because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

Manifesting a New Home

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My childhood bedroom. For real. This is it.

Growing up, I lived in a bedroom my mother said she decorated ‘especially for me’.

The truth is that she decorated it for herself, but I didn’t know that at the time.

All I knew was that she loved the way the red furniture looked atop the plush, lime-green wall-to-wall carpet. She loved the way the floral bedspread matched the curtains, which matched the desk chair cushion, which matched the teddy bear that had been crafted out of the same material.

Unfortunately, it was a room that did not suit me.

At all.

While my friends had posters of rock stars tacked to their walls, or pictures of famous super-models or bulletin boards with pushpins, or shelves with trophies and ribbons, I had pink and green floral wallpaper that my mother selected for me before I was even born. For me, home was more like being in a hotel room: a place that you stayed temporarily.

“This house belongs to me and your mother,” my father explained. “One day you’ll have your own house which you can decorate however you’d like; until then, you go by your mother’s and my rules. And that means no holes in the walls.”

I remember complaining about these rules… and then being grounded for complaining.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I now realize I was being taught to submit, to ignore my needs to take care of the needs of others. My father always told me to listen to the little voice in my head, but the voice in my head contradicted the voice he heard. The voice I heard told me to challenge, to speak, to do things that other people told me were scary. The voice I heard told me to create, to organize, to decorate, to beautify in my way.

When my (now ex) husband and I separated in 2015, I wound up in an apartment. It’s not a bad place. I have plenty of square footage in which to roam about, a storage area in the basement, a garage in which to park my car at night. There are two elevators, one of which is often not working. The long hallways are painted in drab neutrals and feature crystal light fixtures and plenty of enormous mirrors. The carpets are worn. Fresh cut flowers sit in a decorative vase in the lobby. Various doormen help folks with their comings and goings.

But living here has not been good for me.

And I finally realized why.

For the last 24 months, I’ve been experiencing that same stifled feeling I used to feel when I lived at home with my parents as a teenager.

I can’t decorate the way I’d like to.

Can’t entertain the way I’d like to.

Can’t listen to my music at the decibel I’d like to.

(also, my neighbors know waaaaay too much about my comings and my goings)

For me, a home is not just four walls, a floor and a ceiling.

My home is an extension of my creative self.

It never occurred to me I would feel this way when I signed the lease two years ago.

While moving in, I watched the movers as they attempted to cram my beautiful leather couch through the door.

“Lady,” one guy said, wiping his brow. “This thing ain’t gonna fit.”

A few days later, I purchased an unattractive sofa and chair combo from the “scratch and dent” side of a local furniture store.

(because, you know, I wasn’t going to have it forever)

I made a lot of decisions that way.

Since then, I’ve acquired many temporary items.

Broken things.

Things that I wouldn’t want to bring into a real home.

Today I realized that the reason I’ve been doing this is because I haven’t been able to visualize myself staying in Rochester long-term.

When my son heads off to college in August, I have the opportunity to relocate and start over.

Or I can stay where I am and continue to build on what I’ve created for myself over the last 2 years.

Maybe I can find something like this, huh?

I don’t know where I want to do this starting over – but I can see it, this home.

It’s bright, a single-story home with lots of natural sunlight. It’s clean and new and open. There are 3 bedrooms and two bathrooms. Wood floors. A space I can use as an art studio with white walls and shelving and easy access to a working sink. I can see the patio in the backyard, my little patch of grass.

I get panicky when I think about starting over all by myself somewhere far away from where I have spent the last 20 years of my life.

But I also know that wherever I go, I always meet new people – some of whom who become dear friends to me.

So I’m putting my desire out into the Universe.

Help me.

Show me where you want me to go.

Bring the right people to guide me.

Help me to trust myself and others.

And let me live long enough to know what it feels like to be at home again.

Ever moved somewhere alone? How was that for you? What’s the worst thing about moving alone? What was the best thing?

tweet me @rasjacobson

**NOTE: I’d like to thank my parents for taking & sending this photograph to me, knowing full-well that I was writing about my childhood bedroom. They are beyond generous and mostly understand that I have this strange need to write about it all.

Thank Goodness For Spraypaint

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I’m not known for having the most incredible sense of style.

Y’all know I live in a sleeping bag coat for most of the year.

When we bought The Happy House and the task of decorating a second home fell to me, I kind of vomited in my mouth a little.

Luckily, our place in Florida is situated near two HomeGoods Stores.

{If you’re scratching your head going, What is HomeGoods?, it’s like Marshall’s with a delicious TJ Maxx filling.}

After we bought mattresses and basic bedding, we decided to tackle the foyer.

Because, you know, that’s the first thing people see when they walk in your house.

And we all know first impressions stick!

Anyway, I was adamant that The Happy House needed to be filled with joy, which for me means lots of bright colors and lots of whimsy.

One day while shopping, my friend Jan pointed at this awful table.

“That’s a cute table,” she said.

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Kinda drab, right?

I looked at it, nonplussed.

Because it was gray.

Where was my color? Where was my whimsy?

But it was made well enough, and it was cheap the price was right.

So we jammed that sad, gray table into my rental car.

I figured it could always be returned.

That afternoon, Hubby bought a couple cans of spray paint.

Everyone knows a fresh coat of paint can transform a room.

Why not a drab piece of furniture, right?

Duh.

Thirty minutes later, Hubby killed the can of spray paint.

And I was dancing in the middle of the road.

(Sorry, new neighbors.)

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But that table?

Totally awesome sauce.

Inspired, I forced Hubby to take me to Sarasota Architectural Salvage: nine jazillion square feet of crap treasures like old lobster traps and wooden oars, brass ship lamps and carved wooden mermaids, concrete urns and gargoyles. I could go on. The place is huge. We picked up a couple of knick-knacks, and voila.

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Our foyer is on its way.

Now, if only we had some window treatments so the gators out back don’t see us walking around naked.

What Do-It-Yourself Project have you done where you got it right?

tweet me @rasjacobson

Decorating The Happy House: Part I

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I am not known for my shopping prowess.

My mother-in-law considers me picky.

She isn’t wrong.

I suppose I am selective.

I like to surround myself with things I love, and sometimes it takes a while to find those things.

I would rather go without something than purchase an item that doesn’t feel right.

It has to feel right.

However.

Hubby has put me in charge with decorating The Happy House.

For many women, this would be a dream come true.

For me, decorating a 2nd home is a bit of a chore.

Because we need so many things.

And I want them to feel right.

After many long days searching for the right rug, I started playing around on the Internet.

I found a site called Company C.

And then I saw Yukata.

He was just what I was looking for.

I could tell.

I drove a long way to be sure.

I tried to play it cool, but you know how it is with love.

You can’t fake it.

I fell in love with a 6 x 6 inch square of wool.

Like head over heels.

But it was such a production.

Yukata was not ready.

I would have to be patient.

I made arrangements to receive Yukata 6 weeks later.

This is how men waiting for Internet wives must feel, I decided.

Because my desire was real; my longing excruciating.

The day Yukata was scheduled to arrive, I put on my lip-gloss.

{Okay, it was Chapstick with sunscreen, but still.}

I sat in the driveway for hours, waiting.

Finally, I heard a low rumble and saw the brown UPS truck heading in my direction.

I met the driver at the curb. He hoisted Yukata over his shoulder and followed me to my front door.

Once inside, I noticed the plastic had been slit at the top.

Oh no. I panicked. What if he is damaged? What if he has to go back? I’ve waited so long.

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What if there is a restocking fee?

The deliveryman sliced open the plastic.

I thought he might shiver on the cold floor.

But Yukata laid still — waiting for my fingertips.

From the floor, Yukata revealed his beauty.

Good, yes?
Good, yes?

And it was good.

What’s your mojo when it comes to decorating your home? Is it easy for you? Tough? How do you know you are making the right purchase? Have you ever made a costly decorating mistake?

tweet me @rasjacobson

I did not receive any compensation from Company C for this post. And that is a darn shame. But I’d love another Company C rug. Or a pillow. Or some fabric. Frankly, everything they sell is gorgeous.

What It All Looked Like: The Last Bar Mitzvah Post. Probably.

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I know, right? You’ve had it with the bar mitzvah stuff, haven’t you.

If you want to read about the service and how we felt, read THIS.

This is the part of the show where I vomit pictures and thank people.

Two years ago, when we learned Tech’s bar mitzvah was going to be on June 23, 2012, he immediately announced he knew he wanted a science theme. Once I embraced my inner geek wrapped my brain around the whole science thing, I got excited as it was an opportunity to be creative! Tech told us added that he also wanted things to feel summery, so green became our inspiration color.

You know, like perfectly new grass. And laboratory slime.

Thanks to Rishona Beck Myers, my old summer camp buddy, for helping me with the invitations. Rish is a serious event planner down in the Philadelphia area, and I was so lucky to have her help me with Tech’s invitations. If you are down the Philly way and you are looking for some help with any kind of event, check out RM Creative Events Management, Inc. I had to futz with Tech’s real invitation by taking off his name which was in big letters across the bottom, but you get the gist of what it looked like.

We found lime-colored kippot from skullcap.com. And, I’m telling you, those yarmulkes lit up the sanctuary!

The evening party was held at Irondequoit Country Club. Stacey and Tara did a great job helping to make sure everything went off without a hitch. To help make the room feel more science-y as compared to other nights of the week, I contacted Tooters to get plastic test tubes, which I filled with green m&m’s, and everyone got one at his or her place setting. I got the cork stoppers from Lake Charles Manufacturing.

I have to brag a little. The test tubes cost $13 for 100, so I bought 300. We had enough leftover so the bartender was able to make appletinis for the adults, which was super fun way to get everyone into the science mood! Please note, the cool plastic rack which I got from Tooters, too.

Don’t they look yummy?!

But we needed more science! Luckily, my friend Dina (a professor at the University of Rochester) told me about VWR Labshop. They hooked me up with all my flasks. These Erlenmeyer flasks were on the tables as centerpieces on the kids’ tables. Notice, this was the Platinum table.

The flasks were great outside,too — filled with colorful liquid, at the bar!

I found a garage sale where someone was selling beakers. I bought six for $2. Why didn’t I buy the other 12 beakers for $4? They make such fun barware!

Doesn’t my ginger ale with lime look fancy?

Oh, wait. You should look at my hair. Please, please look at my hair. Because it will never look like that again. I have to thank Dew Point and Humidity and Rochester Weather for being really cooperative. Thanks, you guys. But also, I heart Michael Livernash, the owner of Isobel. He is genius with color. And I have to thank the folks at Scott Miller, specifically my beloved Mary Kay Rox for giving me the best cut ever. (And I say that every time. Even though she’s been doin’ me for 13 years now. Oooh, that sounds naughty.) Thanks also to Kay for the fabulous finish. Because I never do that. Ever. (And that sounds naughty, too!)

I have to thank my friends at our local J.Crew for providing me with all those awesome shirt boxes last September. Sure, they looked at us like we were crazy, but we were able to get some great decor out of them. It’s hard to get a sense from this picture, but with the magic of PVC and spray-painted styrofoam balls, Lance Rightmyer of ViaComp was able to create portable structures which flanked the dance floor.

Lance also made these cool vinyl decals for the windows.

I have to hand it to my husband for making TechSupport’s Periodic Table of Cookies.

They forgot to put out the pink and green smiley face cookies. Ooops.

We could have spent $1,000 on special order cookies each featuring each different element from the Periodic table, but we decided that was crazy. And even though the staff didn’t quite understand how to put the cookies on the platform so it was truly representative of the different kinds of elements, whatever. It looked great. The yummy cookies from Cheryl’s came in pink, green, blue and yellow and plain chocolate. Frankly, people were stoked about the portable Abbott’s Ice Cream sundae bar, where my father made good on a 13-year bet and ate real ice cream for the first time since 1988.

Photo by Bert Maloff

When it came to getting people to their tables, I was a little stumped. I originally planned for the test tubes to serve as seating cards, but the stoooopid stickers kept coming off! Thank goodness for the Internet! I Googled chemistry inspired bar mitzvah,” and found Angela from Invites & More. Angela could tell I was desperate sent me the exact template she used for the Chemistry bar mitzvah. For free. Seriously? Who does that? If you are looking for great ideas, Angela is your girl. And if you live in New Jersey, you are ever luckier. Look at Angela Shafer’s Facebook page. Angela can make anything. Below are the name badges I created by using Angela’s template. This is the palette from the kids’ tables…

…and we used the reverse palette for the adults! Some people actually wore them!

Once inside, people saw the centerpieces made by Jimmy from Kittleberger Florist. Jimmy understood our theme immediately and suggested we use green table runners which gave us major impact. He also had an idea for how to integrate live flowers in a minimalistic way, which was tricky as my son didn’t want flowers. Jimmy nailed it with these funky, masculine orange whatever-they-ares. People couldn’t tell if they were real or not! They were!

Jimmy popped one giant purple allium in each rock-filled flask. Talk about pop!

The Bar Mitzvah Boys & Turner Music Productions kept everyone hopping. The party started at 6:30 pm and people were still on the dance floor at 11:30 pm! Our dancer, Eva, was one of Tech’s former babysitters!

And the Lord said: “Let them dance!”

Bar Mitzvah Boys also provided us with a Photobooth and captured  some hilarious candids!

There were really 4 pictures per strip, but you get the idea.

Our friend David from Proforma made sure the kids had great-looking bags to hold all their crap giveaways. He delivered the box filled with green drawstring backpacks featuring Tech’s logo right to my door. Whaaat? He did! Okay, he lives one neighborhood away, but still! That is service, people!

Bags hung on the backs of all the kids’ chairs for even more color!

I used Einvites thank you notes to coordinate with Tech’s invitations. Interested? Check out the post, I wrote about them HERE.

Hopefully you can appreciate how awesome the decor was. Our photographers from Kracke Photography did a nice job helping us to capture some very special memories.

The day felt wonderful spiritually, and everything looked beautiful, and tasted delicious, too.

Who could ask for more?

“Best weekend of our lives!” Hubby said.

I can’t disagree.

Ever plan a huge bash? What went right? What went wrong?

The Leftover Magnets: Organization Gone Awry

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We used to have the magnetic calendar featured above. Someone gave it to us when our son was around 4 years old, and I’m sure they thought it would be a good way for him to learn the months of the year, the days of the week, even his numbers. Secretly, I hoped it might help him develop some appreciation for the concept of time.

Recently, Tech Support and I did a big purge and we came across some of the leftover magnets that he’d deemed useless. I distinctly remember my 5-year-old son saying, “I’ll never use these,” and watching him throw them into a wicker basket along with a lot of other crap very important items.

Turns out, he was right.

For example:

We don’t need this magnet in Rochester, New York. Why? Because in general, the forecast looks like this:

In these parts, kids learn pretty quickly what clouds mean.

And these?

I can tell you that my boy does some serious flips. On the couches. Over the couches. Onto his bed. And he has some ridiculous dance moves. But we have managed to make it almost 13 years without magnets to remind us to do these things.

This one?

If my son is horking loogies or spewing chunks, the last thing I have ever thought about is whether or not I had the appropriate magnet.

Oh, and if we get one of these:

We are all outside doing this:

Also, I was a professional organizer for six years. So this magnet?

It’s kind of a given at Chez Jacobson.

In our house, we all have our own systems of organization. I possess an irrational love for binder clips and composition notebooks. We all hoard Scotch brand Magic tape, Post-It Notes and 3-ring binders. (Hubby’s are blue, Tech Support’s are black, and mine are pink & orange.) It’s terrifying fantastic. My son prefers Ticonderoga pencils. Hubby wants blue Bic pens. And I prefer pens with green or purple ink. Tech Support has a daily planner that was given to him at school. Hubby keeps his entire world on his cell phone. I have less faith in technology, so I keep the master calendar on the desk.

How do you teach your kids to organize themselves? And what is your favorite organizational toy or tip?

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The Blessing of Broken Dishes

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Fiestaware, originally uploaded by Choconancy1.

For years, I worked as a Professional Organizer, helping people declutter their little messes. I learned a lot on that little job. I saw how things could represent people and discovered that people could be 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.

A few years ago, a shelf that held a lot 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 and 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 shrugged my shoulders, 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.

by turkeychik at flickr.com

I quickly remembered that I am blessed with good health, a strong family, and good friends. I reminded myself that stuff, while we often like to surround ourselves with it, is just filler.

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 my chartreuse platter was a bummer, but my grandmother’s pieces were spared and, for that, I was grateful.

Over time, I’ve practiced patience, continued collecting, slowly rebuilding. For my 40th birthday a few years ago, several friends bought me a few vintage pieces of Fiestaware; one piece was even chartreuse! Joy can be found in the strangest of places. Who would have thought I’d find so much in my daily dishes?

To what physical items are you connected?


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