thankful for you, too.

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.




The Book of Noticing: You Matter.

Last semester was the first time I showed Angela Maiers’ video You Matter to my students. I had them write a reflection on it, and we briefly discussed it, but it wasn’t till this semester that I tasked students with activating the ideas Angela spoke of. (It was a V8 moment. Kuh! Be the change, Stacy! lol)

I went to the Dollar Tree and bought a bunch of small notebooks and handed them out to my Thursday night class last week, and I assigned it as a month-long project. (Tomorrow my Monday class gets the assignment.) To get credit, they have to notice something every day until the due date.  I do not require more than this because I believe they will go above and beyond.

I’ve assigned this because these students are going to influence the next generation of children. Because they need to know what they say and do matters.  And because they matter to me.

I know if they practice noticing, this will have a ripple effect on everyone, including themselves. And I want them to practice noticing so they’ll be fluent when they have their own classrooms.

I’ve got a notebook, too.  I’ve written on the cover, “Mrs. Bodus’ Book of Noticing.” I carry it with me everywhere now.

Things I’ve written down that I previously would’ve dismissed:
-a young boy held the door for me and my husband at church today.
-Emily in the coffee shop looked me in the eye and asked me how I was and really wanted to know.
-Gaynell asked me how my writing was coming because she’d been praying for me. (This rocked my world, it was so awesome.)
-a waiter was attentive and kind to my Nana, and people waited patiently for us to walk through the doors on our way out.
-my husband bought a book for me by one of my favorite authors.
-Patty Ojeda made a bunch of goodie bags for the women on her 5K team; she had a whole tent set up for us with fruit and muffins and water.

I walk in this garden every day. From now on I’ll pay attention to the flowers.

I don’t know yet how this project will evolve, but I’m looking forward to exploring the possibilities with my students. They are geniuses. I expect to be amazed and delighted.

The language of mattering


*My son, yes, he is still missing. I know people are concerned.
I don’t have any new news to share. And I don’t know how to seamlessly include that information.



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.

Blog of Missing: Day 126

The last week has been particularly difficult. I’m thrilled and relieved to be back in school.  But…I have to drive past Denny’s every day that I teach. That Denny’s where I last saw my son months ago.

I had a delayed reaction to that on Monday. I got past the Denny’s without going into the abyss, but when I got to class, my brain short-circuited and I forgot my password to Blackboard.

I forgot my password.


I don’t think I’ve ever done that in the time I’ve been teaching.
My husband graciously rescued me, but I lost at least an hour of class time, and I never did recover my scattered brain cells.

On Tuesday, my reaction was in real time and I had to delay going on to campus till I could compose myself. My brain was stuck on him being somewhere out there, in the midwest, maybe, wandering around, not okay, but surviving somehow. Wandering. I’m stuck on the wandering.

Thursday was better, probably because I’d already been to Kiwanis and my brain was busy. (See? Busy-ness works.)

Today, on, I saw this:


My son kept giving things away, and he kept assuring me, you know, that he just didn’t need them. I asked many times. Begged him to go to behavioral health. Get help. Talk to someone. Anyone. He’d agree that he needed help, but was convinced he’d never find his way out.

I know his body hasn’t been found, but this fear is lodged deep inside me. It’s always there.

Staying busy helps me remember that there is more to life than this bright red scream in my head.
I have grading to do, books to give away, meetings to lead, walks to take, Pokemon to catch, kittens to cuddle, books to write.

miles to go


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




Missing: 101

101 days. No word. I still don’t know where my son is or if he is okay. I am thankful for people who ask about Jake. Please don’t stop.

I’ve been dragging my feet about posting because it means I have to unbolt the hatch to the compartment where overwhelm lives. Overwhelm is a troll and he gives me the willies.

Today I did a DNA swab, something else I’ve been dragging my feet about because of what it means. It means I’m traveling a landscape littered with dry bones, scoured by dusty winds that leave your eyes scraped and gritty. This desolate country is no place for mothers.

Today the troll is my shadow.

We walk on because we must.
I pray that Jake is, too.

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