Friday, May 30, 2014

A cowboy, the shadow person and the sound of a child's voice (The Haunted Story)

For my friends and neighbors in Heber. In response to a question posted on Ask Heber.
I knew this would be longer than a post should be on Facebook. So I'll post it here.

Two years ago we purchased an older cottage style home in Heber's old town. We've been told it was originally built and lived in by one of the towns doctors.  

Within days of living here, my wife Pepper, started to tell me about ghostly sightings and happenings. The first and most notable was when she walked into the basement and was greeted by an old, kindly gentleman cowboy. He was sitting in a rocking chair, smiling at her. Startled, she turned around and went right back upstairs. There he was again, now in the kitchen. Just standing and smiling. She said it wasn't freighting. Each sighting was a clear flash- there and gone in an instant. "It felt more like a welcome." She said.

Since then we'd hear creaks and footsteps and chalked it up the settling of an old house. 

A few months later, our two children were exploring the basement. Pepper heard them scream and run upstairs. That kind of thing happens ten times a day. Pretty normal really. What wasn't normal was when our four year old asked, "Mom, who was the shadow person we saw in the basement? How did they get in?" And then, "We're going to try and find them." 

Pepper did her best to remain composed and asked for more information. The kids then told her that while they were downstairs, they saw a shadow person walk down the stairs past their door and into the laundry room. This experience seems to only be a mild curiosity to them. 

Pepper and I would joke with friends from time to time about how our home was haunted. I always found the idea of it interesting but wasn't really a believer. I had often thought, why would the dead spend any time doing the things people so often say they do? It just didn't seem sensible. For instance, why would a ghost bother to knock a stapler off a filing cabinet over and over? (This used to happen at Pepper's old job.) Or why would a ghost appear if you drove a round a graveyard statue, then honked your horn and flashed your lights three times? (Something like that was part of local folklore in Ogden, where I grew up.) Why would that be the ghosts key or call sign? And who figured that out? 

My turn came a few months after the shadow person incident.

I was sitting in our living room at 2 am, catching up on some work. On the other side of the wall, is our bedroom. I heard our daughter start in on that late night, half asleep kind of whiny-cry. Then I heard Pepper get up and start walking around. Upon hearing this, I thought I should go help. So I packed up my things and went to see what I could do.  When I walked into our room I was greeted by a most unexpected sight. My wife was dead asleep. I then checked the bed and the space by the bed looking for our daughter. She was not in the room. I found here also peacefully sleeping in her own bed. 

As strange as that was, what could I do?

I got ready for bed and went to sleep.

The next day when I spoke to Pepper about it, I started our morning conversation with, "You know I don't believe in ghosts." 

After that it was consistently irregular. Footsteps here and there. Room doors and cabinet doors opening and slamming shut. Pots and pans rattling around. That sort of thing. One night, it was just too much. It was frequent enough, I suppose, that I wanted it to come to an end. So I stood up out of my bed, and with no fear and full confidence, I told them what we were doing and what I wanted them to do. I said something like, "We mean you no harm. We want to help you. We live here now. We are taking care of the home. We love it here. Your time to inhabit this space has come and gone. It's time for you to move on. Find the light and go toward it. We wish you well."

And they immediately left. We felt it. The footsteps have stopped. The "house creeks" have stopped. The doors slamming has stopped. 

The house felt like ours. 

Then, on Monday, over a year since we asked them to leave, Pepper sent me a text, "While we were all together in the study, a lamp fixture was hurtled down the stairs and shattered in the basement... Are they back?"

We'll see.

(As a courtesy, if you run into us, and we are with our children, please don't bring this up. We don't want them to be worried about the home they live in. If the kids are around, this is a conversation ender. If they aren't, we would both be happy to talk about it. Thank you.)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

What's that? Egg salad again?

This does not come with a question. I just felt like writing.
Today is Easter. I went to church with my family to celebrate our belief in Christ. The church service was mostly singing. My wife sang with the choir.  I sat in the audience and wept. I wept so much I could barely open my eyes. My thoughts turned to the blind and I attempted to experience the meeting as they might. But mostly, I thought, How am I going to get through my week? What am I going to do on Monday? Why is my daughter making fun of me for sleeping? I just want to open my eyes, pull out my sketchbook and draw. Why hasn't this allergy medication kicked in yet? I took it three hours ago and it worked so well last year. Are allergies mutating? Are we now dealing with super allergies? And with all that spring time pollen in the air,  I kept on weeping.

As I sat in the worship service, trying to regain some composure, I waited to hear some of the standard tried and true messages of the good word. I waited to hear about how we should be more divisive. Or how we should find fault with others and their beliefs. I wanted a reminder of how we should tear some one down in an attempt to make an enemy of them and then convert them to our way of thinking. I so much wanted to sing the hymn about complaining and blaming others. At least I thought we would sing the songs of paranoia and distrust. Those have always been my favorite. It's Easter you know. I just wanted to be reminded that I can feel good about distrusting others and sticking to my own kind. And then, the meeting ended. And all I was able to really take away was, "As I have loved you. Love one another. In me there is hope."

That's it? Where's my gun of righteousness? Where are my bullets of salvation that I can use to mow down all those who believe differently or choose not to believe? C'mon, I want my flaming sword of vengeance? I want it now and I want to watch heads roll with my mighty blows of truth.

As I have loved you. Love one another. And I loved the world. That's kind of all I got. First allergies and then not one sanctifying hallow point bullet to bury in the guts of some one in need of some serious salvation. Maybe next year.

In the mean time I have a refrigerator full of hard boiled colorful eggs. I'll eat one egg salad sandwich. My son will crack a few on the floor as he sneaks attempts to master the egg balancing spoon game. Then a week and a half from now we'll throw them out.

 For some today was simply Sunday. They went to brunch or to work. Maybe some went for a hike or studied for an exam. There were people visiting people in hospital. Others visiting graves or trying to get their hands on one more chocolate egg. There are those who celebrate Spring and fertility and deity of all kinds. And others who have "had enough" and decided to get mad at Google. For me, today was Easter. I believe in Christ. I think he lives and loves us all. And if you don't share that belief, that is fine by me. You are still my friend and I love you. Have a wonderful week.

All the best,

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Under The Cover of Duvet

Q. Dear Mark,

I have the unique talent (at least, I think it's a talent) of being able to pretty much make my bed while I'm still in it. But as I lay there this morning, moving my legs to stretch out the duvet near the end of the bed and moving my arms to arrange the pillows at the top (this is all happening AS I am flat on my back), I wondered: am I just lazy? Or super efficient? 


Welcome to the blog and thank you for writing in. It's really good to hear from you. I hope you are doing well and making the most of the day. 
Even though I thought your question was kind of braggy, I do think you have developed a useful and unique ability that is based on efficiency instead of laziness. 
Now let's take a moment and examine your question:
I have the unique talent (See, this is the part that started off kind of sounding like as a brag. Or what I referred to as "Braggy". A lesser writer wouldn't be able to avoid mentioning that they know Braggy isn't a word. And then they would say, "But it should be." I won't do that here. It's tacky.) (at least, I think it's a talent) (That's great. If I could do it I'd think it was a talent as well. But maybe you could use a less aggressively confident word. For instance, try to use "Ability" instead because it's simply stating that you are able to do something. Maybe, it's best if you leave the distinction of "talent" up to the critiques of the bed making world. In the end, they are the one's who define the history and legacy of a particular discipline. It may help to illustrate my point by looking at this with a slight discipline adjustment. Let's say you enter a room and declare upon arrival, I have a unique talent. I am able to walk casually and comfortably with both feet enclosed in shoes. Well, as soon as you say this, we all know what's going to happen next. People are going to get agitated and challenge your "unique walking talent". Or at the very least start to judge your talent, pointing out any flaw or inconsistency. But if you were to, instead, just mention to some one, I have the ability to walk comfortably with both feet encased in shoes, others will likely feel less threatened and agitated by your statement.) of being able to pretty much make my bed while I'm still in it. (Honestly, this is impressive. And maybe that's the real issue. It makes those of us who can barely make a bed while we are outside of it, feel bad... Feel like maybe we should be able to do this thing that makes sense, providing both order and morning stretches to ones life, but is beyond our reach, or our physical or mental capacity. So, again, maybe a little sensitivity may be in order here.)  But as I lay there this morning, moving my legs to stretch out the duvet near the end of the bed and moving my arms to arrange the pillows at the top (This part seems fine. I have no issue with it. But it's only because I have full use of my limbs... Well, not really full use. My left shoulder has been stiff since I fell on it a few months ago. The bruising has started to go down and I don't get the nausea like I used to. The head ache is still there but I think that's just my age. But, yeah, I have no reason to take issue with this, but I could take issue with all the limb and dexterity flaunting. I mean some people do really like to see or read about that kind of stuff. Maybe just keep it in the bedroom where it belongs.) (this is all happening AS I am flat on my back (Here, I'm going against my better judgement and putting a parenthesis within a parenthesis. I am not comfortable with this but I feel it is warranted. Isn't that all caps "AS", again, a little braggy? (and I know right? It totally should be a word.))),  I wondered: (On a personal note, I enjoy interacting with people who are curious and self aware.) am I just lazy? (No more so than the person, or man, who invented the dishwasher. Do you think any one said, "Hey Ducky boy", or woman? I don't know. There really is no way to find out who invented that machine. It was so long ago. Hey Ducky, why are you so lazily inventing a machine to to the work you don't want to spend time doing? Not that I am saying you invented anything. But maybe you did. I mean, I'm no know it all...)  Or super efficient? (Yes this one. Keep it up. If you can do it, and do it well, and with style and finesse, then you may have real talent when it comes to the bedroom. As it is, as far as I can guess, it's simply a useful ability. One you would do well to keep up on. I've never heard anyone  say they regretted making their bed. Not that it hasn't been said. I just haven't heard it. Plus I don't listen very well.) 
Thanks again for writing in. I hope that helps,

The key:
Black text: The original question
Red text in parenthesis: Added text as comment and critique. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Is this thing anONymous?

Q. Is your question box anonymous?

A. Dear Question Asker,
The box that records your questions, delivers them to me in a most anonymous way. Even now as you are asking, I have no idea who you are. And there in lies the beauty of life and all it's wonderful mysteries. And by that I mean, do we ever really know who anyone is? I mean, to be honest, do we even know who we are? I doubt it. I've asked around and mostly people don't know a thing about themselves, except stuff like, what they like and don't like and what they spend their time doing all day. I could say as much about a turtle but that doesn't mean I know that turtle. I can safely say, there isn't one turtle I know. Like really know. Like deep down. I've never know what a turtle really thinks of me, or its self or lettuce... I guess it's because I've never spent more than a few minutes trying to get to know a turtle. I don't know why they never really leave the house, or why the move so slow. I'm sure science doesn't even know turtles. Does science ask how turtle is doing? I've never heard it do so. Science, always watching. But never asking if it's okay to do so. Get some manners science and stop spying on turtles and atoms. Why not just come out and ask? I'm sure in its own way, turtle will respond. It may just be slower than you'd like. But that's what you have to deal with when you let go of what you think is convention and step out of the shadows. Please science, step up and declare, I am science and I am interested in a relationship with you turtle. I want to earn your secrets. You may just surprise yourself. And the turtle. 
But this is all anonymous. Feel free to stay in the shadows. 
Hope that helps and hope to hear from you soon,

P.S. Is that you science?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New X Resolutions

Q. Mark, what are your new year resolutions?

A. This seems to be a question I get asked a lot, right around this time of year. Usually it's the same stuff on my list. Things like, Don't change, I've got it pretty good. Or, resolve to not commit to anything. And so far I've done pretty good at those things. But this year, as I've looked back on 2001-2012 I've decided I should try to make some slight adjustments. Maybe this year I'll try to be less offensive to others. At the core of my being, is a soul that just wants to be nice and get along with all people of the universe. But I'm a little afraid of being rejected by those people. I'm also a little afraid of being accepted by all those people. I just don't know if I would have time to go to all those birthday parties, and weddings... And dinner parties. And poetry readings... Dance recitals, football or basketball games, trips to Lake Powell and Aspen. Plus all the people that would need help moving or need a ride to the air port or need to drop off their kids for just an hour. Those hours could really add up.
But this year I am going to give it a shot. I'm going to start small and go from there. So in an attempt to be less offensive, I am going to start adding X to all the offensive words I've used to describe holidays. I know the Super Bowl has already done this. And honestly I find it kind of touching and inspirational. So to follow their lead and my own heart, here's a preview of what 2013 may look like for me:
Happy New X. (For some this is not the beginning of a new calendar year. I don't want those people to get the idea that I think my calendar is superior to their calendar.
Happy Martin X X Day. (See, that's way less offensive. I've learned that there are people who don't believe in Dr. King. Since I don't want to step on anyone's toes we'll just X it out so it's Martin's Day. And what's a Martin if not the everyman? So now, for those who don't believe, it's just a day dedicated to the regular guys.)
Good luck, it's GroundX Day. (Who are we to call anything a hog? It has certain connotations and maybe should be replaced by something less offensive. Like an "X" for instance.)
It's February 14th, Happy XXX Day. (That one already looks better. No way any one could be offended by that.)
Now it's four day's later in February, Happy Xidents Day. (There are, as I have learned in the year 2012, a ton of people who don't believe in presidents. Why should they have to see that word? They shouldn't. Or at least I won't make them. As a bonus, it sort of looks like it's Accidents Day spelled in a hip and with it kind of way. So if you have a friend or loved one laid up due to an injury. Send them a card on this day.)
Daylight Saving X. (This one kind of works out anyway. It has the appearance of being less offensive, but in math the X = Times. And no I don't say Multiply since it could make someone think of making babies.)
Happy X Patricks Day! (Just another day for another dude. All dudes really. And what better way to celebrated dudes than getting stupid drunk and punching someone in the that fat stupid face. As long as everyone is drunk, none will be offended.)
On March 26th it's the First Day of X (The first day of what? Who know's anymore. The first day of the rest of your life I suppose. That's a win for us all.)
Cool man it's X Friday. (Yep. It's Friday. And that is cool. What are you doing tonight? Oh, getting wasted. Yeah me too. It's an X Friday tradition! TGIXF.)
Good Morning it's Xster Xday. (If you want to eat candy and colorful hardboiled eggs today, go ahead. Really you could do that any day of the year. And who says Xster needs to be on a Sunday? No one really. Now you can celebrate or not celebrate Xter any day you want. Or don't want. And pastels? Who needs them? Everyone or no one. It's your call.)
Happy Last Day of Xover. ( That's it. X is over. Do as you please. Finally. Or business as usual. I really don't want to impose.)
TaX Day (It already had an X, therefore not offensive. I wonder what word was X'ed out.)
May 2nd is the Xtional Day of Xer (I want you to know I'm cool with it if you X on May 2nd or don't X. Whatever you choose is fine with me. I'll still help you move and go to your child's dance recital.)
X X MayX (I think I got them all there. Now, way less offensive. Really it's just a day in May. Observe as you see fit. A regular May afternoon such as this may warrant a drink or two. Whatever the time of year, it's important to stay hydrated.)
MothX Day (If you are on good terms with your Moth, maybe call it or send it a card or take it out for brunch. But not breakfast. No moth is worth waking up early for. If you don't have a moth or if you and your moth aren't on speaking terms... no worries. It's not like a moth's raised you and you owe them something.)
Xorial Day (See, now we don't even Remember what today was about)
FaXthers Day (Did that one work? Is that less offensive? For more information see MothX Day.)
June Xtice (Look let's keep it simple here. It's June and the sun is in the sky. Maybe the June thing goes too far. That might exclude people who don't follow my calendar. Okay then, "X Xtice" it is.)
Xdependence Day (This one is kind of tricky. Did I X out the right portion of the word? Or is the word "Day" the offender? I'm not sure. I'm going with my gut on this one. I'll try it out this year and see how it goes.)
ColumbX Day (Who was ColumbuX and what did they ever do for anyone? ColumbuX is nobody. And nobody ever offended anybody.)
Xoween (Honestly this holiday has always offended me. I'm more than happy to get the "Hall" out of there.)
The first day of Xukkah (It's December. It's cold, in the northern hemisphere, so what can you do on Xukkah? Well, now that it's less offensive than it was, you can do whatever you'd like... Why didn't I think of this sooner? This really is much better for all of humankind.)
XXing (Now you don't have to feel obligated to feel thankful for a thing. This is so liberating. Do you feel it too? I hated being thankful for stuff. Now I can just sit back and Xing X whatever I want X.)
Last Day of Xukkah (Let's blow this Xukkah out. You know, on the last day of Xukkah it's all about the X.)
Xmas (The one that started it all. The Godfather of all X holidays. Xmas you will always reign supreme. X you for all the inspiraXion.)
And finally on the list we come to Xzaa (Now it just makes me want some pizza. I don't see anything wrong with that. Thank you December 26th, Makes-me-want-pizza-day.)
So that's a preview to how my year should go if I can stick to my resolutions. What's the point? Big picture, I just want us all to get along. An added bonus would be the "Xday card section". Just one card to cover every Xday of the year. Fantasy of fantasy? No Xday decorations or themes. Other than of course a big X pulled out and set on top of the television every couple of weeks as a reminder that it's an Xday.
Wish me luck. And remember a better world starts with you.

Friday, September 7, 2012

How's Heber (Vol. 1)

Q. How are things going in Heber? How is it living out in the country?

A. Logically I know it could be worse. Much worse. But ever since we entered the state of Utah our life has been revving at constant state of high stress. Things that nearly anywhere else would be a simple matter have taken five to ten times longer than average. And have cost way more than they normally would.

If we had a dollar for every time we heard, "It doesn't normally go like this" during our home purchase, I could pay my first months mortgage and buy a carton of gelato.

"Oh? No. There is no automatic sprinkler system on your property. We only listed that as an option to help sell the house. But yeah, don't look for it. It isn't there." Maybe not word for word, but pretty close.

"Internet? Sure I'll send one of our guys out to get you set up."
       Provider #1. "I'm sorry we can't actually install internet at this home. Your area is too thick with large trees. They block the signal. Sorry."
      Provider #2. "What we can offer you is dial up. Will that work?... No. You can't stream movies with it... It only takes about a minute to load a new page in your browser... Ok then. Call back if you decide your interested."
     Provider #3. "Sure we can do it. We've set up loads of houses in this area. We'll just run the cord over to here and then ground it right there... Nope. Wait. You have the old meter box. There is no ground to connect to. So all's you needs to do is have a new meter box put in, should run about six hundred dollars. Then call us back and we'll get you set up."

So far school is going well. The kids really are great. And each class has a couple of stand outs. The faculty I work with is super nice and helpful. And my class room is very pleasant with a wonderful view. And even a private deck that looks east. So I get to watch the sun come up each morning as I go through my early prep.

All in all, I think about three months from now, we'll be happy with where we are. In the mean time, we are having a whole lot of adult life heaped on our backs. Every other day we want to just pack up and go back home. Back to our little apartment by the bay. Back to our parks and sushi and beloved and very much missed friends.

We are home sick.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Where's Heber

Q. Heber City, Utah? Why are you moving there? Why are you moving at all? What's up?

A. Here's the long version of the short answer.
About a year and a half ago we blasted the U.S. and Canada with my resume. Little to no word in response.
Two months ago I got a phone call to go interview for a position at Park City High School in, Park City, Utah. I agreed to come out and meet them. And the interview went well. I told them I already had a job I loved and already lived in one of my favorite cities. They even asked, why would you want this job?
A few days later I received a phone call offering me the position and a list of things that needed to be done before it could be official.
We had a list of conditions as well.
Weeks later, both of our lists had been satisfied and we were under contract for a modest home in Heber City, roughly 15 minutes away from the school.
We kept saying to each other as we went through this process, "We'll just keep stepping through the doors until we find one that's locked. And we'll either find ourselves in Park City or San Francisco." Both options were a win for us.
On Thursday it almost all fell apart. Technicalities.
On Friday, I woke up to a call and an email extending the official contract.
Today I informed my job that I'd be taking the position in Park City.
Bitter-sweet doesn't do it justice. But only because it's such a cliche`. But that's what it is.
We are saying goodbye to people we love. I am in constant awe of the quality of people we have had in our lives while here. I am walking away from the best job I have ever had. I work with fantastic people. It doesn't even feel like a job. I get to hang out with interesting and capable even hyper-capable students and make art. What a gift.  And we are leaving the city we love. Our kids even know they love it here. Just today, our son is really trying to process this move, he mentioned to my wife that his "Brain sent a message to his heart telling him, He's a city kid. In a town."
Change is hard on every one. And is for us for sure. But we are looking forward to having a place to call our home. I can't wait to mow a lawn. And snowblowing a driveway sounds like heaven. It will be good to see stars again. We have family and friends waiting for our return and it will be wonderful to see them again.
Though my wife and I are both from Utah. We both felt instantly at home once we arrived in San Francisco. Both of our children were born here. The Elliot's are San Franciscans. This is our home and we have been blessed to have had each day we've had here.
New adventures lie ahead of us. We pray the roof doesn't leak, that we can afford the winter heating bill and that the plumbing holds out for at least another ten years. Utah will be great. And I look forward to meeting new students and faculty.
As for now we are still here. We'd like to get out and see every body one more time but that won't happen. So if you'd like to stop by, call or text or message me and we'll get it set up.
More to come and I'll do my best keeping you up to date.