because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

Coming Clean About My Age

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My birthday is coming up, y’all.

Yup, this summer girl was born in November.

You know what that means.

Yes, my parents got busy around Valentine’s Day.

But it also means this year I turn 55.

Whaaat?

Well, kind of.

Lucille Ball once said:

“The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age.”

How much do I Love Lucy?

Here’s the 411.

When I first started teaching, I was just a few years older than some of my 12th grade students!

When I introduced myself, I made a point of tacking on a few extra years.

I said I was 25.

(Seven extra years seemed like the right amount of padding.)

When I moved to New Orleans, I maintained this tradition. I felt I needed the cushion, so parents would nod and smile instead of raise disapproving eyebrows. Also, so my students would believe I was seasoned and complete my assignments without giving me grief.

I never lied to my employers. The Headmaster and English Department Chair at Metairie Park Country day School knew precisely how green old I was when I was hired.

This year, I realized I’ve been in my 40’s for nearly twenty years.

And that made me remember my grandmother who told people she was 29.

For decades.

After she stopped wearing wigs and wore her thinning hair in loose ponytails wrapped in twine, she was 29. After her eyes dulled and her skin wrinkled, she was 29. After her toenails yellowed and her remaining teeth fell out of her mouth, she was 29.

It was ridiculous.

No-one bought it. It was silly and a little pitiful.

I vowed to go the other way.

So I padded.

This year, I could tell people that I’m 55.

Because if you tack on five extra years…well, I look pretty good for 55, right?

And yet.

I feel I’ve kind of caught up with myself.

These days, I am grateful for this body that continues to get me where it needs to go – even if I sometimes have headaches and get dizzy and fall down. I am grateful for my eyes, which still appreciate all the beauty around me – even if the view is a little blurry. I’ll never have pretty model’s hands, but I have four fingers that help me to tap out what I want to say. Fingers that help me punch buttons on the phone to speak to old friends and new. Fingers that are attached to hands that reach out to offer assistance, to squeeze shoulders. Hands that are attached to arms which can swallow people up in hugs. And even if my vocal cords are toasted, I realized I have these things called ears that work really well, too.

So the jig is up.

Lucy, we’re back to living honestly.

Tomorrow, I’ll be 50 years old.

Right where I’m supposed to be.

A daughter.

A sister.

A mother.

A friend.

An artist, writer & teacher.

A contestant on Survivor.

Just kidding about Survivor.

But a girl can hold onto her dreams, right?

Have you ever lied about your age? How are you doing with this growing older thing? 

I’m Going to Be on SURVIVOR!

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Sorry, I didn’t mean to trick you.

But I am going to be on SURVIVOR.

Eventually.

You know, probably.

Because I tried out to be a contestant on SURVIVOR.

Again.

This time auditions were held just 20 minutes away, right outside of Rochester, New York.

{So, of course, I’m thinking this is mine. Because, seriously, why would CBS come to Rochester to hold a casting call if they weren’t there to get me, right?}

I assume there would be thousands of people camped out, waiting for registration, which was scheduled to begin at 11 AM.

In anticipation of looooong lines, I get up early, eat a healthy breakfast, gather up a the necessary provisions – snacks and water — fill up my gas tank, and make the easy drive to Victor. I assume parking will be difficult, so I wear my sneakers. I’m prepared to go the distance.

You can imagine my surprise when I see the short line of people ahead of me.

Like ridiculously short.

The line at 9:30 AM. Super short.

Pulling into the lot, I learn I’ve arrived early enough to be able to park in the lot adjacent to the filming location. When they count us out, I’m #67, one of my favorite numbers.

{You know, ‘cuz I was born in 1967. Confirmation that the Universe is working for me.}

I go to the back of the line where I meet a couple that had driven in from Little Falls, New York (about four hours away), a pharmacy technician named Mindy, a prison guard named CJ , a flaky millennial who has never seen a single a episode of the show before, and some dude who has tried out about 17 times.

“When I have to go to the bathroom, will you guys save my place?” the bearded millennial asks.

We quickly form an alliance and agree to help each other out.

There isn’t much to tell.

The lines get longer.

By noon, there are probably a thousand people waiting to audition. Maybe more.

I wait 2 and ½ hours before being moved into a garage, where I wait some more. There is a nice breeze and a cardboard cutout of Jeff Probst.

Eventually, I make it inside where I hand in my release waiver, stating I allow CBS to use my likeness on social media – or for whatever purpose they like. I provide my phone number and email address.

After that, we go back outside to another area of the garage and, after another wait, we walk back inside. Some of us stand; some of us sit in blue office chairs.

This is the first moment where I start to think about what I will say. I know I have just ONE minute to make my pitch. There is no panel. Just me and a twenty-something wearing trendy thick black glasses.

This is a summary of what I believe I said. Obviously, I was nowhere near this clear or succinct. I did my best to stand in front of the camera and smile and laugh and act natural.

In August of 1999, I saw a trailer for a new show called SURVIVOR, and I was immediately interested: a show like that was right up my alley – physical competition paired with emotional challenges and a social game? Sign me up.

Then I looked down at my ankles, which were super puffy because I was super pregnant (due to deliver any day), and I realized that I wouldn’t be able to participate for a long time. I promised myself that if the show was still on the air when my kid graduated from high school, I was going to try out again.

So here we are, nearly 18 years later. I’ve never missed an episode and I’m making good on my promise. A lot has happened in my life over the last 4 years. I’ve bounced back after a brain injury, which occurred after I was incorrectly weaned off a prescription medication. There’s more to tell, of course – and you’ll have to call me back to Los Angeles if you want to learn more. Suffice it to say I’m funny, flirty, and fit. As a former teacher, I’m a good communicator, which wins me points with adults and makes me relate easily to a younger generation. As far as I’m concerned, you guys came to Rochester to get me. Here I am, pick me.

Trendy black glasses holds up his hand, indicating I have 5 seconds left.

And I break out into a little dance.

{Cuz, you know, I do that.}

Before I leave, an older gentleman tells me that I’ll only receive a phone call if the producers are interested in bringing me out to Los Angeles.

{So you know, any day.}

What did you do yesterday? Or… what show would you like to be on if you didn’t have real life responsibilities?

XOXO

 

Oy Vey! The Matzah Balls!

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Looks good, right?
Looks good, right?

A few years ago, I did a crap load of cooking. I was preparing for Passover, so I was doing what Jewish mothers do — cooking up a storm. I was Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray and Betty-freaking-Crocker — except the Jewish version.

So picture frizzier hair and a bigger nose.

That year, I made 3 times as many matzah balls as I usually would, to make sure that my family would have enough to eat for the entire week. It took hours, but no big whoop, right? These are the things we do for love.

After the brisket went in and the noodle kugel was finished, I realized I didn’t have enough room in my freezer. So, I asked my kind neighbor if I could use a little space in the freezer that she keeps in her garage. She said of course.

Passover comes and so do all the guests. I’m serving the soup, and I’m like where are all my matzah balls? I look in the freezer, in the refrigerator, in the garage. It’s cold enough. I’m thinking, maybe I stashed them in the trunk of my car. Sometimes I stick things there. I look everywhere. I only have 18 matzah balls. The thing is this: that year? We have 24 people at the house. Picturing, standing in the kitchen, confused and cutting matzah balls in half.

I believe it is written in the Torah.

Thou shalt not run out of matzah balls.

But I did.

I apologized to our guests.

Time went by.

Spring came and went.

Months after the holiday ended, I was sitting on my driveway in the sun when my neighbor asked if I would like to have my matzah balls.

“Because isn’t Passover coming up?” she asked.

You guys, I didn’t even remember giving them to her.

Suddenly I was like: Should I be worried? Should I call the doctor? Do I need to check about early dementia? Seriously, how did those balls get over there? Did they roll across the street on their own?

I followed my friend into her warm garage. She opened her freezer and next to the ICEEs, there was my long-lost Tupperware container filled with frozen balls. All 9 bazillion of them.

I obsessed about forgetting those matzah balls.

And then I got sick. For 15 months, I couldn’t cook or clean or even leave my house.

I couldn’t even think about making matzah balls.

It’s been a few years since I hosted a Passover meal.

At 32 months off Klonopin, I’m doing really well. I’m grateful to be alive, grateful to feel Spring in the air, hopeful that one day I will feel even better. I know all of this is part of G-d’s plan.

And this year, I plan to enjoy someone else’s balls.

#IYKWIM.

tweet me @rasjacobson

What I Wore – The Parade of Hats

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By now, you’re getting the idea that I love hats. Since my last post, the temperatures took a major nose-dive, and in an effort to stay warm (and raise my spirits), I pulled out a few wacky hats from my collection.

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This little number was given to me by my friend, Teri. Someone in her family knitted (or is it crocheted? Hmmm.) especially for her. Can you appreciate the feather and faux gemstone? I knew that you could.

Then I have this hat:

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I gave the original Spider hat to a dear friend, but when I had the opportunity to have another one, I simply had to do it. I have absolutely no idea why I made the Hang-10 sign with my hands.

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Now that my son is in 10th grade, my polar fleece jester hat rarely makes an appearance. Tech Support has never said he’s embarrassed to be with me, but I try to be sensitive and not push the dorky envelope too far off the table. My amazing fingerless gloves are from Baabaazuzu, a company that was born in late 1993 after Sue Burns, a gifted graphic designer, cut up the shrunken remains of her favorite sweaters, pieced the fragments together and made jackets with matching hats for her two daughters.

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I won this colorful skully in a blogging contest held by my friend, author, Kasey Mathews. Jen Wagner the Creator of JAMMS hats designs these great warm hats that are wicked stylish. I love having a pop of color on my head on gray days.

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This stocking hat comes from HandCandy. It’s super warm on the inside, as it’s lined in polar fleece, and the tail is wicked long and can wrap around the neck so the wearer doesn’t need to fuss about a scarf. And while I love the colors and the mix of fabrics, this thing is heavy and leaves me feeling choked. Truth be told, I would have probably done better to swap this hat for a scarf or a pair of mittens because I really adore the varied textiles and broad stitchwork.  For now, I wear this hat as a house-hat. A what?, you ask. Sometimes it’s just so darn cold outside that the chill creeps inside so I keep my hat on even while I’m inside.

And my fingerless gloves, too.

I know, right.

They don’t come sexier than me, folks.

I’m always looking to add to my hat collection, so if you have a hat you’d like to donate to the cause, or if you represent a hat company and you’re looking for a middle-aged spokesperson, I’m your girl.

Stay warm, everyone!

 

Barbie Doll Ball: Wordless Wednesday

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Today, these gals got all gussied up, sprinkling themselves with fairy tale magic in an effort to kick off 2015 right.

All dressed up with no place to go.
All dressed up with no place to go.

So where should these 3 lovely ladies go to celebrate the new year?

Happy New Year everyone! May we all enjoy a year of good health, love and peace.

tweet me @rasjacobson

Short on Decor, Long on Miracles: #Hanukkah

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 Leave a comment for a chance to win some of my handcrafted stationery! 

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I stopped into The Christmas Tree Shoppe to pick up last minute items for our Annual Hanukkah Party.

(I know, shopping for Hanukkah at the Christmas Tree Shoppe, the irony isn’t lost on me. What can I say? They have great papers goods.)

Traditionally, there isn’t much décor associated with The Festival of Lights, which – truth be told – is fine by me. I see friends struggling with wreaths and trees and ornaments and inflatables and lights. How do I get ready for Hanukkah? I go down in the basement and open up one blue bin, take out my three favorite menorahs and a couple of dreidels, and I place these items on a table.

That’s it. No fuss. No muss.

The extent of my Hanukkah decorations.
The extent of my Hanukkah decorations.

Now, you have to understand. I wasn’t looking for anything, so of course that’s when I found it: a colorful door decoration with the word CHANUKA printed boldly on the front.

CHANUKA? I tilted my head, confuzzled.

Because I’d never seen it spelled that way.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen Hanukkah spelled a lot of different ways. Because the initial sound used to pronounce the word Hanukkah isn’t a sound used in English. The gutteral h is pronounced at the back of the throat, and — when pronounced correctly — sounds like someone trying to hork up a loogey.

So I liked the decoration, but I didn’t want it if Hanukkah wasn’t spelled correctly.

“Okay Google,” I spoke into my phone. “How do you spell Hanukkah?”

Yummy, yes.
Yummy, yes.

As it turns out, the most common spelling for Hanukkah is “Hanukkah” with 8.5 million hits in the Google search engine. “Chanukah” came in with over 3.3 million searches, and “Hannukah” came in with 862,000 hits.

You might be interested to know Xanuka is considered a valid spelling.

And Channukka.

And Chanuqa.

So I’m still standing there, clutching this felt decoration in one hand and my phone in the other, trying to decide if I should buy it or put it back.

You know, because it was spelled weird.

(Or at least it felt like it was spelled weird to me.)

And then I laughed at the silly dilemma I’d created in my head.

Because Hanukkah isn’t about decorations or spelling. It’s about miracles.

As some of you know, I was sick for 15 months. During that time, I didn’t know anyone else who had ever been through what I was going through, and those months were terrifying, isolating and awful. Many times, I felt G-d was punishing me.

And yet.

Some unnameable thing kept me hanging on. Some little voice inside of me – perhaps the G-d part of myself – knew that one day the suffering would end and that I just needed to wait. And pray for a miracle.

What appeals to me most about Hanukkah is the idea that miracles can be found in every day moments, how big and small things that seem impossible can come to pass.

I appreciate the way we gather together to tell and retell the story of how people overcome difficult times, to celebrate the miracle of friends and family whom we love and are loved by; the miracle of having the chance to learn something new everyday; the miracle of our collective curiosity and kindness that inspires us to make meaningful connections with others.

These days, I can even appreciate the eleventy-seven jillion ways we spell Hanukkah.

So it’s decided. Starting now, I’m collecting decor where Hanukkah is spelled any which way.

Because why not?

(So do you think The Christmas Tree Shoppe still has that cute Chanuka door decoration? Or did I miss my chance?)

What are you celebrating this time of year? What kind of decorations, if any, do you set out? What do you love/hate about the holidays? 

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NOTE: I’m participating in #HanukkahHoopla with 7 other bloggers. In the spirit of the season, we’re giving away 8 gifts to 8 lucky commenters. Click on the menorah to find links to other writers’ blogs & increase your chances of winning!

tweet me for an extra chance to win handcrafted stationery! 

I Remember Prom

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photo
That’s my niece up there. Could she be any more gorgeous?
Oh, and her boyfriend looks fab in his tux, too.

My niece went to Senior Prom with her boyfriend a few weeks ago.

As I stood nearby, snapping photos, I was transported back in time.

To the mid-1980s. To my own school formals.

TB and me. Junior Prom, 1984.

I went to junior prom with TB, a boy I  spent most of middle school trying to get to fall in love with notice me. Lord knows, we spent many afternoons in detention together as a result of misbehaving in French class. Before he moved to Philadelphia, I realized we were always going to be “just friends,” which was good enough for me. I sort of figured I’d never see him again, but he magically materialized to take me to prom.

First, let’s just establish TB looked awesome in his tux.

Done.

Okay, now let’s talk about my dress. Featured in Seventeen Magazine, my dress was a gauzy, white Gunne Sax for Jessica McClintock that covered me from chin to ankle; it had three layers of crinoline and 10,000 buttons up the back. I was hermetically sealed inside my dress. All I knew was that I felt like Madonna in that dress. Seriously, from the neck down, I looked like Madonna.

Shut up, I did.

Sadly, we must address things from the neck up. A few months prior, I’d butchered my long mane and had not yet figured out quite what to do with what was, tragically, a long brush-cut. Or a lady-mullet. In an effort to try to make people not notice my heinous hair, I stuck an over-sized silver safety-pin through the extra hole in my left ear lobe. Because I was that cool.

JMo and me. Senior Ball, 1985.

For senior ball, I was slightly better prepared. First, let us establish that JMo looked awesome in his tux.

Done.

Now, about my dress.  As it turned out, my poofy dress from the year before was really uncomfortable. The crinkly crinolines had filled the entire backseat; it had been hard to walk, and did I mention that I was decidedly not hot?

Senior year, I decided to tone down my attire and wear a simple yellow dress. Alas, there was no teenaged version of “Say Yes To The Dress” because somehow I ended up looking like I had been dipped first in a vat of French’s mustard and then into a second vat of Hellmann’s mayonnaise. Seriously, I had no business wearing pastel yellow. I know you can’t tell from the pictures, but I looked jaundiced. Luckily, most people were blinded by my like totally radical Sun-In highlights and my tan, both of which I had been cultivating after school for weeks while  ignoring my upcoming Trigonometry final.

I didn’t do a lot of primping for either prom.

I mean, I showered.

I was clean.

I bought a dress and put it on.

(So there was a little extra room up top. What’s your point?)

All I’m saying is thank goodness there was no Twitter back in the 1980s, because I would have been all over that and it would have worked me into a frenzy! No, I was blissfully oblivious, so I didn’t stress out about prom in advance at all.

Time spent preparing my hair for junior prom: zero minutes.

For senior ball, I actually had hair, so I did use a little mousse which, thankfully, had been invented earlier that year.

Truthfully, I do remember a wee bit of mental anguish at both dances. Even though I wasn’t dating either guy, I still wanted the romance of the evening. I still wanted my dates to ask me to slow dance.

I mean I was scared, but I still wanted to be asked.

Ask me. No don’t ask me.

Please ask me. Wait, I don’t know what I’m doing.

At senior ball, I sang along with the lead singer as he belted out a new Foreigner tune: “I wanna know what love is. I want you to show me.”

Because, really, I had no idea.

But I so wanted to know.

I imagine some things will never change about formal dances: the grown up feeling of getting dressed up and “going out on the town” without one’s parents; the freaky-deaky feeling a girl gets in her stomach as she sees her prom date pull into the driveway; those awkward posed moments where parents hover, taking zillions of photographs from every possible angle; the worry that a zit could erupt at any moment.

Even though the dresses are better, I still think of prom as an awkward place, a threshold between adolescence and adulthood where no one really knows what to do.

So people just hold onto each other and spin in circles for a little while.

And so we did.

And it was good.

Right up until I learned I failed the Trig final.

What did you wear to prom? Did you think you were hot? Were you? Really?

tweet me @rasjacobson

Are You Brand Loyal?

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I’m probably the most brand loyal person out there.

I’ve been using the same deodorant for the last twenty years. {Thank you, Secret, for being strong enough for a man. Because sometimes I smell like one.}

Everyone knows I only drink Canada Dry Ginger Ale. {Don’t try to slip me any of that store brand stuff. I can totally tell.}

What can I say? When I find something that works, I stick with it.

Forever.

As my longtime readers know, I have a love-hate relationship with my hair.

Despite the fact that I have stretched and pulled it, given myself deep conditioning treatments, and slept in bandanas in an attempt to give myself straight, swingy hair, I have the kind of follicles that morph into a frizzy pyramid if combed or touched.

Seriously, sometimes it looks like this!
Exhibit A

In 1985, I fell in love with a hair care product.

You guys, they are discontinuing it.

Want to know what I’ve been doing since I heard the news?

Click over to Jess Witkins’ blog to find out the rest of the story. Be prepared to tell me about products you have loved and lost.

tweet us @rasjacobson & @jesswitkins

My Sleeping Bag Coat

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When I moved to Rochester from New Orleans in 1995, the sunflowers in my backyard turned their yellow heads to face a blue, cloudless sky. That fall, the leaves on the maple trees turned red and yellow and brown and fell at our feet, but the sun stuck around. One October weekend, my husband and I hopped in his car to scout out a grape festival. Everyone kept saying how unseasonably warm it was. We hardly heard them as we scooped gobs of pie directly out of the tin and into our mouths. Standing there in our short sleeves, it seemed the warm weather would never end. Clearly, moving to Western, New York had been a delicious choice.

One October afternoon, a friend came to help me unpack the last of my boxes.

“Where are your coats?” she asked.

After five years in New Orleans, I didn’t have many. I held up my denim jacket, a green raincoat, and a few sweaters.

She shook her head. “You’d better get a good coat. Fast.”

But I ignored her. Because what did she know? Everything was so cozy in our apartment, and the afternoon light never stopped streaming through the stained glass windows of our apartment.

And then it happened.

One morning, I went outside to find everything blanketed in white. Shivering, I brushed off the windshield and hopped inside to turn on the heat. And after work, I drove directly to the nearest mall to buy my first sleeping bag coat.

Let’s be clear. My sleeping bag coat isn’t pretty. It isn’t fashion forward. But once the temperatures fall below 40 degrees, I am never without it. Black and puffy and filled with down, I wear it all the time. While I make breakfast. While I do the dishes. While I run errands.

I have even slept in my sleeping bag coat. Several years ago, we had a major ice storm. Trees cracked and power lines went down. People lost power for over a week. It was mid-April, and I could see my breath in my house.

Recently, I realized sleeping bag coats are kind of a Rochester thing.

Everywhere I go, there they are.

In the grocery store.

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 In a restaurant.

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Out for a walk.

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At Target.

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At the pharmacy counter.

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And again at the pharmacy.

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I know some ladies will argue that fashion should always come first. In my experience, these women are usually in their 20s. They often live in warm weather climates and wear bikinis with 5” hoochie-mamma heels.

In Rochester, we have to be pragmatic.

Because when it is cold for nearly six months of the year, we have to wear boots.

And hats. And scarves. And mittens.

We do the best we can.

We really do.

Cut us some slack.

Eventually it will stop snowing. The daffodils and tulips will dare to poke their heads out of the cold hard earth, and the trees will decide to sprout leaves. Things will green up. The thermometer will register above 60 degrees. Then, and only then, will I dare to step out of my sleeping bag coat.

What is the signature look in your neck of the woods?

I’m linking up with the fabulous folks at Yeah Write. Click on the hat to read good stuff from other peeps.

challenge100

tweet me @rasjacobson.com

What Made the Happy House Happy?

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You left such positive comments about my recent post regarding our second home, I felt I needed to let you in on a little secret.

You know how I told you my husband fell in love with a sandy lot?

It’s true. The lot was nothing but sand when he first saw it.

But he also saw this:

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Now you see why we call it “The Happy House”!

Talk about *erecting* a house.

What other construction related double-entendres can you think of?

Wow, I’m really *opening myself up* for this one.

If it helps, imagine you are building a home in Florida.

Speaking of which, I wonder if it is *warm and wet down there*.

tweet me @rasjacobson

NOTE: This was my 469th post. You can’t make this stuff up.