Saturday, January 24, 2009

"To Fun"

All errands have been run....I think. So much to do to get out of town. But Satchmo has been delivered to loving arms who are thrilled to have him as guest. (hope he doesn't wear out his welcome. I've never had a dog that people are fighting over to take care of!). The packages dropped off at the post office to be delivered, mail stopped. Last session at the tanning bed squeezed in (I am trying to get a base coat so I won't burn so badly on arrival). Passport photos taken (for Visas once we get there). Cash procured (we have to bring in large new, unused looking bills printed no later than 2004...apparently used money is not good enough!). Electronic chargers purchased (I'm taking the DS for the plane and couldn't find the right charger cord, so it's been a pain finding the right one...three trips to Radio Shack and I think I have it now). Last minute supplies from the drug and grocery stores (why is nail polish remover so difficult to find?) I'm trying out the Tilamook steak bites for some portable protein. I understand the most we might get there is goat, which will be slaughtered for the celebration late in the trip. Those steak bites better be good. $6.00 for a supply no bigger than one of those tiny sealable snack bags! Electronics (camera, recorder, camera, DS) are all being charged. Copies of passport, evacuation insurance, emergency contacts, credit cards, immunization records all made. Toiletries assembled. For some reason I have about 8 small bottles of hand sanitizers I've picked up. People keep telling me to make sure I have some LOL. Unfortunately I still have my one paper for work to finish up...I am stalling at this minute..

But in all this hustle and bustle I take a moment to stand out on my porch overlooking the lake. It is still, cold and foggy today. Quiet and peaceful. The lake in front and mountains in the distance. I am very aware of the peaceful, beautiful place that I call home. I am trying to memorize the feeling, the sight. Where I am going there is no lake, though I understand a muddy river separates the village. No mountains. Perhaps a few dusty hills. So very different from where I am at this moment. Tonight I will look up and memorize the stars. They will be a constant. Different stars but the same heaven above. The stars in Africa are worth every bit of effort this will take. I remember, very clearly, thirty some years ago, a younger me lay down on the beach in Mombasa, Kenya, and swooned over the sight of the Southern Cross in a sky so endless. I can't wait to see that again.

Folks ask me if I have been where I am going before. I start to say "Yes. Well, same country, different location." And then I correct myself: "No. I haven't been there. But a younger me was there 30 years ago." I hardly remember that girl. I am a very different person now. As it should be really....I am going to digress here. When Mark and I were going to couples therapy, at the beginning of the end, Mark said to her, in a dissapointed tone: "she's changed. She is not the girl I married." Like it was a bad thing, or something.

When I was last in Sudan I was barely 20. Here I am approaching 50. It feels like a different person is going back to Sudan. I have such fond memories of that experience. Memories with my sister, and mother and father that I wouldn't give up for anything. I am wearing around my neck the pendent in the shape of Sudan, with the Blue Nile and White Nile etched into it. On the back it has the words "to fun" engraved. My mother had one made for my sister, me, and herself. Every evening on our adventure, we toasted (usually a gin and tonic) "to fun." A few weeks ago my sister wrote to me that she was putting on her necklace and would wear it until I returned safely home. My necklace is on too. I'll keep her close to my heart wearing it in this next adventure into Sudan. I hope some day in the future that she and I will get to go back there together. In the meantime I hold her close to my heart with the pendent. "To fun."

Eat Pry Love

That's my typo and I'm sticking to it.

Or how about a book on our brief encounters: "Meet, Pry, Leave"?

A few friends who know of my travel plans this year, including Sudan/Kenya in a few days (tomorrow actually) and Scotland/Italy in June have suggested this could be the fodder for my own version of the well known memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert. I'd love to write it. Unfortunately, first I have to write a technical memo on design options for a pedestrian trail crossing in Lynwood. Not interested.... grrrrr Can't wait to get all the work and all the logistics crap behind me and turn my focus toward the adventure in front of me.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Picture of the Day

I feel a real connection to this girl. 'nuff said.
Picture from FOUND

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Answer Me This

Yesterday I went to Radio Shack at lunch break to exchange my digital recorder that wasn't working. I had originally bought it last summer when I had delusions about conducting interviews to use in submissions to "This American Life." But then I thought it would also be handy to record some of the village singing in Sudan and to interview some of the missionaries and any of the village people who know enough English to be able to converse. I wanted to ask about their lives. What it's like to put that much trust in God, so as to give up life as you know it and plop yourself into an African village. And now I'm thinking I would like to find the opportunity to interview the "man (and woman) in the street" in Nairobi about their thoughts on America in light of the election of our new President. Good plans, no? So I loved it when the clerk asked me if I was a reporter because I needed a working digital recorder before I left on my trip. I'm kinda liking the way that feels. As long as it's a journalist reporter. I would not survive seeing myself on camera in front of the public. Every once in a while in the middle of the night when I can't sleep I'll be flipping through the channels and on the public channel where they air public meetings I'll see one where I'm presenting and I have to turn it off...knowing I will be coming on. And then I can't sleep. I am sick to my stomach knowing people are looking at me. ...i digress...Back to reporting from Africa. Hopefully the digital thing will work and then I can download it and put it on this blog, somehow. There must be a way. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Need You To Survive

I attended the Martin Luther King Jr. Service Sunday evening at FPCB. This was my fifth church service of the day to attend as Dean and I were commissioned by the congregation at all four of the services. But I love the MLK service at FPCB as we are joined by the gospel choir and congregants from Mt. Calvary Christian Center in Seattle. It was especially wonderful this time as we considered the words of MLK on the eve of the election of our new president. The gospel music and readings and sermon were wonderful. When I arrived, even though I saw several folks I knew in the pews, I told myself I was going to sit next to one of our visitors from Mt. Calvary so plopped myself down beside two lovely women of color: one a sweet little old thing, and the other, about my age, in a smashing hat and all dressed up, Olive and Julia their names respectively. Joke was on me: Julia goes to our church, not Mt. Calvary (but goes to the 11 service so I had an excuse not to recognize her). Anyway, the end of the service is always the holding of hands and singing "I need you to survive." I downloaded the version on I-tunes (by Hezekiah Walker). We were encouraged to make eye contact with those around us as we sang these words. It was very moving and, as usual, I teared up. I got to thinking that there are two meanings to the title line: I need you to survive. It could be about my need for you in order for me to survive, as in "I need you (in my life or I will not be able) to survive". Or it could mean that I need for You to survive, as in "I need you (to survive in this life or else I won't be able) to survive". It's kind of the same thing and kind of not. Anyway, I loved holding Olive's hand on one side, and Ronda's (who had later joined me) on the other.

I Need You to Survive (Hezekiah Walker) :

I need you, you need me. We're all a part of God's body. Stand with me, agree with me. We're all a part of God's body.It is his will that every need be supplied.You are important to me, I need you to survive.You are important to me, I need you to survive.I need you, you need me. We're all a part of God's body. Stand with me, agree with me. We're all a part of God's body.It is his will that every need be supplied.You are important to me, I need you to survive.You are important to me, I need you to survive.I pray for you , you pray for me.I love you, I need you to survive.I won't harm you with words from my mouth.I love you, I need you to survive. It is his will, that every need be supplied. You are important to me, I need you to survive

Watching History

The coffee room was buzzing...discussion about the inauguration ceremony that some watched live. "Shh" I said. "Don't tell me. I'm going to a party tonight and we are watching it on TIVO. I don't want to know how it ends before I see it." I know. It's not like a game score or anything. But I want to watch it with fresh eyes and good friends. I love this picture posted from "His Hands - His Feet" (another blog I follow). Reminds me of the history making events that we, as children, gathered around the TV (black and white in those days) to watch: the first moon walk; Kennedy's funeral; the Nixon/Eisenhower wedding. Today is history and an exciting time. It will be wonderful to be in Kenya a few days from now. Hope to get a few Kenyans interviewed on my digital recorder on their thoughts on the Obama, the Presidency and the future of the US. I have seen the news and there is a great deal of pride for him there as his father was native of Kenya. Must remember to take my "Got Hope?" T-shirt with.

A Day To Look Forward To: A Day To Remember

This is history I am awed to partake in. While this won't be easy, at least we have a chance. Hope is such a wonderful thing....

Monday, January 19, 2009


This year these women turn 40, 50 and 60. Guess which is which...

You Won't Believe This...

Forgive my boasting, but this just made my weekend (maybe my year?)! On Saturday I had a wonderful evening out with Jill and Amy and Leah for happy hour and then met up with Melinda and Michaela and Hillary at the theater to see Slumdog Millionaire (Wow...what a film). That was all exceptionally fun, but the real highlight I am talking about was getting carded. Yes, carded, as in "I need to see your IDs" after Jill and I ordered Stellas. We had arrived first and the bar was crowded...surprising for this economy and late on a Saturday afternoon. I'm not kidding myself. I was with Jill, who looks young. But she's nearly 40, and I nearly 50, and wow, did that feel good! Especially because they weren't carding everyone in the bar. There was a gray haired couple next to us and they didn't get carded. OK, so the waitress didn't faint when she saw what our birthdate was, and didn't gush all over herself and say "wow, there's no way you can be that old! What is your secret to staying so youthful." But she was rushed and it was loud and crowded so we can imagine that's what she wanted to say, if only she could...

I have joked with my friends about my plans for my 50th birthday. I thought it would be funny to hang out in the Safeway parking lot and ask people to buy beer for me. Can you imagine? Just like being 17 again. I wonder what their reaction would be. Anybody want to come along and join in the fun? I don't think that would be illegal, do you?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Silly Shoes

You know you are really good friends when you will meet up, in public, wearing those stupid disposable thong shoes from the nail place because you really, really want to see your friend when you don't have much time in the day to get all you need to get done and you know she wants to see you so much that she won't be too embarassed to see you if you show up this way. I can't believe I wore these into Crossroads mall, into Starbucks to see Judy before my trip. By the way, they are not made for much wear and tear. They fell apart on the way out and I had to walk barefoot through the parking lot in January in 30-degree weather. But it was worth it. I am so glad I have a good friend that likes me enough to not pretend she doesn't know me when I show up in these. And I am also grateful that I did not see anybody else I knew when I was shuffling about in these!

Comments, anyone?

I believe I've got the blog settings changed now so that comments can be posted by anyone. So please, drop in and leave a comment on any of the posts that you have something to say about. In fact, please, please pick a back one and comment. I want to see if it is working! I'd love to hear from you. It's fun to see if my words strike a chord, trigger memories of your own, move you (positively or negatively), and just plain good to see if someone (anyone?) is reading.

Looking forward to hearing from you on the blog.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Snippets from Jubilee Reach

Snippets of conversation at Jubilee Reach Center this morning (initals have been changed to protect the innocent, God bless 'em)

C: (grinning) Sometimes (brother) and I take mom's feet and Dad takes her head and we carry her up the stairs because she gets so sleepy!

Me: Does this happen often?

C: She is very sleepy

Me: Does she wake up?

C: She is very sleepy

Me: Wow. That's very sleepy.


S: My mommy is going to have another baby.

Me: Are you excited?

S: We already have anough kids. But I like babies.

Me: Aren't you the baby now?

S: Mom says I will still be her baby. My aunt and uncle and cousins are living in our house. They had rats in their house so they have to live with us. We are moving in March.

Me: I would miss you if you moved in March.

S: Everyone would miss me if I moved. (and she is right. But I love that self esteem.)


Me: Let's see how many times I can get the hula hoop around. (attempts. Fails)

L: I think you are too big.

Me: I agree. I used to be really good. When I was your size.

L: Maybe you should try something else.

Me: Did anyone tell you how very smart you are?


(after the kids are dropped off)

Me: C's mommy is sleepy and has to be carried up the stairs by the kids and dad and S's mom is expecting another baby and the Aunt and Uncle have had to move in. They may be moving.

Volunteer M: We better say some prayers for our kids!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

All Is Well

So some of you have expressed concern that entries in my blog are referencing plans for what to do if I die or what I would miss if I die. For many people this is a hard topic. For me it used to be, but not so much any more. I don’t want it to sound flippant as I raise conversation around this topic. Death is a sad, awful thing. For those that are left behind. For me that’s the downside: I want to be here to help my son find his way through life. To catch him when he falls. To give him those annoying pep talks he pretends he doesn’t want to hear. I want to be around to see my nieces and nephews grow into the fantastic people they are showing signs of becoming. I want to be a soft place for my friends to fall that are going through hard times. And I want to be a voice of helpful insight and guidance for those younger ones who are trying to get a handle on what we do for a living: how to make things happen for our clients. I want to not only be in on, but be a source for crazy laughter as we laugh at ourselves trying to figure out this thing called life.

But the upside is that I am not afraid of dying. This life here on earth is hard. Some of you are experiencing that a thousand fold more times than I will ever know. It’s also incredibly entertaining, if you are looking for that. God’s planted some really fascinating coincidences, treasures, surprises and blessings. But you have to have your eyes open to see them. Even so, it’s all just fleeting and temporary. I’m excited to see what lies on the other side of the curtain, and I do apologize if it makes any of you feel uncomfortable hearing that. I can’t wait to see my mum again. And to meet Hunter Simpson and Mother Theresa. I look forward to a time when deadlines don’t hang over, accomplishment doesn’t take a front seat, stressors don’t have a place to settle, and bodies don’t break down. I want to know all God’s secrets. And, as eternity knows no clocks or calendars, I won’t have to be impatient as I wait to meet up with the good souls who are my family and friends who will eventually catch up to me on the other side.

Now I don’t plan to be foolish and put myself at risk to get to that other side any quicker than a more natural course would take. I think that sentence means that I will be prudent and careful in living my life. No drunk driving. No reckless use of painkillers. But I also intend to live with adventure and open eyes. That includes putting myself into a remote African village to deliver love and hope to long suffering people. (that’s what I think I am doing, but who knows: they may be the ones delivering that to me). And when I am preparing to do that I start to think about what I want my friends and family to know and that is this: I am not afraid to die so don’t be afraid for me. All is well with my soul.
(Picture: Sicily, 2007)

Gone Today...Hair Tomorrow...

I have been dumped, or so it feels. My hairdresser has moved to Texas. Just five weeks ago we were chatting it up, making plans for me to come back and get a “clean-up” before I took off on my trip. I called today to double check on her hours this Saturday and was told she’s “moved to Texas.” My heart plopped out of my chest and into my garbage can. How could she do this to me? I thought we were friends. I thought she had my back. She was always in my heart and prayers. Especially after our last visit when she told me that she had broken up with her fiancĂ© and taken up with the accountant next door, though still living with her ex-fiancĂ©. I mean these are things that really good girlfriends share. They don’t tell you these things, make plans to see you again and then just move out of town. She’s the one who I trusted to lop off my shoulder length hair just before I took off to Italy last time (so that means I’ve been with her more than two years) and give me my short, grown up hair cut. She was there for me not so long after my divorce was finalized. I think I even showed her my navel piercing. She asked me good, hard questions about what it was like to interact with the wasband. I filled her in on my concern and love and pride for my son. In fact she cut his hair many a time too. She was of the generation I love to mentor (in her twenties) and seemed to have grateful tolerance when I told her a few times that I would pray for her…like when her identity got stolen and when she told me of her mother’s brain tumor.

Lindsey, I’m gonna miss you. Yes, it’s a pain in the azz and really scary to think about having to find a new hairdresser who will know what to do with my hair. One with whom ESL is not an issue and “gets me.” How could you? Safe travels, my friend. Travelling mercies. You are a really, really good hairdresser and I will miss you. Not just for your haircuts, but for your intelligence and curiosity. For your openness and …I am weeping now. Must go.

Your heartbroken client, J

Compromising Positions (or the downside of being too skinny or too clean)

Posted January 07 in the Deseret Post:

OGDEN — A woman remained hospitalized Tuesday after spending nearly 30 hours trapped upside down in a floor vent.
Ogden police were called Monday evening to a home on the 100 block of Patterson Street by a couple who hadn't heard from their 55-year-old aunt.
"They're used to hearing from her on a daily basis," Ogden Police Lt. Scott Sangberg said Tuesday. "Her car was there, but her house was locked, and she wouldn't answer the phone."
An officer called for a locksmith who came and unlocked the door. Once inside, they could hear someone calling for help.
"They found her in a heat duct in the floor upside down," Sangberg said.
The petite, 110-pound woman was about 3 feet inside the large floor vent. Firefighters were called to help free her.
"They had to extricate her by dismantling the duct in the basement by the furnace connection," Sangberg said.
The woman was being treated for cuts and bruises at Ogden Regional Medical Center. Police said she had been there for maybe a day or more.
"What she was doing, she said, was vacuuming," Sangberg said. "She was cleaning the cold air and warm air ducts. It's an older home and they're on the floor and they're big, and she fell in."

There are a few things about this story that make my day. #1: there are some benefits to being heavier (much) than 110 pounds. If this woman had the love handles I have she most definitely could not have fallen into the shaft. #2: there are some benefits to not being a meticulous housecleaner. Vacuuming and cleaning out vents can be dangerous. Better to have a messy house, I say. #3: It would probably be good to consistently check in with someone every day, especially when living alone. This thought has occurred to me more recently. You see, I am afraid I will get stuck in my shower. Naked and cold. I have some water issues and the floor is settling (contractor coming to bid on Friday…do not fear). The shower door is now becoming very, very difficult to open. I even moved a tool into the shower to break my way out if I really had to. But it gets me wondering what would happen if I did injure myself in my house and couldn’t get around. I wonder how long it would take to be missed. I’m guessing it would be my work to find out first. And only if I missed an important meeting and a client called to complain about it. It could be a very long time. Then I’d worry most about my dog. How long would he survive without food or water? Me, I’ve got fat stored to keep me for a while. And the water issue: well I might be stuck in a shower so that would be solved. And then, if I was stuck in my shower, how desperate could I get. Would I have enough guts to scream really, really loud and try to get attention? Note that I would be NAKED in my shower, and no doubt pretty damn cold. This is not a scene a think about with Prince Valliant coming to the rescue. Not an old naked fat lady in a shower. This is not how love stories start. Or end.

I also recently saw this video of a man stuck in an elevator for 41 hours. Believe me, I think about this every time the elevator in my office building stutters or stalls. If this happened to me I do not think I would survive. Or if I did, I would be forever changed. And I don’t think for the better. I am becoming more claustrophobic the older I get. Closed spaces never used to bother me. But that is changing. I’ve noticed it over the last few years. Maybe it’s my way of over adjusting to being single again and having my own space…and plenty of it. But the other day I was in a tanning bed for the first time in a long time (trying to get my base coat before I head to Africa) and I had a very, very hard time with the space…or lack of it. I had to really talk myself down. Self soothe. Say the Lords Prayer a bajillion times.

So that gets me to wondering. Am I just weird, or do you all do this too?: whenever I am in a small or isolated space I start to wonder what it would be like if I were to get stuck and needed help out. Especially like when I’m in a plane bathroom or something. Mostly when it would be a compromising situation. Like I’d be neked or something.

This is probably a good lead in for more of my “getting my house in order.” This is in my will, but should be known. Don’t put me in a box in the ground when my days are over. Talk about claustrophobia. A funeral pyre will be just fine. Yes, there should be lots of weeping and some laughter. Some inappropriate music is fine, just to keep things interesting. No high drama. But save a seat up front for George Clooney, next to my sis and amongst my best friends. And then you all go off to Italy to celebrate my life. With George in tow, of course. This is my wish, so be it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Beautiful Baby

The world welcomes a beautiful baby, Kendall, born yesterday to a co-worker. No doubt she will have curly (ringlets even) blond hair like her mom (and dad, if he didn't have a butch cut). Isn't she precious? I just want to go on record that I LOVE babies and newborns have a special place in my heart. I have kind of a secret wish (only now it's not secret, is it?). I am hoping to get to hold lots of babies in Sudan (just typing that sentence makes my breasts hurt and my uterus contract!). I might even get to attend a birth. You never know.

Secret Artist

One thing I’ve noticed about keeping a blog is it forces me to be more observant in every day life. You never know where you will find something that might give you material for the blog. Now whether you, faithful reader, find my discoveries interesting is another matter (but I hope so). But at least it gives me fodder for something to add lest there go too many days without anything new.

So this is what I have to add today. I went to the 6:00 PM church service last night. There was a great sermon on taking risks, living an exciting life. It’s the Jan 11 sermon on Powerful Prayer. In fact, if you want to listen it can be found on the FPCB website. I thought the sermon very appropriate for what I have coming ahead. But in addition to that, this is what I have to share. The photo above is scanned from the service handout that I was given on my way in. They recycle the handouts for the 9:45 service to the 6:00 service. People are encouraged to turn in their handout on the way out of the earlier service so it can be re-used at the next one. The one I got at the later service had this picture on it. Somebody had drawn it during the earlier service. I think it looks like some kind of cross between a KISS rock star and an Indian Princess (like Hiawatha?) Perhaps it was given to me so that I could paste it on here so that it could end up in the world, anonymously, rather than being thrown in the recycle world to be forever obliterated. Now I’ve done my part…..

Monday, January 12, 2009

Not By The You Know What On My Chinny-Chin-Chin

Man, it happened again. I’m just sitting here at my desk, preparing for a major client meeting, rubbing my face unconsciously when I feel it. That big, dark, LONG, hag hair is back on my chin! What’s up with that? I can’t see it in the mirror in the morning (probably a result of my fear of looking at myself too close or too long in the mirror). But then, out of nowhere, it’s back. Okay, friends. I’ve been with a few of you over the last few days. This hair is big. Why doesn’t one of you gently point that out to me? Surely you must have just been floored to see that thing on my face. This hair has come along with this season of my life. I am a fine haired blond. Body hair was not part of my formative years. At least not in the places it shouldn’t be: like on legs, arms and CHINS! While sitting at my desk I tried to pluck it out. Shouldn’t have been that difficult. But it was a slippery thing. So I went into the bathroom to see if I could get a handle on it and yank it out. How come, on a floor with engineers and few women in other offices, when nine-times-out-of-ten there is nobody else in the bathroom, this time another chick arrives at the same time? And then, she isn’t using a stall. She stops at the mirror to put on make up. Now it is really awkward to go to the mirror and pluck out that huge hair. Quickly thinking I change my mirror check to look like I was trying to reposition a contact. Then return to my desk, dying of embarrassment with every person I pass, sure that hair is all they see. Back in my office I use mind power and pure determination to pull that sucker out. It is gone now. Waiting in hibernation. Storing up strength underneath. Waiting to sprout forth into that big dark, LONG hag hair on my chin again. Aging sucks.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ministry of Pampering

Hanna and I got nail polish. Lots of it. (13 bottles on sale at Target!) And some yummy hand lotion at Bath and Body. I think the men on the team are going to think we're crazy...those engineering types you know. But I so love the idea of polish ministry. These women work so, so hard. I'm pretty sure they have not had much pampering, if any at all. 17 days and counting! These feet are probably like the ones we'll see. Maryellen took this picture on her humanitarian trip to Guatamala with the eye surgery team. Can you imagine?

Look What I Found! Hidden Messages....

This is way cool. Last night I was going through the new Postsecrets book and found stuck in the middle of it this real message in real blue ink pen on a real sticky note stuck in the book. It looks like girl handwriting. Someone has stuck this in here. It is like finding a secret message. Perhaps all the books come with one of these in here since they know it will grab the kind of person who is into these books. But anyway, it’s kind of exciting.

This reminded me of a story that was written by a friend I used to know who is a most talented writer and interesting soul. She lost a son to a drunk driver. This is a story Amy wrote about the messages she found...well you just have to read it. It reminded me of the Postsecrets because it is about getting messages from somebody, even after (or especially when) they are gone. Btw, Amy has written some really, really incredible stuff that I’ve been priveledged to see. Her writing inspires me to try more and more angles. Amazing. This one was posted on the web here.

Secret Messages From The Amazing Ghost Boy
amy muldoon

There are hidden messages everywhere. We see them and pass by, not taking the time to think, to decipher the codes. Even when we write, what is being said is not always in the black type, but in the pale and empty space between, written in invisible ink.

I wonder how many messages, how many words I have lost in my life, because I did not see them.

I am looking for them, now. I find them on crumpled bits of blue lined paper, in empty soda bottles, on laundry piles, scribbled in the margins of phonebooks. One message was written in invisible ink on the cap of a beer bottle, discovered hidden beneath a couch cushion. To the untrained eye, it appeared to be the cap of a beer bottle.

I know better.

I have received messages from The Amazing Ghost Boy, Super Hero Extraordinaire, Abuser of Garden Gnomes, Defender of Absurdity.

He is invisible now, appearing to me only in lightning moments, a song, a breath, a movement seen out of the corner of my eye. He passed me once in the hall, walking swiftly past, his hands shoved deep into his pockets, dark hair falling over one eye, brow furrowed, and eyes far away, as if he, too, was deep in thought.

He did not look happy.

I wonder why he did not look at me as he passed. Perhaps he is growing used to being unseen.

He became invisible without warning, on a summer evening. His new form was granted to him by a drunk man who should not have been driving. Until the drunk man chose to drive, the Amazing Ghost Boy was an ordinary extraordinary boy, in the process of becoming a young man.

Now, the young man is gone.

I didn’t see, for a very long time, the messages he left behind. My eyes were disabled. I could not see around the pain. There was shattered glass in my throat. My voice was gone. My words left me. I did not like the sounds that came out of my mouth. They were ugly, wounded noises. When I wrote, I saw the sounds on paper.

The first secret messages were hidden in an ordinary black backpack. They were well disguised. For many weeks, the ordinary backpack became something called evidence. Locked away, guarded by men with guns, hidden from me.

I signed for it at the police station. I wrote these words: “Amy Muldoon, mother.”

I closed my eyes when they handed it to me. I was afraid to look. I was afraid it would be wounded. I was afraid it would be damaged. I was afraid, most of all, that I might see blood. I did not think the word, because it hurt. Thinking it not thinking it.

I didn’t breathe. Just felt the fabric under my fingers. Rough nylon, suede straps, cold metal fasteners and buckles. Not just a backpack. Part of him, going everywhere. Witness to marvelous misadventures. Witness to the last day. I can’t open my eyes. I want this part of him. I don’t want to see the story the backpack has to tell. The fluorescent lights in the police station are very loud.

I only open my eyes when my husband whispers to me. He says, “It’s all right.” He means the backpack. He means that he can hear my thoughts, that it is safe to look.

There is only one small rip on it, the fabric coming apart from the shoulder strap. There is a smear of white paint. Very innocent looking, white against black. The truck was white. The fence was white. I don’t think about white paint anymore.

We don’t speak on the way home. The sun is bright, but we don’t feel the sun. I hold the backpack against my heart, like a new mother bringing her baby home for the first time. It is an odd, ugly, reflection of a day nineteen years before. But now, we are taking home an ending.

We sit on the living room floor to open it. We sit in a circle, like pilgrims who are viewing a holy relic. We want answers. We want messages. We want mysteries revealed.

Our daughter sits apart, her holy innocent face still and white. The sun makes a halo behind her, and dust dances around her stillness. She is afraid when I open the backpack. She understands that we are letting her brother loose in the room. I want to. I don’t want to.

I want to leave the backpack there in the middle of the floor forever, and pretend that he has just flung it down, and gone into the other room. I have seen this sight a million times. I have complained about it. Now I want it back. Annoying boy, never putting anything away.

This is the first lesson I learn, the first of the Hidden Messages. Ordinary things are precious, and we do not see them.

My eyes are burning still, but they are open.

The fabric is torn. We can mend it, but the rip will still show. It can’t be restored. All the frayed ends, that were once woven together.

These are the mysterious messages of the backpack, revealed:

A case of CDs. The names of the bands mean things. Bad Religion, Green Day, Humping Rhinos, Dead Kennedys. I whisper the words like an incantation, and another secret message is revealed. The secret message is this: you must do what makes you happy, even if it is not profitable, or smiled upon. If you need to stand on a stage and make angry noises, do so. People will admire your screams. Show your bare ass to the audience. Write angry words, and sing them.

Library books. I hold them, open them, touch my fingers to the pages where his fingers have been, waiting for messages. The Hobbit. The Godfather. Slaughterhouse 5.

In Slaughterhouse 5, people don’t die, really. Time is all happening all at once. You are born you are getting married you are going to school you are dying all at the same time. Whenever there is a death in the story (and there are many) Kurt Vonnegut says: So it goes.

This is another secret message. The books say: you thought I was not listening to you, but I was. I am not as unlike you as I pretended to be. Part of you is part of me. We reflect each other, always. An occasional eclipse is nothing.

I never return the books to the library. I put them back into the backpack. They are his, they are part of a sacred time capsule.

There is a notebook, with very poor and scrawling writing decorating the blue lines. His words, his thoughts. Parts of songs that will never be written, phone numbers of friends that he will never call. This is treasure. The secret codes are wild and many. It will take me many months to understand all of them, if I ever do.

On one page, there is a to-do list. This is what it says:

1: call Casey, and see if he needs a roommate.

2: call those bastards at Seafirst Bank. give them money.

3: Pick up paycheck

4: call Mom. Ask how to make red sauce.

5: turn into Batman. Take over Gotham City and save the world.

These are the magic words. The Amazing Ghost boy is set free, he is dancing around us in the living room. He sits in his favorite chair, and smiles, pleased with us, pleased with himself. We laugh, recognizing him, and touch the dark blue ink that is him, an eternal scrawl on the page, and our laughter is howling with darkness. So it goes.

This is the secret message:

There is a young man, walking down the street on a summer night. The sun is just setting. His hands are deep in his pockets, and he is singing to himself, because he likes to sing to himself, and he is happy. People who know him laugh as they drive by, because he is handsome and funny, and they know that if they spoke to him, he would say something absurd and wonderful.

He is going home to eat manicotti, with extra red sauce on the side. When he eats, he looks at his plate with great love and admiration. Sometimes, he looks from the plate to his mother, and his expression is much the same. He understands that sometimes, food is not just food.

He will invite his friends over, because he loves his friends, and he likes to share his food that is not just food. They will eat together, and when they have finished, they will stand in the kitchen and eat what is left in the pan, and laugh, and, make plans for the night, or for the year. Sometimes, his friends flirt with his sister. He will stand where they can’t see him, and make faces of great disgust and horror. When he thinks nobody is watching, he looks at his sister, and there will be a look on his face that is equally puzzled and proud, as if he doesn’t understand how she became beautiful.

He and his father will trade loud insults. This is how they say, I love you, without ever saying so. They say, you silly bastard, you willy woofter, you mindless son of a bitch, you butt cheese connoisseur, you great tit.

He is going home, walking past his grandmother’s house, past neighbor’s houses where he has, in the past, rearranged the garden gnomes into obscene positions. He has roller skated and skateboarded down this street, he has sat on the corner, hidden beneath a cardboard box, waiting to startle a passer by. He has run down this street in a superman suit, he has performed amazing dances with garden hoses on the lawns.

His eyes are dark and happy and content, looking far away, deep in thought. He is thinking of the things he will do.

He does none of them.

Instead, he flies into the heart of the sun, through lightning brilliant white heat. He explodes through the other side, and emerges as shards of light, thrown across the darkness. He is a constellation.

When I look at the stars, I whisper his name.

He leaves behind an ordinary black backpack.

He leaves me, searching for secret messages.

amy muldoon ©2006

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Few New Year's Eve Shots (pictures that is)

Andy ready to play music and advertising the price (his band played for a party and went in costume as bums. They did not drive home.) And friends at my house for Thai cooking and dangerously awesome martinis.

Another Confession...(i snoop)

Another true confession: I am a snoop. Not a gossip (your secret is safe with me!) but remember the confession of a present peeking girl? Well to continue that theme: I am just so excited to have in my hands the last installment from Frank Warren of Postsecret A Lifetime of Secrets. I am so looking forward to snuggling into the pillows tonight and checking out what secrets have poured out of people. There is something a little sneaky, a little special to be filled in on those things that haunt folks when those closest to them probably don’t know. There are also lots of good ideas for stories as you fill the back stories in in your head. There are secrets that touch very close to my own memories, feelings or indiscretions that I am too ashamed to admit to real people in real life. There are several others that exercise my empathy bone.

I was actually feeling a little sheepish at the cash register. Often when I am standing at the checkout line at the bookstore I pray that I don’t get one of those chatty clerks who will want to discuss my selection because I think that sometimes my selections may say more about me than I want a stranger to know. Today my selection proclaimed to the clerk that I am a snoop. Along with my latest Postsecret addition I also snagged a copy of Other People’s Love Letters by Bill Shapiro. This, like Postsecret books contained copies of very personal notes and letters that are unclaimed. They tell a lot and leave so much more unanswered. My mind gets to imagine the back story in these as well. So as the clerk started ringing up my purchase he grabbed the Love Letters book and said “Gunner,” (Gunner was the name of the young female clerk at the next register…and I think that precious name on a cute young woman is a wonderful story in itself), he said “Gunner, she’s got your favorite book.”

Gunner sized me up and said “Oh, I am such a snoop. I love that book. You are a snoop too?” She smiled approvingly.

I guess I am. And so now, I’m off to snoop at some letters and secrets.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Thanks George Clooney: Putting My House in Order

I am now in "putting my house in order" mode. Trying to give thought and to organize all things you think about when leaving home for an extended time, especially heading off in to a "rough" part of the world. This includes figuring out bills and pay checks and planning to pay ahead the next month's bills as they come due when I am out. Making arrangements for care of my dog and having neighbors check on the house, the mail, the pipes if it freezes. Maybe I'll get a house sitter. Beyond that though, come thoughts of updating my will, or at least leaving something that provides my wishes for what to do with my "stuff" if need be, where to leave passwords into important accounts, especially my writing that is password protected (thinking someday all that noodling will be important to someone), and what sage advice and thoughts I would want to leave with my son if I came to the end of being able to live by example. These are hard things to do but I am feeling like if I make the effort now then it will be like taking an umbrella out on a cloud threatening day: if I have the umbrella I won’t need it. If I neglect to take the umbrella I am likely to get caught in a downpour. So I am making plans for emergency happenings so that emergency happenings won’t happen.

And so now, why “George Clooney?” One of the harsh slaps of reality for any single adult is that dreaded line on forms of all kinds, the one where you have to provide “Emergency Contact ______________.” It’s hard when you don’t have a spouse to hang that on, though honestly, the last few years of my marriage I was not comfortable to use my wasbund’s name and number for that. That says a lot, doesn’t it? But now, though my son would be a likely candidate, I just don’t want him to be the one to receive a bad phone call. In fact I don’t want anyone to be the one to receive a bad phone call. I’d just like to be able to put “God” in that line, but I don’t have His current phone listing. Anyway, He’d be well aware of my situation without having to have to be contacted. I can’t recall which book jacket I read this on, but some single woman writer suggested putting George Clooney as an emergency contact. That idea seems perfect. And what a gift I’d be leaving for my woman friends. Here’s hoping George doesn’t have to call. Because truthfully, I’d hate to miss all the excitement.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

My Other Blog: Sudan

I've been busy this weekend putting together the blog that I am responsible for that will document my Sudan team's experience. If you want to follow it, it's here. Three more weeks of work to get under my belt, and a bit more shopping, packing and organizing and then we are on our way. There has been lots of discussion about the roles that each of us will play: both our roles on the team and what we will be doing when on the ground in Sudan. Hanna and I have been talking especially about how to bond with the women of the village. Hanna has had lots of experience on other mission trips. She mentioned that in Ethiopia she found that women everywhere love to be pampered and she made great strides in sharing hand lotion and painting toenails. So on Thursday evening Hanna and I are going nail polish and lotion shopping. There is something about painting the toes on these feet that have travelled such a hard road that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Hanna said the feet can be pretty bad, some don't even have nails, in which case we just paint an area on the toe. This picture is of Hanna (with the yellow bandana) bonding with Uduk women (Sudanese refuges) at a refuge camp (Bonga) in Ethiopia.


I really love this story.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Creative Faith

They say that faith should not be confused with proof. That faith is believing in spite of a lack of proof. I guess it all depends on what you require for proof. I think of the philosophical discussions I have had with my father who contends that God is a creation of humankind who arrived at the belief of His existence because they could not find a logical explanation for certain phenomenon. I am not prone to argue with my father. He is not easily persuaded. But then I am not easily persuaded by him to give up my belief in God. Granted, I have a very hard time understanding why certain things are allowed to happen under God’s umbrella over this earth. But for me, proof of God comes from the creative. Both God’s creations (from the intricacies of cellular function to the vastness and variety of nature’s wonders) and mankind’s creative spirit and capabilities. Nothing in the natural order of things would result in the beauty of a musical symphony or the great (and not so great) art masterpieces. The fact that man is both created and creative is my proof. A foundation of my faith and what I consider one of God's greatest gifts. What I find interesting is my father’s own creativity: his art and skill at things artistic are proof to me that he is God’s, though he does not acknowledge the existence of his creator. My father has seen and experienced things in this world that are beyond what most get to see. And he appreciates the beauty and preciousness of the earth. One of my most favorite (and bravest) things I did occurred this last summer when he was driving me and a guest of mine by boat up the river in front of his cabin. The view was spectacular: the trees and sky reflected on the water. I said to my friend, who was seeing this for the first time, “how can one be in the midst of all this beauty and doubt God’s existence.” The trick is that I said it loud enough for my father to hear, and the real beauty is that he chose not to argue with me.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Resolution Revolution

The pressure is on: it’s a new year. The annual new beginning. My only resolution is to get my windshield replaced. Sometime in 2009. Notice the lack of pressure I’m putting on myself. I’ve been driving around with some big spreading cracks for months now. All it will take is a call or two and I know the windshield folks would come and take care of it. For some reason I just haven’t been able to get around to it. It’s not like I haven’t had time to do it. I could say that but it wouldn’t be honest. It’s symbolic of all the little things I can’t quite get myself to do. I’ve taken on the procrastination patterns that used to drive me crazy about my ex. And I’m not liking it. I have a major home repair that I need to get on top of. It has to do with dripping water and wood rotting inside. I KNOW it is imperative to get it fixed and the longer I wait the worse the damage will be. Because of it I’m risking getting trapped in my shower some time. But I am not doing anything about it, much. I have called a handyman to come look at it but haven’t followed through on his message. There are some major things I need to take care of at work and I’m not doing them. I was thinking about something about writing every day. Yet, staring into the face of the new year and not having anything profound to write I’m shying away from that one too. So, about these things, about having the self discipline to get things done….I suck. But I am not going to put any additional pressure on myself about failing to get them done. That’s being a kinder, gentler person to myself. Say, maybe that’s a resolution I’ll take on.