because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

Confessions of A Summer Girl: In Which Season Do You Shine?

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I’ve always been a summer person.

I sparkle and shimmer and shine in June, July and August and love the heat and the water, from pool or ocean.

How I used to look forward to the summer. Summer camp. Skinny-dipping. Getting a deep dark delicious tan. (In the 1980s we did these things.) A plain girl, I felt prettier in the summer. Transformed, I always fell in love in the summer. I married in the summer. My son was born in the summer.

But now, I feel autumn creeping up on me, wrapping her fingers around my throat.

Yesterday, I was waxing nostalgic for the many wonders of summer, a friend informed me that she actually hates summer. That, in fact, it is her least favorite season. I was shocked. Horrified. How could it be? She explained her story to me, and I understand it — but it is a foreign concept to me. I’d like to hear from others.

In which season do you feel the most alive?

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?

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?

 

 

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?

My Mom Was Hot Stuff

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Mommy & me, circa 1969

My mom is hot stuff in this photograph

She’s pretty and has straight teeth.

She wears pink hoop earrings and floppy hats.

She does cartwheels with the girls who live in the house across the street.

My mother is in nearly all of my earliest childhood memories. She encouraged me to paint, explore calligraphy, and use pipe cleaners to make frogs and ladybugs. She loved when I sang and danced and rode horses and did backflips off the diving board.

When I was sick, my mother brought the black-and-white television into my bedroom along with a little bell, which she told me to ring if I needed anything. On those miserable days, I watched My Three Sons and The Don Ho Show until my mother emerged with green medicine and Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup served on a swirly green and blue plastic tray.

One day, I didn’t want to be my mother’s twin anymore.

Pink and yellow were not my colors.

I remember shouting and slamming doors, tears.

I saw my mother throw her hands up, exhausted, not knowing what else to do.

I felt powerful then, driving her to pain and chaos.

Now that I have a teenager in the house, I want to tell my mother, I’m sorry.

Because I see how precious it is, that time when our children are young. And what a gift it is, to let a mother hold on to the little things for another day, another year.

Because it hurts when our children reject our offerings.

Even when I didn’t give her any credit, my mother remained steadfast, guiding me with an invisible hand.

She still does.

I suspect she always will.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Hey mom, from the looks of this photo, you knew how to style your hair. Do you think you could have done something with mine? Seriously. Also, if you still have that hat, can I borrow it? xoxoRASJ

Tell me something about your mother.

 

On Watching My Millennial Son Not Prepare For Senior Prom

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Last Sunday, I asked my 17-year old son about his upcoming Senior Prom. I knew he’d roughed out some vague plans to go with a group of friends, but I didn’t know about any of the particulars. They were planning to go somewhere for dinner. He didn’t know who would be driving. He might be sleeping over at someone’s house. But he might not.

“Are you aware it’s this Saturday?” I asked. “Did you even order a tux?”

He shrugged his shoulders. I’d interrupted his computer game. He’d been winning and was annoyed by my questions.

No, he hadn’t thought of it.

Neither had he thought about shoes.

A half hour later, we were standing in Men’s Warehouse talking to a short Italian stylist who knew his suits. “Tuxedo specials are over,” he said while sifting through a wall of black jackets. “It makes better sense to buy.” Within minutes, Weggie had selected the perfect ensemble, and one hour later, my son was back in front of his computer, a beautiful black suit, shirt and tie now hanging in his closet.

I considered my son’s utter lack of preparation for prom. This is a kid who preps strenuously for academic exams, who is intentional about nearly every decision he makes. What is the deal with his avoidance? Is it a guy thing, this lack of attention to details? What would have happened had I not intervened?

I thought back to my own school formals of the mid 1980s.

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 figured I’d never see him again, but he magically materialized to take me to prom.

First, let’s 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 that garment. All I knew was that from the neck down, I was Madonna in that dress.

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. There wasn’t much I could do. Part of the night, I wore a hat.

For Senior Ball, I was slightly better prepared.

First, let us establish that JMo looked awesome in his tux.

Done.

Now, about my dress.

JMo and me, Senior Prom 1985

Senior year, I toned down my attire and wore a simple dress. But somehow I ended up looking like I’d been dipped first in a vat of French’s mustard and then into a 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, 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 shaved.

I was clean.

I bought a dress and put it on.

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

I didn’t go to a spa for a salt scrub or have anyone professionally style my hair. (Although looking back, I see that would have been a good thing.) I didn’t think about getting a mani/pedi or having my brows arched.

All I’m saying is that I guess my son gets it from me, his lackadaisical attitude about prom. He’ll probably clip his fingernails and clean his ears, shave and comb his hair. But that’s about it.

I wonder if he’s is nervous about the social stuff, all the expectations associated with prom.

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

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

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 adults 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, prom is still an awkward place, a threshold between adolescence and adulthood where no one really knows what to do, so we hold onto each other and spin in circles for a little while.

And so we did.

And hopefully, he will too.

What did you wear to prom? Did you think you were hot? Were you? Are all boys lame planners?

 

 

Letting Go of Love: On Grief and Dirty-Faced Boys

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When I was in elementary school, I liked a boy whose face was always a little dirty, a boy who wore corduroys that were always patched at the knees. Somehow, I sensed he had less than I did in this life, and for some inexplicable reason I felt a connection to him.

One afternoon, this boy and I held hands during a roller-skating party in our school gymnasium. It was wonderful, the way he whipped me around the room. His fingers tightly gripping mine, I felt alive, chosen.

I started bringing candy to him, assorted caramels rolled in colorful wrappers, and he happily took my plastic baggy filled with sweets, eating everything hungrily and without much appreciation.

I brought him treats for a long time, until I realized it was the candy he liked, not me.

Apparently, I haven’t learned much since my elementary school days.

Because I did it again.

This one knew how to clean himself up well-enough. He told me that he’d stop smoking cigarettes someday and shared enough secrets to make me feel like I was special. I liked the way he curled around me at night, pulling my body against his, making me feel delicate. I loved watching him sleep, hearing his breath, studying the curve of his face, his perfectly shell-shaped ears.

But nothing was easy. Our conversations were filled with miscommunications, and he was forever hanging up on me when we spoke on the phone.

And yet.

I encouraged him to follow his dreams, helped him with his business, opened my home to him, gave him my heart, my body. Some many offerings.

The point is I see it now, this old pattern, this longing to save someone I like. To make him love me.

I want to say that I’m hopeful that one day I’ll find my person – someone who is willing to accept responsibility for hurtful words, someone who apologizes and makes an attempt to change his future actions, someone who is willing to fight for me rather than with me, someone passionate and affectionate – a partner who possesses all the attributes I dream of and which, at one time, seemed so simple.

Time for me to stop offering up what little sweetness I have left.

Time to love myself and eat all the chocolates.

Ever stayed in a bad relationship for too long? How did you know when it was time to end things?

tweet me @rasjacobson

The Hairiest Snizz

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NOTE: This post is part of the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest VI! To read more entries, and potentially win a fun prize, visit the fest page on August’s McLaughlin’s site between today and 11pm PST March 11th.

In 4th grade, I liked a boy named Johnny. I brought him fresh tangerines and chased him around the playground at recess. One night, I penned him a handwritten note asking if we could maybe go roller-skating together sometime.

The next morning I stuck the note in his cubby right before we stood to recite The Pledge of Allegiance. That afternoon, Johnny stood among the other boys in our grade and motioned for me to come over. My heart thumping in my chest, I trotted to his side.

At one point, he crouched down to retie the laces on his sneakers, and I was surprised when he touched my ankle. Standing up, he inched closer to me. I was certain he was going to kiss me right then and there, in front of everyone.

It was going to be awesome.

“You’re hairy,“ Johnny announced. “I don’t like hairy girls.”

When I got home from school that afternoon, I found my father’s razor and used it to shave my legs.

And my arms.

And my armpits.

I didn’t even have peach fuzz under my arms, you know, because I was nine years old.

Still, I shaved there all the same.

Just in case.

The threat of spending my life alone and unloved sounded worse than a death sentence.

• • •

Years later, someone I loved told me that he wanted a woman who didn’t burp, fart, sweat or have any hair on her body, except on her head. I laughed and told him that wasn’t a woman; that was a doll.

When he expressed a preference for women who were “smooth down there,” I decided it was time for laser hair removal.

I remember the technician’s rose-colored safety goggles, her gloved hand squeezing my inner thigh.

“I hope you’re not doing this for a man,” she said to my crotch.

At the time, I believed I was doing it for myself.

But it was a lie.

• • •

A few years ago, my friend Eric invited a few people to his parents’ cottage to celebrate his birthday. It was warm, and everyone was lounging around in some state of undress. At some point, Eric’s girlfriend – let’s call her Jenn — announced she was going in the water and stepped out of her long skirt.

Jenn had a lot going on down there.

Dark hair came out of both sides of her bikini bottom.

I’d never seen that much hair on a woman, especially coming from parts I’d been taught were private.

“Gross,” my husband hissed in my ear. “That’s just gross.”

• • •

After my divorce, I took a lover. I was terrified the first time we were intimate. I kept waiting for him to criticize something about my physical appearance. But he didn’t. He made happy sounds when we kissed. He twirled my curls around his fingers, bit my thighs, and told me my body was beautiful.

At first, I didn’t believe him.

But, over time, I realized he was telling the truth, and I wept for all my years of not-knowing.

• • •

As a young girl growing up during the 1970s and 80s, I watched enough episodes of Charlie’s Angels to know that Jill, Kelly and Kate had pretty faces and slim figures. When they wore their tiny bathing suits, they did not have any superfluous body hair.

As a result, I’ve spent a large portion of my life tweezing and plucking and waxing and sugaring, believing that female body hair is unsightly and disgusting.

I see now how all of us, men and women alike, are impacted by this culture’s unrealistic portrayal of women. Women are not hairless; neither are we all long and lean.

I‘ve done many things to attract a lover.

I’ve primped and preened. I’ve told jokes and laughed at their bad ones. I’ve pretended to be interested when, in reality, I was bored. I’ve put myself on a diet, done things that I didn’t really want to do.

When you strip away all the layers, the truth is that I’ve been worrying about everyone else’s opinion of me since I was in elementary school.

• • •

Sometimes, I wish I had a chance to go back to my 4th grade self, to that day Johnny teased me in front of the boys. Instead of internalizing his criticism, I imagine myself moving closer to him, rubbing one of my hairy legs against his.

I would laugh at him and tell him that his ideas about shaving are ludicrous, remind him that human beings are mammals and that mammals have hair on their bodies.

That the messages in the movies, and TV, from friends and family and strangers, are nonsense.

That I don’t exist for his fulfillment.

I would wish him well, hope one day he might meet a woman who loves herself so much that his opinion about body hair might change, that in her arms he might have the chance to know a boundless and intoxicating love.

Afterwards, I would make my way home.

There, in the privacy of my own bedroom, I’d inspect my arms and my legs and deicide I’m good enough ‘as is’.

Instead of seeing myself as defective, I’d be resilient enough to know that one person’s opinion didn’t have to become my truth.

And instead of running for a razor, I’d walk into the kitchen and eat one of the many tangerines I’d been wasting on boys like Johnny.

What do you think about superfluous hair? Gross? Sexy? No big whoop? Feel free to share your funny stories here. I won’t tell anyone. Probably.

tweet me @rasjacobson

The Truth About Identity Theft: A Cautionary Tale

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If I had been paying attention, I would have seen that Universe was making plans to kick my ass.

After three years of being too sick to travel, I was excited to go somewhere new and connect with other creative souls.

I’d imagined sitting poolside in the hot sun. I’d planned it for months.

images-1Instead, I arrived in a monsoon.

The airport was shut down due to flooding, and somehow, one of my bags was misplaced. Losing ones belongings is stressful enough, but I was attending Art Unraveled, an art conference, and the missing bag held all of my specialized supplies: my paint and brushes, the papers, beads and baubles that I’d been collecting for months.

The airline representative with whom I spoke smiled broadly and assured me that they have an amazing track record when it comes to recovering lost bags. “We’ll call you the moment we locate your suitcase,” he promised.

Once at the hotel, I went to the bar to eat a light, late supper. Exhausted, but craving company, I wanted someone to listen to my tale of woe and tell me that everything was going to work out. That night, one other woman sat at the bar. Beverly wanted to know all my details: what was my name, where I’d come from, and how long I’d be in Arizona. She asked if I was attending Art Unraveled, and which classes I’d signed up for. She finished one pear martini and ordered another. I thought Beverly was funny, and I appreciated how she helped me forget my lost bag.

Setting my cell phone on top of the bar, just off to my right, I’d only taken one or two bites of my salad when Beverly, gesturing broadly, knocked over her drink with her elbow, submerging my phone. Surveying the damage, I burst into tears.

“I want to check on you tomorrow,” Beverly said, touching my hand. “What room are you in?”

I gave her my room number and excused myself for the night.

Once in my room, I realized my phone was worse off than I expected, and there was little left to do except brush my teeth and go to sleep. The phone would have to wait.

Just after 5 AM, I awoke to the sound of an unfamiliar phone ringing. It was the hotel landline, its red light flashing furiously. A man on the other side of the line identified himself as the hotel night manager. “I’m sorry to call so early in the morning, but there seems to be a problem.”

He told me my credit card had been rejected and that it was hotel policy that every guest had to have a valid card on file. When I asked if I could come down in a few hours to handle things in person, he was polite but firm. “I’d prefer to handle things now,” he said.

Over the next few minutes, I sleepily proceeded to give all my most private information to the kind night manager who kept apologizing for the trouble. In addition to supplying my name, address and phone number, I offered my email address, my credit card number, the 3-digit code off the back, my birthday, and my mother’s maiden name.

And then I rattled off my social security number.

In its entirety.

All the digits.

“I think I have everything I need, “ he said, thanking me for my patience.

The next day, after a full day of workshops in day-old clothes, I finally made my way to my cell phone provider. My new phone beeped and buzzed indicating missed email messages, phone calls, and texts.

Right away, I saw that my credit card company had communicated with me via voicemail as well as email.

Something to the effect that my account may have been compromised.

Still, I’d received notifications like that before, and they’d always turned out to be nothing.

So I went out to dinner with an old friend from high school and on my way back, I stopped at the front desk to confirm that my credit card was now working.“You know, because I received that early morning wake up call,” I laughed.

The clerk at the desk tilted her head. “We would never call a patron in the middle of the night,” she said. “Ever.”

The little hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

The very first call I made from my new cell phone went to the fraud department at my credit card company. From there, I learned that numerous charges had been made to my account: $950 to 1-800-FLOWERS, alone.

My credit card was canceled. I was instructed to call the police, to call the Federal Trade Commission, to notify Social Security, every one of my financial institutions, as well as the consumer credit card bureau. I put an extended freeze on inquiries into my credit, and I doubled up the security on my most vulnerable accounts.

The police officer who took my report told me that it was likely the nice woman at the bar was involved in what turned out to be an elaborate vishing scheme.

“You established yourself as an easy mark by giving out a lot of personal information,” the officer said. “I’m guessing you won’t do that again.”

(Thanks for the shame, Officer Lutz.)

Over the last week, I’ve spent dozens of hours on the phone, trying to figure out how long it may take to recover from this breach in security. The unpleasant reality is that it will likely take years, and I will probably always need the services of Lifelock, as my information is already floating around out there.

I’m sharing my humiliation in hopes that I can prevent someone else from falling prey to a scheme like I did.

I’m guessing most of you have heard this before, but it bears repeating.

Outside of your employer, never, under any circumstances, give anyone your full social security number.

Not your spouse.

Not your doctor.

They don’t need it.

It’s yours.

You get one, and it’s a huge hassle to try to rebuild after it has been compromised.

Additionally, don’t share personal information with people you don’t know.

I tend to operate under the assumption that there are more honest people in the world than dishonest ones. While in Arizona, I learned that con artists walk amongst us, that there are people who get a thrill out of hurting other people, just because they can. I learned that people lie, cheat, and manipulate to get what they want. And I learned that I made myself vulnerable to this type of attack because I have been protected and cared for most of my adult life.

I left Phoenix in a dust storm. The airport was shut down as a cloud of brown rolled over us, the air smelling of sulphur and dirt.

And yet.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that during my darkest hours, wonderful people showed up for me: strangers offering food and clothes and kindness; an art teacher who allowed me to use all of her materials; an old friend who brought me money and clothes and flowers; another friend who offered hugs and emotional support; my parents, offering their love over the phone.

I’m focusing on this last part of the story because the gratitude piece is crucial.

I could focus on being victimized, but I’m choosing to focus on the other stuff.

The good stuff.

The wonderful people I met, the old connections that were restored.

Because that has truly been the story of my life. No matter how lost and alone we might feel that we are, we are never truly alone.

And by the way, the Art Unraveled conference was amazing.

If you can believe it, I plan to attend again next year.

I’ll just stay in a different hotel.

Probably.

Ever had your identity compromised? What was your takeaway from the experience?

tweet me @rasjacobson