because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

Putting All Our Houses in Order

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Tomorrow, the person formerly known as TechSupport (formerly known as Monkey) will be graduating from high school. For about a week, he’s been furiously packing up his belongings to get ready to go to summer camp again this summer.

Except this time, he’s not just packing for camp.

This time he’s boxing up all this belongings because while he is working as a counselor, his childhood home will be sold to another family. This summer, after he says goodbye to his friends and his campers, he will have only a few days to eat, sleep, shower and do laundry before he has to turn it around and head off to college, six hours away, in another state.

At the same time, his father is renovating a new house. (Like our son, he has to figure out where to put all of his things because his place isn’t ready yet.) I’m not quite settled yet either, having to figure out where my remaining boxes of stuff can live since I don’t have room for them in my apartment.

We are all, each of us, scrambling to put our houses in order, literally shuffling around the physical things we accumulate during our lives. Being scattered all over the place feels terrible because without order, one cannot find peace.

In addition to dealing with the physical stuff, yesterday I had to deal with another mess.

I had to put my big girl panties on and do what is right for me.

It involved long lines and metal detectors, hours of waiting in uncomfortable chairs and piles of paperwork.

It involved telling my truth, which I know means forcing someone else into an uncomfortable reality.

It involved putting up boundaries and getting my psychological house in order, people.

Because without order, there can be no peace.

(i know. it’s about time, right?) 

In 2 Kings 20:1, it is written: “In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah, the prophet came to him and said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’”

I’m almost on the other side of some very dark days.

For a while there, things were way out of balance.

I lost my purpose, my way, my self.

I almost died, twice.

But I’ve come back with a vengeance to fulfill my purpose on this planet.

I hope my son knows that – just as my parents before me and their parents before them – I have done my absolute best to give him what he needs to put his own house in order, that he may always find a balance between logic and emotion, passion and calm, body and mind. (And if he ever needs a reminder, he can look HERE.)

• • •

And speaking of celebrations: Today marks my parents’ 54th wedding anniversary. I feel fortunate to get to watch these two navigate their ship thru calm and stormy waters.  They live by their own guiding principles, their own sense of order, and they are at peace in the sea of love. Tomorrow, the three of us will smile and cheer as my son, their grandson, graduates with Honors. I’m lucky that my parents continue to show up for me, to sit beside me and support me, even when I make mistakes. (And believe me, I’ve made some doozies over the last 9 months.) I hope you enjoy this video I made for them days before their 50th anniversary, one month before I became sick as a result of the treatment of and the withdrawal from a dangerous anti-anxiety drug I had been prescribed.)

Like my writing? Read more of it on My Patreon Page For $1 month, you can read the first draft of my memoir about what brought me to benzodiazepines, what my life was life while on them, during withdrawal and now. You will also see content that is not available anywhere else.

DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL: The 2nd Chapter of my Memoir on Patreon

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Click HERE to take me to Patreon so I can continue to make cute totes!

Just posted chapter 2 of my memoir on Patreon.com!

Here’s a teaser:

Be neat. Those are my father’s famous words. A child of Depression-era parents, my dad learned not to waste anything. Messes were not well tolerated in our house. Spilled milk? That was a serious offense, absolutely a reason for buckets and sponges and dirty looks and blame.

For $1 each month, you can subscribe to read my continuing story of what brought me to benzodiazepines, including how I felt while I was on them, information about my horrendous 30 month withdrawal, what helped me heal (and what didn’t), and how I’m doing now.

There is other content there, too, that can only be accessed on Patreon!

Readers can ask questions which I’ll try to answer in future chapters. Feel free to offer feedback about the content, and if you notice a grammar error, tell me to fix it! You’ll be doing me a favor. Less to edit later!

 

Check it out!

The Blessing of The Ugly Casserole Dish

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NOTE: Mine was actually much uglier than this. I kinda like this retro thing.

A little nostalgia, if you will indulge me.

I attended a wedding recently after which I was invited back to the family’s home and had the opportunity to see the bride and groom open some of their gifts, and I couldn’t help but remember how, the day after we were married, as my new husband and I were opening our wedding gifts, we noticed someone had given us a used casserole dish. Yellow and chipped, it was actually even a little dirty.

“Who would give us a used dish?!” I ranted.

Then I read the card.

The casserole dish had come from a distant aunt who was in her early 90s at the time, and quite ill. Still, Aunt Bea wanted to send us something. Her husband, whom she had loved dearly, had passed away by then and she was alone. In her beautifully written penmanship, Bea explained that a dear friend had given her (and her new husband) that very casserole dish that I now had before me over fifty years earlier. She apologized about the chips and dings, but pointed out that the dish had seen her family through the good years and the lean years. That casserole dish had fed them through The Great Depression, fed their children and grandchildren. She told me that – while she no longer cooked her own meals – she still cherished the dish, but now she wanted me to have it.

Suddenly, everything changed. I no longer disliked the old, used casserole dish. I actually loved it. From that moment forward, I always put sweet things in it, like apple crisp or blueberry cobbler.

Several years ago, that casserole dish split into two pieces as I carefully washed it in the sink. It was old and fragile. Its time had come. Nevertheless, I wept. Who knew that something that I had thought represented such a thoughtless gesture would become one of my most precious possessions? It was hard to throw away the pieces.

These days, whenever I attend people’s weddings — while I don’t give them something used — I nearly always give the couple a hand-thrown casserole dish, usually one made by a talented, local potter, and I attach a note explaining the story about the casserole dish. I always wish the bride and groom well and hope that — in the very least — they always have a pot to cook in.

It is amazing how one’s perspective can quickly change when presented with the right lens through which to view things. Ugly things can become beautiful; things that seem like curses can be blessings in disguise. Aunt Bea taught me that sometimes my eyes lie. Sometimes people have to go deeper and see with their hearts.

What is something you have unexpectedly come to cherish?

BAGGAGE: First Chapter of my Memoir Posted on Patreon

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Wanna buy this clock? Click the photo to be magically transported to RedBubble.com

I just posted my first chapter, BAGGAGE, on Patreon.

In this piece, I write about early childhood trauma that confused me and made me feel home was not a safe place. I couldn’t have been more than 8 years old, and was already inadvertently set on the path toward putting other people’s feelings/needs before my own.

For $1 a month, you will have access to all the chapters that I post.

I’ve posted a PREVIEW chapter for free.

My art is there, too ~ and people who subscribe to different level will receive some cool perks, including recognition on Facebook, coloring book pages, original art, framed prints as well as the opportunity to win prize packs up to $25 in fun WHIMSIGIRL stuff.

Check it out.

 

 

 

 

On Solitary Confinement: A Post-Divorce Update About Apartment Life

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The first night in my apartment building, the upstairs’ neighbor’s toilet clogged and overflowed. Bilgy water rained down from the ceiling, soaking my new bathroom mat. I’m not a squeamish person. I can touch spiders and snakes. I don’t mind getting dirty. But I was completely unprepared for brown water dripping on my head. I didn’t know what to do or who to call.

At the time, I didn’t even own a mop.

That night, I stayed up very late with a dear friend who’d come over to help me unpack. Together, Sara and I furiously unboxed my housewares, strategically placing what few pots and pans we could find all over the bathroom.

After Sara went home, I climbed into bed and wept.

For hours.

The next day, I packed until dinnertime. After I’d washed the dishes, I decided to hang up some artwork. It was early, and, outside my windows, the sky was still light. If I had to guess, I’d say I hung up three paintings.

So maybe 15 whacks with a hammer.

Maybe 20.

The next morning, I found a handwritten note that someone had slid under my door.

“Too loud!!!” the note read in cursive. “Do not make noise after 5PM!!!”

I stewed for a little while, wondering which neighbor had left me the note. Eventually, I tossed the note in the trash and decided to venture out. The wait for the elevator took forever. When the doors opened, I stepped into the lobby area. It’s a formal space, and even after two years, it feels more like a hotel than anywhere I’d ever call home.

The doorman pointed at me. “You’re the new girl everyone is complaining about,” he said. “The loud one.” 

It. Was. Awesome.

(And by awesome, I mean it sucked.)

It took me a year to get brave enough to buy a stereo speaker and actually play some music. Because, seriously, screw them. I’m not going to bed at 8PM.

Since my first day, I’ve received more notes. Apparently, I don’t empty the lint trap in the dryer well enough. And while I enjoy having a diverse group of friends, it seems some folks don’t like “the colored girls” coming round.

Another year has passed, and I’m still rebuilding. Apartment living for me is a lot like solitary confinement. The nature of the work I do (writing and painting) is isolating. I spend a lot of time in other people’s backyards, gardening, helping to decorate their patios. I’m still looking for a house, a community, people with whom to share a heart connection. I have Sara, thank goodness, and my parents, and the reality is that very few people check in on me with any regularity. When I need a ride to the airport, I call a taxi.

What does my life look like now? I get up, shower, make my bed, eat a little breakfast, lunch and dinner. Somewhere in there, I paint, write, do some yoga. I take long walks and learn something new every single day. (Thank goodness for NPR podcasts.) I help one person in benzo withdrawal every day. I clean, do my laundry, and try to connect with another human being in real life.

Weekends are hard.

Click on the blue jar to see this sticker, available at RedBubble!

I spend time going to garage sales in search of abandoned picture frames and Mason jars. I never had a thing for glass before I moved into an apartment, but I especially like the ones with rusty metal lids. I relate to their weatheredness, their fragility.

So here I am. It’s early, and I’ve run thru my entire bag of tricks. I’ve painted and shopped. Walked and cleaned. Visited with friends. Got a carwash. Made dinner.

I don’t cry every night anymore, but I’m still not smiling as much as I’d like.

I’m on mission to find a new home. My son will graduate from high school next Saturday. He’s ready to fly, and I’m so excited for him. Unlike my son, I don’t feel quite ready to launch. I need to do a bit more research, poke around and decide where I want to start the next chapter of my life.

A triangular girl, all I know is that living in a rectangle is not for me.

If you were starting over, where would you go and why? Got any suggestions?

 

 

I KNOW WHY CRAZY PEOPLE HOWL AT THE MOON: MY BENZO STORY AT PATREON

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This photo was taken on July 30, 2013.

I was in Florida with my (then) husband.

We were out to dinner with his cousin when the world tipped sideways.

This is not an exaggeration.

The world suddenly shifted, and it would not be right again for 36 months….

• • •

So many people have been reaching out to me, asking for help. They want to know what my life was like before benzos, how much I was taking, for how long, how I weaned, how fast, what my withdrawal was like, how long the symptoms lasted, and what my life is like now.

I can only speak to so many people a day, and it’s never enough.

And that is why I decided do something completely different.

I’m sharing the full story of my battle with benzodiazepines at Patreon.

And you get to read the story as I’m writing it.

It’s taken me nearly 4 years to kick benzos’ ass!

You will too!

• • •

If you’d like to read more, contribute to MY PATREON PAGE at https://www.patreon.com/rasjacobson. For $1 per month, you can read all about my story. I will post relevant art, writing & videos at least 4 times a month.

Please help me share my story!

XOXO

How I Fell in Love With Words

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For a period of years, I exchanged letters with a boy. He was smart, and I felt flattered by his long-distance attention. I loved the way his words looked on the page, and after devouring the content of his letters, I would stare at his penmanship. His handwriting was distinctive; long, thin strokes in the “T’s” and “L’s”; his vowels undersized, tiny and tight. Very controlled. My “P’s” and “L’s” wanted to loop. My vowels were large and open, like my heart.

During this period, I focused on composing the best letters I could. I explained – dissected – deconstructed and reconstructed the world for him in an attempt to get him to see things through my eyes. I showed him the beauty of the cigarette butt left on the filthy street corner and wondered about the woman with the orange-red lipstick who had held it in her mouth. I addressed my envelopes, licked my stamps, sent my poetry and prose. And since there was neither instant messaging nor Skype nor Facebook nor email in the 1980s, I had to wait  . . . and wait. . . and wait for the postal carrier to (finally) bring me a long anticipated envelope. And always his responses were wonderful: filled with answers and more questions, more observations which led to more thinking, reflecting, writing.

Through our correspondence, I fell in love. With words. I learned how, in English, multi-syllabic words have a way of softening the impact of language, how they can show compassion, tenderness and tranquility. Conversely, I learned that single-syllable words could show rigidity, honesty, toughness, relentlessness. I saw how words could invoke anger, sadness, lust, and joy. As an adult, when speaking, I sometimes feel like I did not say quite the right thing. But when writing, I have time to be careful, to ponder, to find a new way to say something old. I can craft something magical.

I have always said that the best writing is born in obsession, rooted in a specific place.

My favorite word is “apricot” because it invokes a specific sense of smell, of taste and touch – but for me, it also reminds me of a particular morning in a particular place when the sun rose and made the world glow. It is a juicy word. A sweet word. A golden word scented with summer. I use the word “apricot” to show my students how one image can hold a lot of weight.

Some day I will thank that boy who made me want to revise, who made me want to give him only my best, most delicious words, my most ferocious images. Wherever he is, I hope he is still writing, too.

What are your favorite/least favorite words? And what do they evoke for you?

SHE WANTS THE RAINBOW

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After taking Mindy Lacefield’s online class (Paint Like a Child), I was excited to incorporate some new techniques into my work.

The result? This adorable little blondie!

SHE WANTS THE RAINBOW is the latest in my collection of whimsigirls.

The quote, by Dolly Parton, reads:

“THE WAY I SEE IT, YOU WANT THE RAINBOW…YOU GOTTA PUT UP WITH THE RAIN.”

Signed and ready to hang, this 16×20 inch multimedia piece features layers of thick acrylic paint as well as color pencils, pastel crayons, oil markers & select papers.

If you’re interested in purchasing SHE WANTS THE RAINBOW, message me for details about pricing.

Remember! Original art makes a great gift – and doesn’t everyone know someone celebrating a new job, a new home, a wedding, confirmation, graduation, birthday and/or b’nai mitzvah this summer?

Check out more of my work HERE. Prices range from $5-$34!

Thank you for your continued support, everyone!

Sincerely,

 

 

 

 

PS: I apologize for the ugly watermarks. They do not appear on the actual artwork. Obviously.

The Blessing of Broken Dishes: A Lesson About Losing Things We Love

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I often work as a Professional Organizer, helping people declutter their little messes. I learn a lot on that little job. I see how things represent people and am forever amazed how people become connected to the strangest things: pantyhose, flip-flops, even mismatched drinking glasses.

I’m not the most sentimental gal, but I collect Fiestaware. The brightly colored pieces make putting the dishes away less of a chore and more of a joy. One or two of the pieces are from my grandmother’s own collection and, though I rarely eat from them, I like opening my doors to my cabinet and seeing them there all nestled in amongst the rest of the pieces. Since she passed away, these few bowls have served as a daily special reminder of our connectedness.

Many years ago, a shelf that held much of my beautiful Fiestaware collection caved in and I found myself desperately trying to catch the dishes as they fell, rainbows-colored disks crashing around me.

Strangely, in that instant, I remembered all the smashing and crashing in my life. Broken teacups and broken hearts. I realized that when things break, a person has to make choices.

Initially, I wanted to try to Super-glue the smithereens together in an attempt to make imperfect things perfect again, but I learned long ago perfection is temporary, at best. I briefly considered taking the busted up pieces and trying to make some kind of mosaic out of all the funky colors and sharp edges, but who has time for that, really? Eventually, I got my broom and old green dustpan, swept everything up, vacuumed for good measure, and threw all the pieces-parts into the garbage.

Not everything can be saved.

 

After I cried a little, I decided I was like an ant whose home had just been knocked over by an unforeseen storm. And everyone knows what ants do; they rebuild. So I pretended that my collection had been cosmically revised and started collecting again. Losing the chartreuse platter was a bummer, but my grandmother’s pieces were spared and, for that, I was grateful.

I’m blessed to have a loving family and few good friends. And stuff, while we like to surround ourselves with it, is just filler.

Who would have thought I’d find so much in my daily dishes?

To what physical items are you connected?

Gratitude To The Man Who Taught Me To Embrace Chaos

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It was my third week at Metairie Park Country Day School, and I could barely distinguish the administration building from the science building. I didn’t know where the nearest bathroom was, who to call about the broken desk in my classroom, or how to make the copier stop jamming.

For the first two weeks, I called him Jeff. By the time I got it straight, I realized that Mark Kelly was not the technology guy; neither was he the Athletic Director. He was the Middle School Principal, and he’d come to the English office to pay me a visit, to see how I was doing, if I needed anything. How nice, I thought, how friendly the folks are around these parts. Little did I know that he was out to get me. Little did I know that I’d come face to face with the meanest practical joker east of the Mississippi. I made the mistake of sounding secure.

Mark Kelly

“Everything is great,” I said, trying to sound confident.

“Have you been to the Lower School?” he asked.

“Been there.” I said, feigning a yawn.

“What about the library?”

“Pu-leeze,” I lied.

“So you know what you’re doing?” he said, raising his eyebrow. “You have it all together?”

I nodded my head, snapped my fingers two times for effect, and headed off to class.  Later, after school ended and I had erased the blackboard, reorganized the desks in a circle, and collected my mail, I returned to the English office. I saw it from all the way across the room; my desk had been cleared. Everything was gone.

When I realized the gravity of the situation, I gasped aloud: “My grade book!” It held all my students’ grades, all my attendance records.

I think I vomited a little in my mouth.

Sitting behind me, looking calm, was Mr. Kelly.  “You’ve really got it all together…” He smiled, arms crossed over his chest.

“Where is it?” I squeaked. “What have you done with it?!”

Suffice it to say that Mr. Kelly sent me on quite a scavenger hunt. During my journey, I located the Lower School atrium, the Upper School attendance office, the library – and I met fabulous folks all along the way. In the end, it turned out that Mr. Kelly had stashed all my goods in an empty file cabinet drawer right there in the English office, about two steps away from my desk. I pulled all my belongings out of the drawer, unharmed, and set about reorganizing. Mr. Kelly gurgled and chortled behind me.

Truth be told, I miss the way Mark Kelly batted me around the way some giant cat might play with a mouse or a bird. I miss hearing his booming laugh behind me at school plays; I miss his multi-colored Tabasco ties; I miss his wit, his charm, his teasing, and his teaching. Mark put a little bounce in my step. He taught me to stay on my toes.  He taught me never to brag about being done with something early. He taught me how order in the world is artificial and how easy it is to lose control. He made me explore, go out and meet people, go into unfamiliar territory and find answers. It’s so easy to get stuck in our own little comfort zones.

Mark worked as Head of School at Annunciation Orthodox School in Houston, Texas for many years. I like to think that this little Grasshopper has become like her master and that I instill in my students the same thrill for exploration and the same joy at being slightly off-center.

When is the last time someone made you feel a little off balance – in a good way?